Saturday, June 22, 2013

Life Skills, the early edition...

After waiting with bated breath for several agonizingly slow weeks--the days seeming to drift by at the pace of, say, a butterfly floating on a Summer breeze--we finally heard it, the clarion call of freedom--I mean "the final dismissal bell of the school year". With that glorious signal, we wasted no time at all in chucking our schedules and routines out the proverbial window (with an abundance of gusto, I might add) and melting into pure, blissful relaxation mode. Oh wait...that's just the boys who began staying up later at night, sleeping in, lounging around in their pjs, and generally taking it easy. Would you believe, Husband's employer still expects him to show up and take care of business every day, no matter what the calendar might say, or how compelling the siren call of the pool? (I know: Oh, the inhumanity!) And while my job does lighten up at the end of Spring Semester, I still mosey in to campus to log some hours during the Summer term as well.

Now that the kids are old enough to fend for themselves in the wild (that is, of the house...and maybe the backyard) Husband and I cobble together a combination of methods for keeping them supervised once their academic institution paroles them for 10 weeks. Sometimes he logs onto his company's server and manages from home using the highly technical "email + teleconferencing" strategy. Other days, when I'm only going to be gone a few short hours (and very critically: back by lunchtime) we trust the boys to muddle through on their own. I'm around to monitor breakfast and chat for a while; then I leave them to their own devices...after reviewing the rules and reminding them of my cell phone number, of course. (Although this year, Derek has Husband's old phone, so as I stepped one foot into the garage I hastily turned back to add, "But don't text me random stuff during my class!" Yes, yes, it seems to go without saying, but still...)

This is not their first go-round with the system--they did it last Summer a few times and survived just fine. So I decided (mwah hah hah!) to raise the stakes a bit. (Okay, it happened completely by accident, but don't tell them that! Evil Mom Persona is just sooo much more fun...) I had washed a load of laundry, but the dryer hadn't finished when I needed to leave for work. So I instructed Derek that it would be his New Responsibility to remove the dry clothes when the timer sang its cheery little song, bring the hamper upstairs, and sort the apparel into a pile for each person, on my bed. He appeared flabbergasted by--I don't know what, exactly...the enormity of the chore? Its complexity? Nah, that can't be it, since a reasonably intelligent monkey could be trained to successfully complete this particular task...Oh, I know, it must be that it was the first time in his LIFE I've asked him to do such a thing, and he was trying to wrap his teenage mind around the fact that the free maid service he's enjoyed for his thirteen years is vanishing before his panicked eyes. (Here's my sympathetic response, darling son: Suck. It. Up. This is but the tip of the Household Chores iceberg that I plan to transfer to you and your brother now that you're old enough to handle some more of the maintenance burden around here...stay tuned...)

Over his (mostly in jest) protests, I also mentioned that he should return the newly cleaned towels to their respective bathrooms. Then I sashayed out the door with an airy wave....and crossed my fingers that they would live up to my expectations. And what do you know--when I came back I found that he had followed my directions to the letter...which meant leaving his and his brother's clothes on my bed rather than carrying them across the hall to their own rooms and (heaven forbid such "thinking outside the box") actually putting them away. (Sigh. Baby steps...or perhaps I should remember my audience--the adolescent male--and Spell. It. Out. next time...) Also, they had brought the recycling bins back from the curb...without being asked! (Perhaps you don't understand the significance of this, but up 'til now I've had to remind them every single Thursday, lest they just walk by the large, bright blue boxes without apparently noticing their presence.) As a final testament to their admirable sense of duty and maturity, Riley even confessed that they'd (are you ready for this?) snuck some string cheese mid-morning when they'd gotten hungry waiting for me to come home for lunch. (Gasp! NOT the Unauthorized Between-Meals-Eating-Violation! Seriously, if that's the worst they got into while I was gone, I consider myself a lucky, lucky parent. And thank goodness for having such a tattletaling rule follower on patrol while I'm away! AND they were totally allowed to have a snack...I just forgot to mention it!)

All in all, I'd say the experimental first foray into domestic engineering went swimmingly well. The logical progression would be to teach Derek to operate the washing machine next, I think. And who knows? From there, he could tackle...unloading the dishwasher! Cleaning his own bathroom! Even (dare I say it) cooking! Yep, it's gonna be a F-U-N Summer (at least for one of us...)

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