Chores flash fiction

Chores #flashfiction

A discussion about whether children should be expected to complete set chores is always peppered with a variety of viewpoints.

I don’t remember having set chores when I was growing up, but there was always the expectation that we kids (ten of us) would do a bit to help out. Some of the tasks included sweeping, doing the dishes, hanging out or bringing in the washing, going to the shops for items such as bread and milk, selling the produce from Dad’s vegetable garden around the neighbourhood or looking after the younger siblings.

Some of the chores were more enjoyable than others and, I must admit, I was often chore-deaf when I was reading a book, which was most of the time. I must also admit that I didn’t always complete the chores to Mum’s satisfaction, particularly sweeping. I don’t know why but I just couldn’t seem to sweep up all the dirt. She would often say that I had given it a ‘lick and a promise’. I probably thought, but never aloud (hopefully), that maybe if she wanted it done well, then she should perhaps do it herself.

I must also admit that some things never change. I am still not fond of housework and would rather be reading or writing than sweeping (or vacuuming and mopping) anytime, and often as I complete (I use this word lightly) these chores, I am reminded of Mum’s words. Next time, I think. Next time.

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about chores. It doesn’t have to be a western ranch chore; it can be any routine task. Go where the prompt leads!

I, of course, have gone with the lick and a promise of a BOTS (fiction based on a true story). However, before I share my story, I’d like to share with you another post I recently read that has some relevance to the topic.

In his post Extrinsic Rewards Reduce Intrinsic Motivation: Using Psychology to Pick Up More Followers, Jim Borden discussed the suggestion that inferior work is submitted when extrinsic rewards such as stars, grades, payment or other rewards are given.

Jim wondered (not really seriously) if we should ‘pay’ children to not do the things they don’t like doing; for example (if I’ve understood him correctly), I could have been paid to not sweep. Because, if I was being paid to not sweep, my dislike of not sweeping would increase. If the payment was gradually reduced, then removed altogether, perhaps I would so much want to sweep (the opposite of what I was being paid for) I wouldn’t be able to help myself. Since I wasn’t ever paid to sweep (at home – there was no pocket money), I am unable to even consider the difference it may have made. (You might want to read Jim’s post to untangle my faulty thinking from his.)

I’m not sure it would work, but if anyone wanted to pay me to not do housework to test this theory, I’d certainly be willing to give it a try.

Anyway, here’s my story, in memory of my Mum whose words continue to influence my thinking if not my actions.

A Lick and A Promise

Lisa dropped her bag, discarded her shoes, and darted down the hall.

“Where are you off to, miss?” called her mother.

“Read.”

“You’ve got chores first.”

“Did them this morning.”

“Did them? Ha! Was no more than a lick and a promise.”

“But, Mum. I’m up to the last chapter.”

“No buts. You’ll do your chores before anything else.”

Lisa muttered as she stomped to the broom closet.

“And don’t give me any more of that lip or you’ll be reading on the other side of your face for a week.”

When I’m an adult … Lisa promised herself.

Thank you blog post

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

82 thoughts on “Chores #flashfiction

  1. Veena Hegde Bhat

    As a child. I don’t remember my soft-spoken mother to have allotted me any specific chore to be done compulsarily. But now with two grown daughters I regret not to have helped my mother much. Very understanding family we have equally distributed the daily chores

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
  2. Kate

    I like “a lick and a promise”.. that totally describes the way my boys looked at chores. I won’t mention how many times I had to rewash dishes after the boys were done. 🙂 I’m still waiting for a cleaning fairy to come to my house and with the swirl and wave of her wand have everything become immaculately clean. And until then, I sweep and scrub and dust and now disinfect as well.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
  3. Chel Owens

    Aw, mom!

    My mother once drove to where I worked as a teenager in order to bring me back home to unload the dishwasher. I was mortified! As a mother now, I see that she thought she was sticking to her guns, but I was the sort of personality that I vowed to not do the dishes again… 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
  4. Jennie

    Children and chores. It is hard for the adult when the child cannot do the chore very well, and it is hard for the child who tries hard, but cannot do the chore well enough. Certainly a conundrum. Chores for children are essential, albeit painful. I loved your story. I heard ‘a lick and a promise’ more times than I care to remember.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. Norah Post author

      It is a conundrum, Jennie. I guess we have to choose those chores just right and go with the children and what they enjoy, or need.
      So I wasn’t the only one giving a lick and a promise. Funny statement.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
  5. Anne Goodwin (Annecdotist)

