There’s an old line that always makes me chuckle, just a little: “we’ll head ’em off at the pass!” My favorite is in the clip up there, where Mel Brooks turns it on its head and makes a joke out of it.
But the kids have been back in school just about a week. The house looks like it’s been 3 months.
As much as I hate the headline up there, I had to start heading them off at the pass. The kids all have chores: Abbi picks them up from school and watches them until I get home. Now, before you read that sentence and think to yourself “oh, the poor dear, she’s taking the role of Mommy,” bear in mind she’s only with them for about an hour or two each day. Abbi has matured quickly, sure. She’s moved from being a whiny teenager to a teenage drama queen at times, but for the most part, she’s reliable, sweet, and the little girl who sidles up to her Daddy when she’s happy, sad or indifferent. The difference now is she seems to enjoy the authority the others inherently let her wield when I’m not around.
The other three, though, have more basic chores. The boys: laundry. I wash it, they put it away. Theirs and mine. The girls’ has to get put in a laundry basket in their rooms. The funny thing about that is the fact that the boys’ room looks amazing and the girls’ . . . well, it’s like Hawkeye Pierce set up shop in their bedrooms. Hannah: she has the dishes. That’s it. I don’t need more from them, I really don’t. Those few things are seemingly far more than they thought was necessary.
Over the weekend I made it to the pass in front of them, though.
My work was very kind and gave us all tickets to the Sacramento Rivercats baseball game. I took my niece along with the kids and she was spending the night. The only caveat to all of them was this: chores have to be done. Hannah, Saturday morning, decided to go up and shower. I finished a video project, mowed the lawn, fixed a hole in the sprinkler system, edged the lawn and then watered the new grass seed I’d just placed on the back yard. When I came into the house, not only were the dishes still strewn about, Hannah was still in the shower. Before you ask how long she’d been up there look again at how many things I did in the time she was in the shower. It’s like I could see dimes dripping out of her shower head in my mind. My water bill over the summer: about a hundred bucks. Now? I’ll be lucky of I can stop it at 300.
Amongst this my sons were constantly asking how they were supposed to possibly, in all honesty, even get this three baskets full of clothes folded and put away?! The girls? panties? Eww, Dad.
“Umm . . . they’re clean, boys. I even bleached them.”
“And bear in mind their underwear pales in comparison to what I have to do with yours.”
Until five minutes later when they couldn’t possibly, without help, figure out where in the world my socks and T-shirts are supposed to go.
“Look in the drawers in my dresser . . . and put them where the other socks and shirts are.”
“I did that.”
“Still can’t figure it out.”
Now, I’m not stupid. They wanted me to come show them and then, by sheer coincidence, say “thanks, Dad” leaving me to put them away. Didn’t work. They’d done this chore before. Many times. That made it all the more confounding that they wanted the help. It’s like they thought I’d been hit by one of those memory rays in a Men in Black movie.
By this point I’d started screaming at Hannah, who tried to claim she was getting dressed. My response? Listing all the things I’d just done in the last hour and a half. By now her sister, Abbi, who’d started doing Hannah’s chores, was indignant and shouting as well.
It took her 3 times longer than it should have . . . and I had to go behind her and point out silverware, plates, measuring cups, and bowls she’d ignored . . . but the dishes were finished and the house clean.
No parent likes to be the shouting, grumpy, person. But I always remind them of one thing: we’re in this together. I don’t have enough hours in the day, I tell them, to do their chores and feed them, clothe them, wash, clean, and cook. Put that way, it seemed to sink in. Noah started making his own lunch before bed – I never asked him.
Finally, it’s sinking in. I headed them off at the pass, sure. But more than that, they understood what I’ve been telling them forever: we’re stronger together than when we’re apart.