For a while, when I was a carefree, independent...gallivanting...20-something, I was of the opinion that I might not want to have kids. (In all honesty...some days I still believe that...kidding!!) Even when I met Husband, and changed my mind, I couldn't imagine wanting to do something as nutty as...stay home...with the rugrats. (Mashed carrots and diapers and...jingly baby toys..shudder!) After all, I was a "career woman", right? Yeah...until the munchkins actually came along, at which point I obviously reversed my thinking on that one, too. So for the past 14 years or so, I've tried my best to balance part-time employment with all of my duties as Household Manager. Given that my personality leans toward...um, let's be kind and label it "hyper-organized"--I'd have to say it's gone pretty smoothly, overall.
However...it's recently become glaringly clear that perhaps I've been doing my job a bit TOO well. What I mean is: without any of us even realizing it, my kids have grown entirely too pampered for their own (or my) good. You see, because I'm able to devote time in my schedule to take charge of all the little details and ensure that things keep humming along...the boys haven't had to do too much for themselves...and are therefore fairly ignorant of...and inept at...some very rudimentary tasks. For example, Derek wanted ramen noodles last weekend for lunch. He grabbed the package from the pantry, then abruptly stopped in the middle of the kitchen with a semi-helpless expression and laughed, "I have no idea how to make this!" Before I could respond he brightened and said, "Oh, here are the directions! Let's see...boil water. Do I use the stove or the microwave? Hmm, where would I find a...boiling water....thingie?"
Ay yi yi...after I picked my head back up from where it was resting in my hands in despair, I talked him through intricate process of instant soup preparation. Meanwhile my internal monologue was carrying on quite a scolding, along the lines of "What kind of mother are you? He needs to know these things! You said when he reached High School, you'd start teaching him how to take care of himself!" And this is all true--I did have the best of intentions for making my child self-sufficient, so that when he goes off into that Big Wide World (or, you know, "college") he'll be a savvy consumer, capable cook, and at least passably competent cleaner-upper. So far he can handle boiling water...toasting bread in the countertop convection oven...and making grilled cheese. Uh-huh...it seems I've got some catching up to do. To this end, I've decided that next up on the list will be the very simple but versatile "eggs" (of varying preparations) and "pasta" (which of course requires a whole other appliance to make the water bubble...should be interesting).
Okay then, when it comes to the whole issue of "cleaning", some of this is definitely my fault...'cuz I LOATHE that particular category of household...drudgery. Before we moved, we were (all) very spoiled by having a service come every other week to shine the house from top to bottom. In between, we'd keep things tidy and basically pick up after ourselves...but I didn't require any, you know, "scrubbing" or what have you. Well, we've cut the professionals back to once a month...which means that every two weeks we need to roll up our sleeves and do some actual housework ourselves.
You should have seen the boys' faces when I informed them they would be responsible for vacuuming the upstairs...and sprucing up their bathroom. The horror! The agony! It was priceless, I tell ya. And for right now, I do have to kind of stand sentry and remind them exactly what to do and how to do it. But we'll call it progress. (And as a bonus in their Life Skills Education Program, they now have personal insight into the consequences of missing the toilet whilst peeing. I suspect it makes you more careful, when you're the one wiping it up. We'll see how that plays out going forward...but really, who cares? It's Not My Problem anymore...yippee!)
Meanwhile, there's one other arena in which my children remain entirely coddled, past the time when some of the burden should have shifted to their increasingly broad shoulders. I'm talking about that event that occurs daily around here: laundry. Being an active family, we can pretty much fill the machine every day, so I like to stay on top of the situation. The idea of letting dirty stuff pile up until I have several loads that would take hours of my time to wade through...makes me feel stressed and cranky. (Yeah, I know, it's a personal problem...) So the bottom line is, everyone's become used to the fact that their clean clothes get returned within 24 hours.
I'm only sharing this deeply private information about my laundry habits because of a conversation Derek and I had a few days ago. He told me that one of his friends who usually wears nothing to school but warmup pants and hoodies had shown up in khakis and a button-down dress shirt. This apparently caused a ruckus of interrogation amongst his 14-year old buddies--at which point the kid revealed that he was only attired in that manner because "my mom hasn't done laundry, and I don't have anything else clean." Derek gazed at me, seeming utterly confounded, and wondered aloud how such a situation could possibly be allowed to happen. "You just...give our clothes back right away!" It was amazing to watch the unfolding of the exact moment in which he gained valuable understanding of the magic and mystery of the...Laundry Fairy...that has tirelessly and (mostly) uncomplainingly served him all his life.
But suffice it to say, it was an eye-opening little chat for his mother as well...who realized that there are two boys under her care who are long overdue for some instruction into the realm known as "How to Operate a Washing Machine and a Dryer." Given my own somewhat...lackadaisical attitude...toward the whole laundry issue, they'll be getting the abbreviated curriculum. Because I don't do anything crazy like, you know. "sort lights and darks" or "separate heavy and delicate items". Nah...it's all uncomplicated "chuck it in together and use cold water for everything" around here. So that should be fun. As long as everyone ends up with the right amount of undies and socks, it's all good as far as I'm concerned.
Hey, here's an idea: if all goes well, perhaps I can get Derek to whip us up some soup and grilled cheese to celebrate...and Riley can clean up afterwards! Picture me brushing my hands briskly together in the universal sign for "my work here is D-O-N-E!"