    I like your line “reading on the other side of your face” presumably related to the threat “laughing on the other side of your face” which was used a lot in our house as a child? I haven’t read the article, but I can see how it’s better if we do a job for the inherent satisfation than for the reward. But our culture doesn’t help, demeaning a lot of low-skilled jobs which are nevertheless essential to our collective well-being. I’m always impressed/humbled by those who work as cleaners, refuse collectors etc and take pride in doing it well. I’d probably give it a lick and a promise like you.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. Norah Post author

      That’s it, Anne – I adapted that saying to fit. I’m pleased you had heard of it, but not that it was heard in your house. It doesn’t seem familiar to others. I thought it might be only me.
      I was definitely thinking of you and your thoughts on praise as I read Jim’s article. I think I’m going to read Alfie Kohn’s book next.
      I agree with you about those who do the ‘lowly’ but so important jobs too. They deserve far more recognition than they get. Without them, our society would fall apart. I think I’d rather do without politicians than cleaners.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
  6. Pingback: Chores « Carrot Ranch Literary Community

  7. Hugh W. Roberts

    “Reading on the other side of your face.” That’s a new one of me, Norah. I like that line.

    I had chores when I was a child, but if I didn’t do them, there was a threat of no pocket money on the following Saturday morning. I think my parents saw it as a way of bribing me, but what they did not know was that that I rather enjoyed doing my chores, especially vacuuming. And after I left home and had to do my own ironing, I got to find out that being in front of an ironing board for an hour often produced good results for my creative cogs.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks, Hugh. I’m pleased you like it. It was really an innovation on something I heard somewhere – laughing on the other side of your face, which meant crying. Reading just seemed to work in this context.
      I didn’t get pocket money as a child – there wasn’t enough to stretch that far.
      That’s one of the advantages of those mindless jobs – they leave the mind free to create. Sometimes I don’t think I give my mind enough free time any more.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
      1. Hugh W. Roberts

        I think many writers are the same in that their minds are always working overtime, Norah. Even when we’re asleep, it’s dreaming with us. I see the mind as a city that never sleeps. However, it may rest from time to time. Just like I do when I put my feet up and have a cup of tea.

        Liked by 1 person

        Reply
  8. Jim Borden

    I don’t think I really had chores when I was growing up, just to do my homework. If you were a kid now, you could listen to the book while you were doing your chores. Multitasking…

    And thanks for explaining better than I did what I was trying to say about rewards 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
            1. Norah Post author

              I thought you liked podcasts. Sorry, I was mistaken. I was surprised to find how much I enjoy listening to books and podcasts. I never enjoyed lectures much and always preferred to read to learn. It was quite a revelation to find the joy I get from listening.

              Liked by 1 person

              Reply
                    1. Norah Post author

                      You are welcome. I hope you enjoy it. I’m not sure if I’ve listened to that one, but I find all the ones I have listened to, quite thought-provoking.

                      Liked by 1 person

  9. Patricia Tilton

    Liked you flash fiction. My husband always says “lick and a holler.” I don’t remember being assigned specific chores, but since I was the eldest of four I did do a lot of things like making my bed, washing/drying dishes, watching after younger siblings, changing diapers, picking fruit from our trees, setting the table, helping in the kitchen with cooking and special times of canning, ironing as a teen, etc. Some of it was fun! I may have been given a small allowance, but I think it was money my dad put into my own savings acct. But, I was given change if I needed it. Like Darlene, I think it helped me multi-task. And, I have mixed feelings about being paid for a chore — some of it is just being part of a family. But, kids also need to have a small allowance. I’m not sure I agree with Jim Borden.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks for sharing your experiences, Patricia. I’m enjoying finding out everyone’s thoughts. It’s an interesting topic and everyone has their own ideas. Like you, I think chores just came with the territory, something that was a part of our daily routine. I think it is good for children to participate in family life (which includes looking after the home to some extent – helping rather than being solely responsible for some tasks) and to have some money to spend or save as they choose. It’s a good way to learn about its value. I may have totally misrepresented Jim who was sharing a thought of Alfie Kohn. 😂

      Like

      Reply
  10. Jules

    We got an allowance, but with that I think came the expectation of doing some things for the house; as you said kitchen duty, helping with cooking, and also keeping our personal areas or rooms relatively clean.

    I remember more times than not just shutting my children’s rooms doors just to not see the mess. I’m not a fan of housework myself. My home has got that lived in look and will most likely not ever be on the cover of “House Beautiful”. I think I’ve gotten just a tad better myself at keeping spaces livable. But when we have company we make an effort to do a little bit of a deeper clean.

    Dust Bunnies don’t bite. So if they hang out under the couch, who am I to mess with them? 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. Norah Post author

      It’s interesting to hear about everyone’s different experiences. We never got pocket money (allowance as you call it). Mum and Dad had enough to spend it on without giving us all (10) pocket money. It just wouldn’t stretch that far. We were all happy when we were visited by the tooth fairy though and got a thruppence (3 pennies) to spend how we liked – usually lollies (or candy to you).
      I agree with you about the deep clean for visitors and the dust bunnies. While I like some areas of my house to be realitively neat, I don’t mind the dust bunnies so much and I don’t mind a bit of mess on my desk. As long as I know where everything is, I’m okay.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
      1. Jules

        “…And creativity is a hallmark of most geniuses, according to Arif Dalvi, MD, MBA, of the Palm Beach Neuroscience Institute. Having a messy desk is one of the signs you’re smarter than you think. The idea that a little clutter is good for the mind is consistent with anecdotal evidence, too.”

        Liked by 1 person

        Reply
  11. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    It’s a darn shame when chores are looked on (remembered) as a negative experience. I think you and I were trying to get at the same idea, and I totally agree with your comment to Jenanita above, “it becomes a chore if they are compelled to do it or if they are told that how it is done is not good enough. If a child is given a chore to do, the parent must recognise that the child can do it well enough”. Glad to see your inclusion of Jim Borden’s thinking too. (When not sweeping you surely read Alfie Kohn’s Punished By Rewards) I got a small allowance but didn’t really connect it to the chores, they were separate aspects to my mind. Chores (not all!) had an intrinsic value, and simply had to be done to keep the household operating and were an opportunity to learn and practice practical skills.

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply
    1. Norah Post author

      I didn’t read Alfie Kohn’s book. Is it one you also recommend? Perhaps I should put it on the list. I see he’s a progressive educator – one of my type, assuming he’s progressive of the Dewey type. I agree with your final statement about chores. Perhaps that’s why they don’t figure strongly in my memory (except that sweeping comment) as they were just a part of everyday life, just what we did.

      Like

      Reply
  12. Darlene

    We lived on a farm and we certainly all had chores we had to do. It was all part of the smooth running of the farm. There was never a question of not doing our chores, a work ethic that served all of us well in our adult years. I too loved to read and many times mom caught me reading while ironing, sweeping, dusting etc. I guess that´s how I learned to multi-task!

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. Norah Post author

      I agree. Children love to assist with the chores around the house. They love to do what Mum and Dad and older siblings are doing. I think it becomes a chore if they are compelled to do it or if they are told that how it is done is not good enough. If a child is given a chore to do, the parent must recognise that the child can do it well enough.

      Liked by 2 people

      Reply
  13. TanGental

    It’s a long time ago but I’m pretty sure we didn’t have chores, beyond an infrequent burst of energy from dad when he decided the car needed a clean and we were corralled to join in. Certainly nothing from mum beyond being taught an understanding what the chore comprised – like how to lessons and those only came as a teen. The idea the imposition of regular and boring tasks on young children means they develop discipline and a work ethic is, to my mind unproven. Mind you if ever we said we were bored, mum would have a task for us that soon helped stimulate our imaginations…

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. Norah Post author

      I agree with you about boredom. To this day, it’s not something I’m keen on. When you have an imagination, there’s never a need to be bored. You use yours well. There must have been something in your mum’s philosophy.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
  14. CarolCooks2

    As children, we had chores and so did mine… I don’t think it hurts and with 6 children I had to allocate chores as they had to get to school so helping the youngest and feeding their own pets, plus washing their breakfast dish and of course, the obligatory making of the bed and making sure washing was in the basket…I think it all sets them up for later in life 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply
  15. petespringerauthor

    I think children having chores for a reasonable amount of time teaches responsibility, managing one’s time, and self-discipline. I’m all for it. Creating a work ethic at a young age is so valuable,

    Liked by 3 people

    Reply
  16. calmkate

    lol wow you got off super light, maybe the nine others picked up your share? Elder brother and I had clearly allocated daily tasks, we managed to swap occasionally, but there was no supper if the tasks weren’t done! Younger ones got it sweet …

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply
    1. Norah Post author

      I don’t know about super light. I think I did my share. We just didn’t have set chores. We had to do ‘stuff’ though. Yeah, funny how the younger ones got it sweet, eh?

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks, Frank. I’m not sure where it came from either. I know my mother would definitely not have said anything like that. I think my dad used to say we’d be laughing on the other side of our face if we gave any cheek (which I never did, of course), which meant we’d be crying after he got to us with the strap. Yep, that really happened back then. I innovated on the saying as I thought it fitted my story.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you for reading, Dimity, and for your supportive comment. My parents were always supportive of our reading habits and encouraged our education. Neither of them, especially my Dad, had the opportunity, but he loved learning.

      Like

      Reply

I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.