My kids are still pretty young – one, five and seven. As much as we have some drama, disobedience, and disagreements, our lives are fairly simple. At church I work with teenage girls and they make me thankful every day that my kids and I have some time to grow into the kinds of problems the teenagers and their parents need to worry about right now.
While their parents are encouraging them to stay away from drugs and avoid other life-destroying mistakes, I’m still working on teaching my kids a few basic skills. Here are some examples:
1. Do not scream before you barf. Barfing and the ensuing cleanup are annoying enough. If you yell and holler leading up to the incident, your parents will have no empathy left when you need it most. I would also add that if you feel the need to heave, you are welcome to do it in the toilet and tell me about it after. You don’t need to stand at the foot of my bed, in the middle of the living room carpet or at the dinner table, scream, announce the impending avalanche and then let loose. You can let loose in a contained space and then fill me in on the details.
2. Real dishes are for eating, not licking, stacking, crashing or using as skates. Play dishes are for playing.
3. No one likes to wash clean clothes. If they’re still folded, they’re clean. Put them in your drawer.
4. Pronounce the name “Mom” with only one syllable.
5. Flush. Every time.
6. If the answer is “no,” don’t ask again.
7. You may not think you like your brother or sister at this moment but you are best friends so start acting like it.
8. You can poop before I change your diaper. You don’t have to wait for a fresh canvas to leave your mark on.
9. I did not forget to do your homework. You forgot to do your homework.
10. Go to bed.
Okay. Some of those aren’t rules or even skills. But seriously, go to bed.
I find that as a mom I repeat myself over and over and over again. I find that as a mom I repeat myself over and over and over again. See how I just did that? But each time I remind them that stairs are for walking, not for storing personal effects, they act as if I were saying it for the very first time.
Sometimes I wish my other friends would be so forgiving when they find me repeating myself, telling the same old stories over and over. Usually people will jump in and say, “Yeah. I remember you told me about that.” Not my kids. They can hear the same thing 50 times and it’s always like a revelation.
It’s not like motherhood is the first repetitive job I’ve ever had. When I worked at a library, I spent my life telling people where the bathroom was and helping them find “that one movie with the Italian guy and the Nazis.” As a receptionist, I gave the same directions over and over again. In marketing I got to the point where I could give a product demo in my sleep.
The difference here is that I’m giving the same instructions to the same people over and over again and I really love the people and it really matters to me that they listen to what I’m saying and internalize it. I want them to stop sneaking chocolate chips now so I can teach them not to steal cars later.
Sometimes I’m really frustrated with their lack of progress but then every once in a while something miraculous will happen. Magoo will be at a friend’s house and refuse to play video games unless they call and ask my permission because “it’s not Saturday,” or Laylee will get dressed in the morning as though she has guessed that we have school every day. These things give me hope.