I had an epiphany the other day – one I’ve spoken of before, but more definite than ever this time. Our home has been a mess, and I do mean a gigantic, garbage-strewn, dirty clothes, clean-clothes-mountain mess the likes of which I haven’t seen in my time as a parent. I realize that there are certain things that I will have to adjust to doing before we hit our stride, but it’s frustrating that a year into our new story that things can’t seem to stay on track. My middle daughter, after trying on her new shirt asks if she can take off the tags. When I say “yes” she pulls it off and literally drops it on the floor, in the middle of the living room, with no thought whatsoever as to how completely ridiculous it is that she’d use the floor as a garbage can. That was Saturday.
Sunday, as the weekend’s events weighed on me, my back hurting (still really bad, as a matter of fact) I realized that the only way to avoid the massive weekend from hell every single weekend was to ensure that the work gets done every day. If Hannah doesn’t do the dishes I verbally assault her until she does. If the laundry isn’t put away I lambast my sons until they do it. If the food isn’t warmed up for dinner I criticize my daughter for texting with friends in her bedroom and not watching her siblings. More importantly, though, I came to the conclusion that no matter how tired, beat down, or mentally fried I am, I need to do these things anyway to ensure that we have time over the weekends to do more than clean and catch up on what we didn’t do during the week.
That doesn’t mean my kids get out of their chores. What it does mean is that if they don’t do them the punishments come when I do them in the evening. TV, computer, video games, all of them disappear. I allow reading, that’s it.
The attempt is to try and gain some semblance of what I had growing up. I know that it’s not ever going to be the same. I’m not an at-home Dad, though I wish I was. I don’t have a lot of time when I get home before the kids have to get the bedtime routine going, but at least it’s that: a routine. Dinner at the table, an hour or more together, showers, midnight snacks, brushing of teeth and then reading a bit before bed. All of it part of a routine that helps them feel stable and cared for.
So after this last weekend, when I had to have lost 5 or 10 pounds just in pure sweat, we got a good portion of the house picked up and cleaned. I got the kitchen cleaned. I made sure that everything was picked up. I have a weekend of craziness, with Abbi’s prom and the concert both girls were supposed to attend now an Abbi/Daddy night. As much as I’m sure she is loving that we get to do this together, I know that she also was disappointed that her sister isn’t going along with us.
I know this sounds like I’m being self-effacing and complaining but I’m not. I came to the realization that life has to be put first, everything else second. I don’t necessarily like that, but when I get home and the hallway from the garage and the main room are clean I don’t stress out first thing in the door. I also needed to come to terms with the fact that my selfish nature couldn’t take over when I need to just do the family duties.
Tonight was no exception. I made the lunches, while my son asked me why I took the time to make them all if it was so much work? But like my mother, I know I can control the nutrition and the items in the lunch boxes. I made homemade lemon bars for the first time, realizing there’s a reason they say “DO NOT OVERCOOK” in the recipe but hoping they taste OK anyway. Why? Because I realize that my kids are better off with the desserts and items I cook myself, not the sugar and preservative-filled pre-made desserts in the stores. I bought a new Sunbeam stand mixer so that I can make things quicker and easier. My sons, if they eat the ready-made foods go nuts – bouncing off the walls, spiderman, arachnid, peel them off the ceiling crazy.
I spent so much time just trudging through life that I wasn’t taking care of life. Now I realize that it’s the most important thing. The more I take care of the better off we’ll be. We can drive to Big Tree Park. We can take a few days off and head to San Diego or the Grand Canyon. It seems like such a simple, easy thing, but it’s harder than you think. When I have to take care of everything we forgot over the week on the weekend, you can’t really do more than cook and clean.
Now, though I wish all the kids were coming along, I’m going to Oakland for a concert with my daughter and spending the night overlooking Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco. We’ll eat breakfast on the beach. It could have been me and my girls, but I had to stand by my punishment and not let her come along. It’s like the overcooked lemon bar or the homemade lunch. It may be a high price, but paying it will have far bigger benefits later on.