Last Updated on March 11, 2024

Here’s the situation: every summer, my brother (who lives overseas) sends his daughters to stay with our parents at their beautiful cabin in the mountains for about six weeks. My kids and I (and Jeff, if he can get away) usually spend big chunks of the summer at the cabin as well, and then my brother and his wife join us for the last few weeks and we all have a lot of family time before we go our separate ways again for the school year.

Great for the kids to be with their cousins once a year, and great for me and Jeff to have a bit of downtime where we’re not traveling to events, or enmeshed in the “usual” craziness.

So far so good.

But this year I noticed something I had never noticed before. When meal time would roll around, my brother’s two girls (age 15 and 13) would jump up and go into the kitchen without being asked, and say “What can I carry out to the table, Grandma?” My kids (age 13 and 10) would keep intently reading a book or playing with action figures and hardly notice that their cousins were doing all the work. When it came time to wash the dishes, my 15-year-old niece would take the plates out of Grandma’s hands and begin scrubbing. Certainly, if I said something (which I did a bit sharply, a few times, I must confess) my kids would jump to their feet and spring into action. But over and over I noticed that otherwise … they simply didn’t notice.

And here is why that is galling. Because my brother lives in Asia, like most of the population he has a housekeeper/nanny/cook! My nieces have grown up with someone waiting on them hand and foot, and yet they offered to help far more quickly and naturally than my kids who have to do their own household chores!

What was even more galling was that I suspect this trait has been developing for some time and I’ve been too busy to notice. Any mom with a demanding job that requires her attention outside the home will understand my slight panic at realizing that my sweet kids have developed this problem right under my nose. And now… Jeff and I really need wisdom as we work on what to do about it.

My husband and I have discussed this at length, and have also raised it with the kids. We hardly had to mention it before my 13-year-old looked convicted – she knows exactly what we are talking about. (Our 10-year-old son, however, looked a bit perplexed. Ah well; we’re still working on it with him!)

I know one of the main solutions is that all of us need to be more attuned to being selfless and serving without being asked. I know another solution has to be that my kids see me leaping up to help even when I’m busy on my laptop on a deadline.

But I’m hoping some of you might have some other good ideas for me, too. We’re heading back to my parents’ cabin soon so … I would love to hear them!

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