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Things kids do- or should

August 25, 2011

Last year, the family took a vacation to North Carolina to visit the Earthshine Mountain Lodge. I wrote a post about it here. We had such a good time that we decided to go back again this summer. It was just as enjoyable this summer as it was last time. I wanted to post pictures and accounts again this year, but I didn’t, for three main reasons. A, I just kept putting it off and putting it off and now it’s been a month since we’ve been back; 2, it would essentially be nearly identical to last year’s post (same place, same basic photos, just different people with us); and D, I just had to say something about these boys that were there during our stay.

There was this family from South Carolina. It was a mom, her father, and her four kids (three boys, ages 10-13, and a daughter who was probably 7). The three boys were the most obnoxious little buttheads I’ve ever seen. First of all, the very thick Southern accent was spine-cracking (“Maaaaw-ma? Maaaaw-ma? Maaaaw-ma? Maaaaw-ma?” constantly!) and, being brothers, they were constantly rough-housing and playing grab-ass to the extreme, but the big thing that made me want to douse them in honey and stuff them in an anthill was the fact that they bitched and complained about everything, and either couldn’t or wouldn’t do anything for themselves.

I can’t really describe examples, simply because I’d have to provide background information on everything, and I’m going to be rather long-winded on this post as it is (shocker, right?). I don’t know the family dynamic- maybe there was some… issue… I don’t know if Dad just didn’t come, or if there wasn’t a dad, or whatever, but holy crap. Mom was an enabler, for the most part, in as much as wiping their noses and tying their shoes every time they asked instead of making them do something for themselves. The grandpa did somewhat “discipline” them at times, though not nearly enough and not nearly harshly enough. If they were MY kids…

After we got back home, Dawn and I were telling people about these bratty little bastards so often that I decided I was going to write a post about kids being able to do things on their own. So, here is a list- not a complete list, but a list none the less- of things I think all children need to learn how to do at least by the age of 18, many of them sooner than that.

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First, the important ones. Very basic things that are very basic things to help get you through life.

  • Manners. I don’t know at what point possessing and demonstrating manners (and politeness, for that matter) suddenly became considered a “weakness”, but kids need to know how and when to use phrases like “please”, “thank you”, and especially “I’m sorry”, without being told to do so. It’s even worse when adults lack this basic skill. COMMON COURTESY IS NOT A CHARACTER FLAW, PEOPLE!
  • Win- AND lose- with grace. I hate trash talk, especially from punk-ass little kids. Just as obnoxious as the kid that bawls and throws a fit when s/he loses is the kid who does the “nanner nanner naaaaaaa-nner” dance and talks a bunch of shit. If you win, shake the other guy’s hand, say “good game”, and walk away. If you lose, shake the other guy’s hand, say “good game”, and walk away. If you can’t win without rubbing salt in the other guy’s wounds, or lose without throwing a hissy, you’re nothing but a little bitch. The same holds true for adults, by the way. Even more so, because adults should know better.
  • Laundry. I started washing my own clothes when I was 12. And no, I don’t just jam everything in the machine and pour in three-quarters of a box of laundry soap, a la Bobby Brady. In fact, I’m just the other direction- I’m rather OCD about laundry. Right after we got married, I told Dawn I will take care of all the laundry- hers, mine, and that of any kids we wound up having. (Dawn can’t fold clothes to save her life. Love you, honey.)
  • Cook at least simple food. I’m not saying someone has to be able to make lobster Thermidor, rack of lamb, and creme brulee (sorry, I don’t know how to make the little accents on my laptop, nor do I know which ones go on which vowels) by the time they are 18, but kids should at least be able to make something more substantial than ramen noodles and cold cereal. Brown hamburger, make pasta, scramble and fry an egg, that kind of thing. And for something that is more “advanced”, they should be able to follow a recipe. PERSONAL NOTE: I absolutely suck at cooking. I’ve tried to cook things many times, but I just can’t get the hang of it. Hell, I need a recipe to make ice cubes. I’m invoking the “do as I say, not as I do” rule here. Shut up.
  • Hand-wash dishes. You can’t eat off of paper plates and plastic silverware all your life. I mean, I guess you could, but that gets expensive. Most people don’t have a maid that cleans up after them, and at least when they first start out on their own, most people don’t have an automatic dishwasher- or if you DO have one, you better hope it doesn’t break down. And some things HAVE to be washed by hand, lest they melt or otherwise become compromised in the dishwasher (see thin plastic cups, cooking- especially serrated- knives, and certain brands of cookware). You wouldn’t think so, but there is a “right” way to wash dishes. Soap, hot water, actually scrubbing, rinsing, using the “proper” washing implement for the type of dish you’re watching (I found this one out the hard way… stupid non-stick cookware).
  • Change a tire. This doesn’t really “fit” with the others above, but everyone- male and female- needs to be able to change a tire. Tires don’t typically go flat during business hours when you can call the motor club. Sometimes you have to do it yourself. On the car theme, you need to be able to check your oil. Not necessarily change your oil- I am perfectly fine with making the Jiffy Lube staff do that for me, and if you can change your own oil, bonus points to you- but you should at least be able to check it.
  • Use proper grammar, punctuation and spelling. I’m not saying people should be walking dictionaries and thesauruses (or, thesauri, if you prefer), but come on. Use of the English language nowadays is pathetic. Text language (“TTYL”, “IDK”, typing “u” for “you”, “2” and “4” for “to” and “for”, respectively, etc.) makes me cringe enough- it’s lazy- but worse than that is when people display an [apparent] ignorance of basic grammar and punctuation rules and spelling. Not knowing the difference between “your”, “you’re” (and “yore” now, too, it would appear) or “they’re”, “there”, and “their”, for example, or proper use of apostrophes, is simply unacceptable. We all make typos. We all make grammar mistakes. It happens. But when a person’s email, blog post (and yes, I am trying to proofread this post with extra scrutiny), or whatever they are writing is littered with misspellings and grammar and punctuation mistakes, it makes that person look incredibly unintelligent. It’s your language; LEARN IT. Oh, and it’s “SUPPOSEDLY”, not “SUPPOSABLY”!!
  • Learn how and when to dress properly. I’m not going to turn this into an argument over fashion and what “looks good”/is “cool” and what doesn’t/isn’t. If you want to wear baggy drawls and Butthole Surfers t-shirts under dirty flannel shirts and hoodies every day, that’s fine. But for Christ’s sake, if you’re going to wear said Butthole Surfers t-shirt and droopy drawls to a job interview, for example, don’t be shocked and offended when you don’t get the job. It’s called a suit and tie. And that’s another thing: learn how to tie a necktie.

