Today is supposed to be housecleaning day. Dusting and vacuuming and whatnot. I asked the kids this morning to strip the sheets off their beds, take them to the laundry room, and then pile all their remaining floor detritis (blankets, stuffed animals, mismatched socks) onto their beds so that I could get to the floor to vacuum.
“Okay Mom!” Then lots of giggling as they continued whatever game they were playing with the stuffed animal Monstaz.
After I walked the kids to the bus, and the bus driver yelled out the window, “One o’clock release today – it’s gonna snow,” I came back home to turn lights out before heading to the grocery store.
And lo and behold, the kids’ floors were still covered in blankets, Monstaz, and mismatched socks.
I fumed, and stomped, and yelled at my husband, “Oh my GOD. They didn’t clean their crap up AGAIN. I’m so sick of them not listening to me!” I yell and yell and yell, and what does it get me? Nothing! Lots of guilt and no results.
“They’re never going to listen if they don’t have consequences,” says my husband. I fume some more. I can’t take the TV away, because that punishes me. So I simmer a while, running pre-storm errands, trying to see through my fogged up windshield, toting groceries in the rain.
And then it comes to me.
When the kids get home I smile and ask how their days were, then say, very casually, “You are both in trouble.” That stopped them in their tracks. “Neither one of you cleaned your floors like I asked this morning, so now you get to do the work I was going to do for you.”
Their eyes were like saucers.
“After your snack, you will go upstairs, clean everything off your floor, then dust and vacuum your rooms.”
They sputtered, “But I didn’t hear you!”
“But he made that mess in my room!”
I started to argue, then thought better of it. “Here’s the vacuum, here’s the duster. I’ll come up and get the places you can’t reach.”
Our son’s face was red with anger, his mouth a tight slit. Our daughter sobbed with the unfairness of it all. They had gotten out of school early for this?!
I kept my mouth shut for the most part, despite all the lecturing I wanted to do. We worked in silence in our separate rooms. Silence, that is, except for the whimpering and sniffling coming from our daughter’s room. When I joined our son, he saw his globe and said, “I know an easy way to dust this!” And he put the tip of the swiffer duster at the north pole, flattened the length of it down a longitudinal line, and spun the earth on it’s axis.
I smiled and told him, “I do it the same way.”
He spun it around some more. “Hey Mom, do you want me to show you what we’re learning about in social studies?”
He pointed at Mali, a country in western Africa, and told me how in Mali, the Griots don’t write down their history, they have to memorize it. “You have to tell me a story that’s part of your history, and I have to memorize it in a week.” He looked at me, a little worried. “I hope it’s a short one.”
When our daughter heard our civil conversation, and knew her brother wasn’t fighting the punishment any more, her well of tears miraculously went dry, and she vied for my attention. “We did a science experiment in school today!” She yelled from her room.
I went in to dust her fan blades. “Oh yeah? What did you do?”
She told me about how they worked with three liquids – water, vinegar, and oil – and that they added them all together to see if they would mix. “And nothing would mix with the oil,” she explained. “And one time, the oil was on top, and the water was on the bottom, and even when we poured food coloring on top, it didn’t mix with the oil. The drops exploded in the oil, then sank right through it into the water and changed the color of the water!”
“Wow!” I raised my eyebrows and tried to look suitably impressed.
After the best after-school conversation we’ve had in weeks, the kids and I have forgotten our anger. Whether they learned a lesson about listening remains to be seen. And I’m not even sure if I care. The work is done a half hour earlier than if I had done it myself. Now, unexpectedly, I get to drink my afternoon coffee with leisure, snow falling softly out the window, while I read my new find: Brain, Child: the magazine for thinking mothers.
I read a fantastic column in the Roanoke Times the other day about Brain, Child magazine. I had never heard of it, but when I read a description of it, I knew I needed to read it, and maybe even submit an article one day: “The articles were often edgy and sharp. Filled with great writing and even a few cartoons, Brain, Child was like a New Yorker for mothers.” I’m looking forward to reading my first issue.
6 thoughts on “Mom: Score!”
Definitely a score for you! I love it! Who knows? Maybe you’ll decide that the kids cleaning their own rooms isn’t punishment, but instead part of being a responsible member of the family? Is that crazy? Or am I just preparing myself to be the meanest mom ever with such thoughts? Shoot, that reminds me I need to get out of my recliner and go strip the bed and wash the sheets (and if I were really good, dust and vacuum, but I’m not that good today!). 🙂
Not crazy at all, and not mean. Having the kids help with chores has been our intent all along. It’s just a lot easier said than done 😀
Yippee! Well done, Andrea! so much more fun than the yelling and screaming we can all get locked into. And you are right, the lessons learnt in this experience may need to be repeated on all sides, hopefully each experience will be just as exciting!
That magazine looks interesting…
I’m enjoying the magazine so far – I got the last copy at our Barnes & Noble. I don’t know what other newsstands might carry it.
Love the way you handled that! When my son doesn’t clean his messes up, he gets one warning and then if the mess is still there, it becomes mine until I decide to give it back. No matter what it is. period. As of yesterday I am the owner of a tangled mess of Xbox cords and controllers and a whole bunch of games and GUESS who came looking for them today? 😉 Yelling is just completely ineffectve…but this works….My oldest son who is now married and on his own reacted to this by slamming his door in my face….so I took the door too. He was 14. He never slammed another door again. Doors are precious to 14 year olds. You are a very good Mother! I like the way you handled this….it was probably best for you all that the kids were off at school. It gave you time to get angry and THEN cool off and get creative 😉 No yelling!
Ha! That’s a good idea. And yes, I was glad for the time to come up with a solution instead of just being reactionary and giving some punishment that related in no way with the “crime.” We’ll see how they do next week when I ask them to strip their beds and pick up their floors so I can vacuum while they’re at school.
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