The other day, I was peeling potatoes for dinner.
“Can I help you?” asked Gemma-Rose.
“You can, if you can find another potato peeler,” I answered. Somehow peelers are like socks. They fall into The Black Hole and they are never seen again. But this time Gemma-Rose was successful. We chatted as we peeled.
“I really love peeling potatoes, don’t you, Mum?”
“Well… I guess so. But what I really enjoy is having someone to talk to as I peel.”
Soon the pan was full and we were washing our hands. And then I had my brilliant idea.
“Why don’t I buy you your very own potato peeler?”
Gemma-Rose’s face lit up. “What colours do they come in? Can I have a bright one? Would everyone use it or just me?”
“You can lend it to the others, if you want, but it will be your very own peeler. If you put it somewhere safe, you’ll always be able to find it when you want to help me.”
So I returned from the shops with a bright orange top-of-the-line peeler and Gemma-Rose was delighted.
I remember when Callum came home with an unexpected gift for the younger girls. He plonked it down on the kitchen bench: an electric can opener. “The girls can’t use the ordinary opener,” he explained. “They have to ask someone to open cans for them. Now they’ll be able to cook dinners without any help at all.” The girls were delighted and I was impressed with Callum’s thoughtfulness and how he solved a little-sister problem.
At various times we have bought other tools to make it easier for the younger children to help around the house: stools so they can reach the kitchen sink, a small dish-washing brush just for Sophie’s use, Gemma-Rose’s very own dustpan and brush, one of those light and easy to handle mops that uses disposable cloths…
You wouldn’t think one potato peeler could cause so much happiness. Gemma-Rose has a big grin on her face. She wants to know if we can have potatoes for dinner tomorrow. Of course, she is going to peel them. Surprisingly, Sophie is a little envious.
“I’ll buy you a special tool if you tell me which job you'd like to make your own,” I offer. Now Sophie is smiling too.
I am thinking of all those attractive, brightly-coloured gadgets that cost more than the basic everyday varieties: the rubber gloves that look like hands with painted nails, the dustpans covered in flowers, the pink piggy stirring spoons... Suddenly I see a use for them. They could be worth the extra money. I could buy a few and give them to the girls…
But what about the boys? How can I get them to clean their bedroom? Should I put together a cleaning kit of dusters and cloths and scrubbing brushes? Perhaps not. Somehow I don’t think they’d react to cleaning tools, however brightly coloured, in the same manner as their younger sisters.
Housework seems to lose its appeal the older we get. What a pity…
“So what job do you want as your very own, Sophie?” I ask. “What tool shall I buy you?” The other girls are quick with suggestions:
“You could have your very own kitty litter cleaning scoop…”
“You could have a fancy duster…”
“Or you could be the family shoe cleaner…”
“A brush for scrubbing potatoes…”
An uncertain look spreads over Sophie’s face. Is the offer of a job and tools really a privilege or is everyone teasing her? Do her sisters just want her to do all the work?
She thinks for a moment and then grins, “Shoes! I’d like to polish shoes.”
I think of my poor neglected boots. Soon they could be shiny and clean. I grin too.