I've been thinking lately about housework.
1. Yes, I am that boring.
2. Before you go running for the hills, I should probably clarify that I don't necessarily mean housework as much as I mean every day activities. Things like going to the store, or cleaning up toys, or watching the garbage truck rattle down the road. RIVETING STUFF, I assure you.
So I've been thinking lately about the mundane. The boring stuff that doesn't make it onto blogs or Instagram, but in reality, make up the majority of our days. This is especially true if you find yourself at home caring for a small person, but honestly it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter what the work is or who is doing it (mom, dad, a professional). There's always more to do and it nothing ever stays done anyway. I've made my peace with occasionally running out of milk, and floors that are always covered in animal hair. Especially since I am one of those strange people who finds housework and errand running oddly soothing--the way others like to cook, or garden, or fix up cars. I am a chronic tidier. Naturally I am raising a child with equally weird proclivities. (He loves to vacuum.) But spend five minutes with any toddler and you'll know that they'rea all pretty fixated on exactly the things adults find most trivial. Sweeping, folding (and re-folding) laundry, going to the market, the library.
I am definitely not the first person to make this observation. There are entire schools of education based around the idea. But because I am me, I am also wondering about books. Once upon a time there was a whole genre of books written for babies and toddlers about trivial, everyday things. We own quite a few and they are oooooold. And also sloooooow. My husband affectionately refers to them as 'the most boring books in the universe,' and he's not wrong. Except I can remember pouring over the Eloise Wilkin books when I was a kid and being totally fascinated. Fascinated by chores. What-the-what. So where did those books go? How does an entire genre disappear? Do we really value our daily tasks so little that it's easier to pretend to our children that they don't exist? Also, as the current culture shifts back toward hand-craft, and physical work, and sustainable living, can we (the parents of vacuum-obsessed toddlers) hope to see books like that again?
I honestly don't know. I'm not advocating a return to some kind of 1950's hetero-normative culture or anything. I may be a SAHM but I am also a card-carrying feminist. It's just that books about every day life for babies and toddlers are actually important to babies and toddlers. At some point in the last few decades, it's as if publishers got together and decided that these books no longer spoke to the times. And I get it, I really do, but folks, I have a son who begs to differ. He would like to wash so many dishes that our water bill would exceed our mortgage payment, and slide my library card under the scanner approximately four million times, and practice 'stirring' ten hours a day, and spend thirty minutes just standing under every single 'treeeeeeee!' at the park. And we live in Oregon, you guys. THERE ARE A LOT OF TREES. He just wants to know how to be a person. How to live in the world. How to do things. It is his work. And it makes him very happy.
So we pour over books by Shirley Hughes, and Margaret Wise Brown, Eloise Wilkin, and Taro Gomi, and even the newer Lola series by Anna McQuinn. And if the success of Lola At the Library is any indicator, I can't help but wonder (Carrie Bradshaw style), why more publishers haven't jumped on the bandwagon. I've completely cleaned out Goodwill and resorted to scouring ebay for old/new titles. And pretty soon he is going start asking me why I don't wear an apron and a 1950's house-dress every day, and why daddy does the cooking, and I'm sorry, but nobody wants that. Is it too much to ask for some modern, realistic illustrations and settings in books for toddlers? With different types of families and children and modern stores and modern streets and maybe, just maybe, a vacuum manufactured after 1963?
An almost two year old and his parents can dream, right?
I am sure there are books out there we must be missing. Were your kids (or the kids in your life) obsessed with household work at this age? Can you think of any titles that might fit the bill? I am all ears. And I promise to never write about chores again unless I am talking about Ma Ingalls or something. Book-scout's honor.