Then there are things that are not necessarily “vital to survival” but are still important to know.

  • Sweep and mop a floor. It’s not rocket surgery, but I’ve seen people who can’t sweep or mop without leaving dirt on the floor or missing spots. And vacuuming something quite simple to do but some people aren’t real good at it. Perhaps it’s a matter of “if I do a shitty enough job, maybe they won’t ask me to do it again” but, if that’s the case, that’s a pretty piss-poor way to go through life. Stop trying to take the easy way out all the time!
  • Clean the bathroom. Along with washing dishes, most people won’t have maids (or their mom) following behind them to clean up their pee dribbles, poop smears, toothpaste stains and bathtub rings. Cleaning the shower/tub, toilet, and sink are important skills to learn. If you get lucky enough to move into the college dorm rooming with the Felix to your Oscar, that’s fine and dandy, but if you are both Oscars, one of you is going to have to clean. It’d be better if both of you did it. Two other things regarding the bathroom, each of which will likely be the source of most of the feedback (if there even is any) on this post: change the toilet paper roll when it is empty. Regardless of what many people say, it makes absolutely no difference which way it hangs off the spool; as long as there is toilet paper, IT DOES NOT MATTER. The other thing is that it is no more the man’s responsibility to put the toilet seat than it is the woman’s responsibility to check whether it is up or down before just plopping her ass down. Yes, even in the dark at 3:30am. Also, it is no more “gross” for a woman to have to put it down than it is for a man. You wash your hands afterward anyway, don’t you? Well, DON’T you? And ladies, if the seat IS up (heaven forbid!), it isn’t going to harm you in the least to put it down. Just put the seat down, do your business, and shut up. As with the toilet paper, at least there is a seat there to be used. (And let the firestorm of comments begin in 3… 2… 1…)
  • Start a fire. Unless you’re going on Survivor some time soon, chances are good that you’ll never have to build a fire- and the Weber grill doesn’t count. I’m talking about building it from the ground up, kindling and all, and get it lit and keep it going, without the use of matches. I know it’s not very likely, but wouldn’t it be a huge feather in your cap if, in case you get stranded somewhere some day, you were able to build a fire and keep warm and… oh, I don’t know… survive until help comes?
  • Sew on a button. It’s really not that difficult. Even I can sew on a button.

Finally there are a couple things that, before long, probably won’t even be around to need to be learned, but in the mean time, I think they should still be learned.

  • Drive a stick shift. Do car makers even make cars with manual transmissions any more? Other than the higher-end midlife crisis cars, like BMWs, Porsches, Lamorghinis, etc.? I think kids should be taught their behind-the-wheel driver education on a car with a manual transmission. If they can drive a manual, they can drive an automatic. Not necessarily true vice versa. As long as there are cars available (especially older-model cars that people buy used, often to serve as their “first car”) that have manual transmissions, I think everyone needs to know how to drive them.
  • Write a check and balance a checkbook. Checks are possibly going to be obsolete in a few years, between debit cards, online banking and bill paying, and the fact that you get treated like a leper when you write a check in a store any more, but until they’re gone, people should know how to write a check properly and to balance the register. It’s not that hard- I suck at math and I can do it.
  • Use a can opener. So many canned goods nowadays are going to pull-top lids or some other type of “easy open” device, but I seriously know people who have no clue how to use a standard hand-operated can opener. That’s crazy.
I’m sure there are some I’m missing, but these are the main ones that come to mind. How many of these things can YOU do [properly]? Do you disagree that any of the things I’ve listed “should” be learned? Can you think of any other tasks, whether “important” or not so much, that YOU feel everyone should know how to do?
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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Marjorie Stearns permalink
    August 26, 2011 8:18 am

    Great post, and so true. I’m sorry to say I don’t know how to change a tire. I could check the oil, I guess, but the tire is beyond me. Your post should be mandatory reading for all parents.

  2. DBeau permalink
    August 26, 2011 10:36 am

    JohnJohn,
    I am in complete agreement. With changing a tire, you should also have jumper cables in your car and know how to use them too! Nice post!

    • Johann permalink*
      September 6, 2011 9:07 pm

      I didn’t even think about being able to jump a dead battery. Good call, DBeau!

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