A warning to new mothers. The words, “It’s just easier to do it myself,” will come back to give you a knockout punch when your kids are teenagers.
Yesterday I was in a bad way. On Thursday I’d pulled an all-nighter getting a book finished so it could get to press on time. I was a zombie all day Friday trying to sleep in the afternoon when birds insist on squawking, cars must va-room up and down the street, and daylight pokes it’s ugly head into every crack in the curtains. Then Friday night was dinner out and a long swim meet, and Saturday a three hour morning meeting, and then home to the pig stye that had been neglected because of the book. I was tired and cranky, and when I saw my kids’ breakfast dishes all over the counter right above the dishwasher, I had a meltdown.
I called my teenagers in the room and started calmly lecturing them about the reason they need to clean up after themselves, to which they both denied the dishes were theirs. Then I mentioned the clothes, shoe, backpacks, and candy wrappers scattered everywhere, and my daughter, who is quite astute, pointed to my shoes in the front hallway, my husband’s coat slung over the dining room chair beside his gym bag, and my tea mug on the counter. “Why do we have to pick our stuff up but your’s and dad’s are laying around all over the place?”
I calmly responded that I was going to pick up my own things, and the discussion was about them picking up theirs. My son observed that I just liked any excuse to give these lectures, and my daughter chimed in that she didn’t see why it mattered whether they had things in the floor since all their friends’ houses were messes and why was I such a freak about it?
This is when I lost my calm demeanor and started screaming that no one ever does an effing thing around this effing house except me and can’t they see how tired I am and they just lay around watching TV while I bust my effing buns to make a nice home and nobody cares enough to even put their effing dishes in the dishwasher?
They looked on aghast because the f-word only comes out about every six months or so when I’m really in a bad way. They cowered while I unleashed my fury until I gave out, then scattered like wildebeests chased by lions, running to pick up their stuff – anything to get out of the room.
And I was left alone in the kitchen thinking about what an idiot I’d been for not teaching them to pick up after themselves when they were littlle. I always went into their rooms and tidied up, picked up their toys, wiped up their messes and so forth because I just knew my mother in law was going to drop by unannounced. I also thought I was being a sweet mother, just like my own mother had been. She was a true homemaker. I went to school and came home to a made-up bed, clean bathroom, a dining room table where food appeared at dinnertime, and the dishes disappeared when I was done. I never offered to lend a hand, and she never asked me to.
This was my role model, and this is what I did with my kids for the most part. On occasion I’d read the books that said to require your kids to do age appropriate chores and make up a chore list on the refrigerator. I tried some of those things but they didn’t last long. It was too little too late. By the time they were seven and eight, they’d gotten used to having a personal servant. I’d try to bribe them with money but that didn’t work. I’d make them clean their rooms before they could have friends over, which worked, but they’d just hide things in the closet and do a slipshod bed making that drove me nuts. It was easier to just do it myself.
I hate to admit it but the books were right. If you don’t teach them when they learn to walk, they’ll run all over you when they get older.
On a happy note, I must announce that THIS IS MY 100TH BLOG POST!!! I’m almost a third of the way through my year of blogging every day!!! This calls for a celebration. I hope you will all raise a glass and toast this mammoth occasion. Champaign and applause all around! As Elvis says, “Thank you. Thank you very much.”