Once upon a time Hot Mama and I lived a carefree newlywed life where we could stay up late; sleep until noon; and walk around our clean house in the nude, not that I ever did for obvious reasons and sadly she didn’t nearly enough. Nowadays we may stay up too late from time to time but we pay for it in the morning. We can’t remember the last time we slept past 9:00 AM on a weekend morning. Our house is so dirty that it’s hard to walk around regardless of our level of dress. I still refrain from horrifying any onlookers and she goes au naturel even less than before.
What has changed? Things 1, 2, and 3. And just like their Seussian namesakes they prance around doing just as they please leaving destruction and despair in their mischievous wake. Now that they are on the scene Hot Mama and I don’t stay up late because we are passed out from exhaustion at 10:30. It’s hard to sleep in when there is a toddler sticking his feet in your face while groping his mother’s milk bar while his older sisters are professing their hatred towards each other at the top of their lungs. And we gave up on having our home featured in anything other than Cluttered Homes and Weeds magazine a long time ago.
Toys and clothes scatter the floors while arts and crafts litter every horizontal surface available and three sides of the refrigerator. Dirty towels lay on the water soaked bath rug after once again the bath water mysteriously couldn’t contain itself in the tub. Food wrappers pile up under the bed because the wastebasket across the room is just too far of a trek.
It’s not like we don’t care. It’s not like we don’t try. But with school and work, dinner and homework throughout the week it piles up. Saturday morning has become the time for cleaning up the accumulated mess. No big deal, we’re a family of five, we can knock this out in no time. Right? Wrong. For some reason when Hot Mama or I ask them to help clean the house the older two seem to hear “we are going to slowly tear off your fingernails with rusty pliers while we waterboard you.” That’s right, cleaning up is tantamount to torture. Thing 3 is starting to pick up on his sisters’ protestations and is realizing the magnitude of unfairness he soon faces.
We’ve tried being nice, we’ve tried being mean. We’ve tried taking away privileges. We’ve tried taking away electronics. During our last clean your room battle royale I threatened to take away every item but their mattress from their room and explained it would be like being in jail. They finished cleaning their room late Saturday night to escape their jail sentence. By Tuesday the room looked worse than it did Saturday morning.
Which is why it thoroughly pisses me off when I get a report from friends, family and teachers who interact with our children. We have seen how they can suck the fun out of a room as they fight, whine and thumb their nose at authority and respect so we kind of cringe when we ask how the kids were while they were out of our presence. And then we get the report that they were “perfect angels.” A kid that doesn’t listen at home gets glowing reviews at the parent teacher conference. A kid that won’t pick up a single dirty sock in her room helped tidy up her friend’s living room after a sleepover. A kid that screams and cries for mommy when it’s just me around goes to sleep without a hitch for the babysitter.
I suppose we should be proud that we have such well-behaved, thoughtful children. We should be happy that they get these glowing reviews from others. It’s as if the kids are allergic to their parents. We bring out the worst in them. Or maybe we just spend a lot more time with them.
I don’t want anyone to get the wrong impression. We are very proud of our kids. We cannot imagine a life without them and are constantly amazed at their intelligence, ingenuity and compassion. They excel at many activities and can be very loving towards their parents and each other. For all of their slobby, lazy, shitty behavior there are plenty of times when they are truly delightful. Sure most of that time occurs between 11:00 PM and 5:30 AM and they are unconscious, but to watch them sleep you would agree they are perfect angels.
photo credit: National Library of Ireland