As a writer, I’ve learned to stay in the background and listen to people talk. I get the beat of their words, their phrasings, and other tidbits to use in future endeavors. This morning at the grocery store, I was listening in, when I heard something that about made me fall over.
Lady (to the cashier): Yep, my husband Elmore is a nuclear physicist, and he just cannot work the washing machine. Can you believe that?
Cashier: I sure can, girl. Men are so stupid about some things.
Now, it’s my opinion that if ol’ Elmore can crack the secrets of nuclear physics, he can do something as simple as working a washing machine. Elmore, and many men like him, are victims of learned incompetence- something that their mothers, most likely, taught them and their wives have perpetuated.
It might be too late for poor Elmore and many men like him, but we can break this cycle with our sons. It must be a manly trait, because my own son tries to feign incompetence all the time. Like I told him the other night- “You can work your (very complex) cell phone and you can’t figure out how to load a dishwasher?” I then stood over him to make sure he did the job right, as he knew how to do.
It might not be a manly trait, it might just be a lazy kid trait, but you can prevent it. First, show your kids how to do a chore. Then supervise while they do it. Make sure the chore is age-appropriate. You can’t expect a 4 year old to iron your pants, but you can definitely teach them to hang things on a hanger and fold towels and such.
You have to be relentless and check up on their work. I keep telling my children that these are the skills they will someday need when they grow up and have their own homes. My mom would never let me touch her washing machine when I was a kid, because she was afraid I’d mess it up. So, when I became an adult, I had to call my grandma and ask her how in the world to do laundry, because I had no idea. My kids won’t have this problem because, hey, I know the number to a washing machine repairman.
My 14 year old is nearly capable of running his own home. He knows how to do all household chores from mopping the floor to ironing. We’re now working on budgeting and grocery shopping. Ladies (and gentlemen), don’t raise an Elmore. Make sure your kids are prepared for the real world so they don’t have to depend on someone else to wash their underwear.