Bringing up four children is an exhausting and time consuming task. I know this because I know that bringing up one child is exhausting and time consuming, so bringing up four must be at least 24 times so.
One of the ways that my parents tried to mitigate this was to assign each of us daily chores as soon as we got old enough to do them. They were never as strict as one family who lived near us, the Trinders, who would fine their children a proportion of their pocket money for each chore they missed during the week, but it was expected that, if you were home, you did your set task.
Down the years, my chores varied from setting the breakfast table to clearing the living room floor before dinner. I remember protesting that the latter was pointless because Lisa and Kevin would just mess the floor up again the next day, to which Mum’s reply was along the lines of it therefore being pointless cooking me dinner because I would only eat it. Three decades on and I am still trying to come up with a witty riposte to that one.
At times the chores were rather esoteric. There can’t be too many children who had to polish the family’s shoes each morning. And at times they were not really chores at all – I used to love being the one who washed up after Christmas dinner, because it gave me some time alone away from the chaos; I actually lobbied for the Christmas dishes to still be done by hand after we got a dishwasher but was voted down by an overwhelming majority.
Looking back, though, my favourite chore of all was making the packed lunches for the next day. Now, you might think that making lunch for five people (Mum always had lunch at home) would be a task to be avoided, but I used to enjoy doing it. There were not that many sandwiches to make – for the five of us only 18 slices of bread were involved – and it was at times a test of ingenuity, because everyone liked different things. Karen had to have a Marmite sandwich, because it was the only way that Mum could guarantee that she would eat anything. Dad had to have at least two cheese or ham sandwiches, you couldn’t get away with just giving him six peanut butter ones (I know, I tried once).
Kevin was the funniest, though. There is a great Foxtrot* cartoon which revolves around the various shapes sandwiches can be cut into and it could have been based upon Kevin. For a while he would only eat them if they were cut diagonally. On other occasions they had to be squares. And for a very long time he would only eat Jarlsberg cheese, because apparently the holes made it taste nicer than other cheeses. All of which, of course, provided ample opportunities for elder brothers to wind up younger ones.
And then we discovered that he wasn’t eating the sandwiches anyway – but that is another story.
What chores were you expected to do as a child?