The first task my daughter must complete every morning when I drop her off at preschool is to wash her hands. As a mom, I really appreciate this classroom rule because it helps cut down on the number of germs passed around at school. However, I doubt that many children have paused to consider the reason for this mandate. I have noticed, though, that the children in my daughter’s class and children in general, seem to have two different views of hand-washing. Some children view this task as a chore. It is something that must be accomplished in order to move on to the next thing. For those children who hold this particular view in my daughter’s preschool class, it is an assignment they must complete in order to reach their ultimate goal, that of playing with the other children and all of the fun toys they don’t have at home. They quickly rinse their hands, shake off the water, and run along to play. Other children, however, seem to actually enjoy the process of washing their hands. They relish the feeling of water pouring over their skin or suds slipping through their fingers. They revel in observing the water swirl around as it drains or the soft mounds of bubbles left behind in the sink. They take their time washing, rinsing, and carefully drying their hands before wandering off to play. These children find pleasure in the task itself. They aren’t simply going through the motions.
Contemplating children and their varying outlooks on hand-washing made me stop to think about how I view the mundane chores of life. How often do I take pleasure in the moment, regardless of what I’m doing? Do I ever stop to delight in the act of washing dishes or clothing or children? Do I savor the moments I spend vacuuming or dusting or scrubbing toilets? Believe it or not, I do every once in a while. However, because I am very task-oriented I mostly fly through my days checking items off of my to-do lists. I cross off one item so that I can move on to the next. I get discouraged when I don’t accomplish all I had planned for the day, or I get frustrated when my children clamor for my attention while I’m trying to complete my household responsibilities. Perhaps reflecting on this will help me to slow down and treasure all of the moments of my day, especially those involving my children. I seem to enjoy mopping the floor so much more when my older daughter comes to ask me for something, but ends up sticking around to “help.” Getting the children to clean up their toys at the end of the day becomes fun when I take the time to turn it into a game. Focusing on the small tasks, and feeling a sense of accomplishment when I do get them done is so satisfying. I guess what I’m realizing is that finding joy in the mundane just makes life so much more enjoyable.