It started with a dish towel.
Felix woke up from his nap and toddled down the stairs where he found me at the sink, with a drying cloth tossed over my shoulder. “GIMME DAT!” he yelled. I looked around me. What? “GIMME DAT” he shouted again, and I grew more perplexed. Finally I gingerly reached up and touched my shoulder. “My towel?” “Yesh.” “Say please…” I handed Felix the towel and he said, authoritatively, “Put it’ away!” and he actually went and hung it on the towel bar.
Obviously my baby held some resentment towards my dish towel. If am holding a dish towel, I am working. And if I am working, I am not giving him attention. Oops. I’m doing it wrong. Whatever happened to the family behaving as a well-oiled unit, joyfully working together? Isn’t he supposed to get his own towel and join me in drying the dishes?
Somewhere along the line I failed. I failed myself, and my kids. I didn’t take care of myself. I didn’t get enough sleep, I let my eating spiral out of control, and my lack of discipline in these areas made really good, intentional parenting impossible. Somehow, by grace and nature I got some decent kids anyway. Imperfect, but lovable and basically decent people.
But slobs. Oblivious. Self-centered. Just plain grody. They treat the house like it’s their own private compost barrel, leaving orange peels and apple cores EVERYWHERE. It’s influencing Felix, the artisan cheesemaker, who takes a cue from his siblings in that department so that he leaves sippy cups of milk in various stages of coagulation all over the house. They throw garbage near the general vicinity of the garbage can. They carpet the house with legos and stomp on books and leave papers all over the house. It makes me angry, and depressed. And it’s completely my fault (well, they also have a father…)
So, I decided to take action. No fancy chore charts. I just glanced over the situation, made up a plan in my head, pulled a notebook from my purse (not one that I had purchased especially for this. Just a notebook. I had gotten pulled too many times into the idea that things had to be fancy or specialized.) I made each big kid write their names down on a sheet of paper, and after they completed a chore they got to write down an amount of money I dictated to them. If they got done early, they got extra money, plus that time added onto their break.
Did it work? Mostly yes. The kids worked hard, didn’t whine too much, and earned a decent amount of cash. My sons used almost an entire bottle of Ajax dish soap doing the dishes when perhaps a quarter of the bottle would do, and Linus put away all the dishes wet and in no semblance of order. But they did all the dishes, and Alice and I sorted most of the upstairs laundry, and the yard was clean, and the living room picked up. I was pretty high on my success.
To cap off the day I decided it would be a great idea to watch the show “Hoarders” as a family. Um. Wow. I was not prepared for my kid’s reactions. Screaming. Anger. Tears. Panic attacks. Too much? Probably. But I think it helped them understand what we are trying to avoid.
Then there was today. Maybe it wasn’t a good idea to start a diet on a day you are also starting other life changes and when you haven’t been to the grocery in a few days and have little appropriate food. But, I tend to be all or nothing. Besides, a well-meaning but dopey lady at my church asked if I was expecting because that’s the only reason a woman would ever wear a boxy dress that shows her gut. Not that she might just be FAT. Nothing motivates you quite like that.
But I was STARVING and I spent the morning preparing my grocery list and doing freelance work and we got a late start. Late starts plus low blood sugar = HULK SMASH. I was already feeling irate when I opened the fridge and an ENTIRE DOZEN EGGS jumped out of my fridge and cracked on the floor. As if this wasn’t bad enough, the same thing happened last week with an ENTIRE GALLON OF MILK. Not only are my kids oblivious slobs but they haven’t figured out the magic of stacking things, preferring to throw them willy-nilly into the fridge, and not move things around. Their father the Tetris champ would be ashamed.
So, after many bad words and a mom who was frantic with hysteria, we took time off. And after I had dinner we started again. We got about an hour of work done. Not completed, but that’s ok. I’m forgiving myself and my wild notions of perfection. Tonight, I’m making a list on a good old fashioned sheet of paper, and tomorrow we’ll cross off what we can. And it will be fine.
Now we just have to Felix past his fear of dish towels.