I did a lot of the cooking and cleaning as a kid because my parents weren't always able to (very similar situation to snowflake
, actually). No one taught me how to do any of those things, I learned through a combination of reading books/instruction manuals and trial and error. Then I left home pretty young and had to learn all kinds of things (like how to do basic plumbing and electrical repair work) pretty quickly.
I think the most essential life skill a parent can teach their child is simply the ability to learn and figure things out for themselves. Because the ability to learn independently is a life skill. Of course directly teaching them how to cook and do laundry is great, but I think empowering kids to learn stuff on their own is incredibly important. And that can start at any age. When a kid is a toddler, for example, don't always rush in to show them when you see them having problems figuring out how to do something, allow them time to try to figure it out for themself via trial and error. Then when they get older, if they come across something in a book or their homework they don't know and ask what it is, tell them to look it up in the encyclopedia or dictionary, rather than telling them. I had to learn how to plumb in a washing machine and change a ballcock at age 17, when I didn't know how to do more plumbing-wise than turn on a faucet, but it didn't faze me because I knew it was learn-able. I taught myself how to bake bread. I don't think there's any challenge that would faze me now, because I know I can go online or get a book and learn how to do nearly anything (I mean, not open heart surgery, obviously,
but you know what I mean).
Not that I am suggesting allowing teenagers to learn how to do plumbing, or young children how to cook, unsupervised! Mine is an extreme example. But I think a combination of direct teaching, and empowering self-learning, is the best way to create an independent, capable adult.