Back when I was a lad, my mother would tell me that she would not allow me to leave home until I knew how to wash, cook, clean and iron. And she made good on her word. When I left home at the tender age of 19 to head off for Radiography school I was equipped to operate in the real world … or at least not starve to death and have clean clothes.
At the school (we lived in the upper floors and had lessons on the ground floor) I was one of only two guys and the other guy would take his laundry home every weekend for his mom to do. I washed mine on weekday evenings and cooked for myself and did my washing up afterwards. The female students were very impressed! I look back and am very thankful for my parent’s wisdom in this preparation they gave me.
In the kitchen, I could cook rice and pasta and a number of different meats. I knew a couple of sauces to go with them and knew not to overcook vegetables during preparation. One time, I even got fancy and bought fresh fish and figured out how to grill it and even remembered to season it with dill. It was good. And for a party I made cupcakes. They were very well received.
I knew how to clean because I was on the cleaning rota at home. I could clean a toilet to my mother’s satisfaction, which was a very high bar to clear. After that, cleaning the kitchen was easy and vacuuming a piece of cake. I washed windows, moped the kitchen floor and even dusted when I absolutely had to. (I still don’t like dusting.)
Laundry, for a guy, is pretty straight forward. In fact I still do most of my own laundry. Although, my wife declines to let me wash any of her delicate articles of clothing after seeing my manly laundry style with my own clothes.
Most ironing I do not enjoy, but I can do it. Thankfully with dry-cleaning and wrinkle-free shirts I don’t have that much to do these days, but I can do it. My father was in the British Royal Navy and he taught me to iron, so I can iron a pretty good dress shirt if I say so myself.
Recently I got to thinking about preparing my children to leave the nest. My daughters are 14 and 12. Peter has a while before he’s ready to leave. But the countdown is on for the girls. Not that I want them to leave, but I know that eventually they will, so my duty as a parent is to prepare them for that time. One way we do this is to include them in household activities. They accompany us to the grocery store. They help during meal preparation. They have recently begun to help their mother with laundry. No decision has yet been made on who gets to teach them how to iron!
And while these are good personal basics, perhaps there are other skills I need to make sure they have. Basic sewing is good, because it’s important to know how to sew on buttons if they come off. Driving is important, not just an automatic as most people drive in the U.S., but I believe that being able to handle a stick shift is important to bring your driving skills to the next level. Creating a budget and keeping your finances in order. Being technology savvy and knowing how to use a computer efficiently. Shooting a gun, handling knives and a little self-defense skill is good too. Reading a map.
But how else can I prepare them for life? Ensure that they have read a wide range of the classics? They’re both doing well with learning to play the piano. A good understanding of mathematics is helpful in many aspects of life. A good understanding of biblical doctrine will serve them sell and keep them saved.
Or maybe, I should just get a poster with that Heinlein quote printed on it? You know, that quote:
A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.
Robert A. Heinlein
I’d be very pleased if they could do most of that.