We've been renovating our upstairs bathroom--something we always intended to do, but a mysterious and worsening water leak compelled us to start on it this month. We ripped everything out: toilet, sink, ugly faux-wood paneling from the 1970s, cheap vinyl tiles, and plywood subfloor. Now we were down to the bones of the room: plaster walls, pink plank subfloors, rough plumbing.
The next step was rebuliding the bathroom, step-by-step. We patched some holes in the floor, changed the heating vent location slightly, then installed a cement board (Hardibacker) subfloor. Zari helped by sweeping the floor. Two days ago, we cut and dry-fit the marble tiles. I was marking the tile locations for some rather tricky cuts, and Zari wanted to be in the middle of the action. She wanted my permanent marker, but I was able to keep her happy with a crayon. She "marked" the floor alongside me. Once the kids were sleeping, I installed the marble tiles by laying a thick bed of mortar over the cement board and squishing the tiles in place, being careful to create a strong suction seal with each tile.
Last night, once the mortar was hardened enough to allow light foot traffic, I applied the grout. I went up this morning to polish off the grout residue while Eric played with Zari and Dio.
The next job was to paint the wainscoting, baseboards, and char rail trim. When Dio was napping in the morning, Zari helped me paint everything down in our basement laundry room (too cold in the garage for painting--it was just 15 degrees F this morning). She really wanted to help paint, but it was getting difficult keeping the paint nice and smooth, not to mention keeping the paint out of her hair and clothes. So I came up with a great idea. I gave her a clean paintbrush and asked her to dust off all of the pieces before I painted them. I leaned them against the washing machine. She meticulously brushed down all of the pieces, carefully following each groove from top to bottom. If her brush went astray, she started over from the top, drawing the brush down in neat parallel lines.
While we were working--me painting and her dusting--she said to me, "Good job, mama! You're doing such a great job." I had said those exact things to her minutes earlier, acknowledging her contribution to the work I was doing. Her comments made me thing how important it is to model behavior and skills to our children. And to let them work alongside us. Children don't make a distinction between work and play like adults do. Everything is play to them: sweeping, cleaning, cooking, painting, loading the dishwasher (all things Zari has helped me do in the past few days). We can come up with creative ways to allow very young children to "help," giving them a sense of purpose, importance, and, of course, enjoyment.
For example, when I'm cleaning the bathroom, nothing makes Zari happier than to give her a bottle of "special spray" (either a dilute vinegar solution or just plain water) and a washcloth and let her go to town. She'll easily spend 30-60 minutes spraying and wiping the sink and shower and floor. She knows that my job is to use the "stinky spray" (bathroom cleaners) for the toilet and mirror.
How have you helped model important life skills with your own children? Or, if you're not yet a parent yourself, what did your parents do when you were young?