I recently showed my son to use a toilet brush to clean up a mess he made.
Of course he turned his nose up and made the face that says ‘this is a shitty job’. It is.
Life is full of shitty jobs – crappy things that you sometimes have to do as part of the other amazing, interesting things there are to be done.
Some shitty jobs are cleanups of a mess you made.
Some are cleanups of a mess that others make.
Some jobs are just shitty.
However they come about – there is learning and character growth in this work. It teaches kids to be prepared to do necessary messy jobs and the humility to value all labor – even that of dealing with crappy work.
My life’s work is to bring up my kids to care about the world and to treat everyone with respect by default. The nature of people’s labor has become a way to discriminate and in some cultures – yes you India! – it has become institutionalized discrimination. I’m against treating people badly because of what work they do and this is a principle I teach my kids.
Helping your kid recognize they made a mess – in my son’s case a rather unsightly cluster splatter – and supporting them to clean it up is an opportunity to help them grow. It is an invitation to a conversation about who would do it instead and what that would mean. It is a ticket to explore the bigger idea of what it means to be in a family and the distribution of work in a unit that exists together and individual responsibility in that unit.
When I was a kid, someone taught me to use a toilet brush and it helped me value all labor and to be prepared to do even the stinkiest work and not let that work define me as a human being.