A friend and I were talking this week about the chores our fragile X kids do around the house. I must admit I felt prideful when I mentioned some of the things Clark and Phil do. When Clark was almost four Paul and I visited friends in southern California (we were living in the Bay Area at the time). These were college friends who had the first two of eventually six girls. I was able to observe a rule they had instigated in their family. The younger of the two girls was just a baby but the older one was over four and was required to dress herself and then dump her garbage each morning before breakfast. I was in their front room early one morning when I saw their daughter tiptoeing past the window with her garbage. She wanted to surprise her parents. I was impressed and went home determined to start giving our two oldest chores appropriate for their ages and abilities.
We didn’t know at the time that Clark, our oldest, had fragile X. We knew he was not up to par with our friends’ kids who were the same age but we did not know he had fragile X syndrome. As a result he was required to do jobs just like his brothers. Would I have babied him if I had known? Would I have been less frustrated? I doubt it. I think it is a lot of work to train kids, with or without fragile X, to consistently do chores. One thing, I am really glad I did not give up along the way even though I was tempted. It continues to be hard at times, all the reminders and inspections. Clark is usually slow at getting to his chores. He knows that he is to unload the dishwasher each time it is full of clean dishes. Most of the time it doesn’t matter if it is done quickly but occasionally it is time to load dirty dishes and we discover that the clean dishes have not been unloaded. Phil is very responsible with most of his chores and that’s a good thing since he is in charge of taking out the garbage and recycling each week. They each have a bathroom to keep clean. Usually the bathrooms pass inspection. If no inspection takes place for quite a while the standard of cleaning goes way down. Phil always remembers to do his cleaning but Clark needs reminders. Sometimes he will say “I already did it.”
“Clark, did you clean the bathroom this morning?”
“It doesn’t look like it. You’ll have to do it again.” And then it dawns on me that he did already do it—last week.
(This is a picture of Phil cleaning the boys' bathroom.)
Clark and Phil were treated like the rest of our kids when it came to doing chores, before and after we knew about fragile X. Today they vacuum, dust, change their sheets weekly, clean bathrooms, unload the dishwasher, set and clear the table, mow the lawn, wash and wax the cars, water plants and this week they will help Paul (and Colt, our son-in-law) paint the outside of our house.