Answering the question, “What is Labor Day?”

Since the start of Mindful Littles, I’ve often noted how my children are my greatest teachers. And time and time again, this proves to be true. This last week my 6-year old asked me a simple question, “Mommy, what is Labor Day?” After stumbling through a vague response, I realized that I had barely spent any energy over the years to actually think about the meaning of this national holiday. Often we use the long weekend as an opportunity for a family vacation, or enjoy some pool and barbecue time with friends. We are still doing plenty of pool and barbecue time this weekend, but this year I wanted to spend a bit of energy commemorating Labor Day, especially since the question had been asked by one of my littles.

We did this in a few ways:

Reflecting on the meaning of Labor Day

I found a few resources online (listed below) about how to talk to kids about Labor Day.  We even watched a kid-friendly video that summarized key facts about the day. We spent less time discussing the history of the day, and more time reflecting on the different kinds of workers we knew, including our nanny and gardener.  We talked about how all these different workers have helped make our country great and how important it was for us to appreciate these various helpers in our community.

Showing a little appreciation

To show our appreciation, we decided to help out a few workers in our community who were working in the grueling heat this weekend. We stopped by a local car wash, and both of my girls passed out water bottles to the attendants drying off cars. The attendants were all pleasantly surprised, sharing huge smiles and expressing a big heartfelt thanks to the girls. I told the girls to keep an eye out for other workers in our community who could use some water, and we could continue this activity on an ongoing basis.

Taking responsibility

In addition to appreciating workers around us, we also talked about what it meant to be responsible littles. The author of How to Raise an Adult, Julie Lythcott-Haims often cites that kids who do chores are more likely to become more successful adults. The reason behind this is that children learn empathy, they learn to take charge of their own work and they learn “that each one of us must contribute for the betterment of the whole.”

While our daughters help us sporadically around the house, we have thus far not built a method to the madness. And more often than not, I’m still left asking (aka nagging) them to pick up after themselves or remember certain deadlines. So in honor of Labor Day we decided to create more of a system and put together a responsibility chart to highlight the important work my girls are responsible for.

The responsibility chart was inspired by an activity my older daughter did in her first Girl Scouts troop meeting this past week. Coincidentally, the topic of the month was being “Friendly and Helpful.” The Girl Scouts created a chore chart, which my 6-year old loved. This weekend we redid this chore chart to include things that she needs to remember for school on certain days of the week (e.g., returning her school library book on Thursdays, or bringing her PE shoes on Monday).

We also added chores that my daughter could help with throughout the week.   We both agreed that she would wake up every morning and look at her responsibility chart to figure out what she needed to do that day. My hope is that this chart eliminates nagging (at least some of it!) and that my 6-year old feels empowered to do more for herself and our family. And if this works for my 6-year old, then we will do the same for my 3-year old in just a few years.

Admittedly, this year was probably the most energy I’ve ever spent on the actual meaning of Labor Day. I’m glad that my littles asked the question they did because in attempting to answer their question, I now appreciate this national holiday more than I have in years past.

Below are some resources I found online that may be useful: