When You Find Gum in the Dryer...
Teenagers. It's like starting all over again. Not the diapers part of it (thank the Lord!), and certainly not the eating part of it, but the common sense part of it. The stuff that you taught them over the course of their childhood is somehow lost overnight. It's simply gone. Kaput. Empty. Just like that. They suddenly wake up and it's as if their mind was wiped cleaned by one of those memory erasers you see in movies, where they don't want the poor person remembering what they saw and before they know it - ZAP! It's all gone. That, my friends, is the beginning of the teenage years. Now, I realize they are going through physical changes, where the frontal lobes in their brains are shifting (etc. etc.) and there is a genuine reason for their confusion and moodiness that they go through, but can they use that as an excuse for using my floor as a trash can? Or their beds as a bureau for all their clothes? Or for the dishes that are left around their rooms with the last bits of crumbs rock hard on the bottom? No, no no! Some of it comes down to laziness, some of it to selfishness, and some of it to just plain forgetfulness, but I realized the other day that it is really starting all over again. Time to get out the 'paddle' so to speak, and whip these kids into action.
When the children were little, I remember days where I was completely wiped out from chasing them around, getting them to listen, and working with them to share and get along with their brothers and sisters. Just trying to keep sane in the process was exhausting enough. Evenings were the worst part of it because I was so tired I could not deal with any more messes and foolishness that came along with the package. And that was when the house was at its worst too. Over time I realized that I needed to lower my expectations of the children. Messes happen. And as we worked on the process of cleaning and tidying up, they learned to know what was expected of them too. Their expectations were higher, yet mine were lower. We began to have a happy medium, though there were still days when exhaustion took over and I was the mean mom at night. I think the kids forgave me for those days. I know I have forgiven them for the rough times they gave me. Again, it's all part of the package called child rearing.
Well, yesterday I had one of those exhausting moments hit me, and it was not even night time. These moments are rare now, not like it was when the children were little, but once in a while it still happens. I went down to the laundry room to switch the clothes from the washer to the dryer and discovered that there was gum all over the drum of the dryer. Someone had not checked their pockets before washing their clothes and gum had gone through the wash without any problems, but once the heat of the dryer hit it, it melted all over the place. (Now all I need to do is search the clothes and see if there is gum stuck to someone's pants or skirt!) Streaks of hardened goo, black from the lint of the clothes passing over it again and again, covered the white drum, as well as a few hard clumps with the paper still on. It brought back memories of when I was little, when my dad would find gum stuck to the rug of his car, or one of the kids would announce that gum was stuck in their hair. Then it was all over for us...no more gum for anyone for at least two weeks! It was a very sad day for me when that happened...I liked my gum. Even though we were allowed one piece a day, we made that piece last until we had to go to bed. I can still remember seeing the little pink pieces of sugarless gum stuck to the sides of our plates, anticipating the moment we would get to eat it again as soon as dinner was finished. Kind of gross to think about now, but as a child, those things matter a lot. Reminds me of the song, "Does your chewing gum lose its flavor on the bedpost overnight?"
After cleaning out the dryer, I went upstairs and decided then and there to teach the children what it would be like if I acted like them. How would they like it if they had to live in a house that looked like their room? So, while they were all off doing stuff, I took the garbage bag out of the barrel and laid it on the floor; I threw some plastic bags all over the place, as well as some other lose items and made a huge mess in my kitchen. I then stack the dishes high in the sink, an ugly pile of yuckiness. In the living room, I took the two baskets of clothes waiting to be folded and threw the clothes around the floor. Books from school time were scattered all over the dining room table... I looked around and it looked horrible. And I walked away. I went downstairs and began to work in the office, waiting to hear someone say the words I said so well, "What happened in here?!"
It did not take long. It was Caleb who discovered it.
"Mom! What happened up here!"
I kept working. "Oh, nothing. I'm just showing everyone how bad the house would look if I did what you guys do with your rooms."
"You're joking, right?" he asked.
"Oh, no, I'm serious."
"But did you see our room? We cleaned it the other day. I even changed my bed! It looks nice! It must be the girls' room you're talking about."
Yes, Caleb and Ben had cleaned their room and to be honest, they did a good job. I was thinking girls, because the clothes bomb that went off in there was one of those huge nuclear ones that leave nothing untouched. But, bless his heart, Caleb began cleaning my kitchen and living room. He took out the trash, washed the dishes, cleaned up the floor, put all the books away, collected the scattered clothes, and even swept the floor. It was amazing when I came upstairs. The girls never came out during all this, and were surprised when I told them what had happened. They did not even believe me when I told them. I guess I will have to repeat the lesson soon so they can benefit from it too.
I learned something that day. I learned that I need to lower my expectations again. I learned that I need to call them when I need help and not expect them to just know when I need their assistance. I need to tell them exactly what to do and when, so they can learn that they are important in helping out in the household. I guess I have been thinking they are mind readers and should know what I expect them to do without me telling them. I have tried to teach them to look around and see what needs to be done, but then again, it all went out the door with their new teenage brains. I need to teach them all over again. So, instead of getting mad at them, I will lower my expectations, put on my mothering/child training hat, and train them in the way that they should go. Because after the teenage years, they will never again forget the things we teach them because all those changes will be finished as they go into adulthood, Lord willing, with God's help.