Sunday, March 9, 2008

A Little Help?

When I lost my job, as seems to be happening to many people lately, my kids were thrilled. They had visions of home-cooked meals, more 'Mommy' time, and improved service from their waitress. Since they're not regular readers of my column, they had no idea how disillusioned they were.

There are tougher things than working full-time and being a single parent, but the list is short. I hit the ground running and didn't stop until bedtime. Lunch consisted of nonstop errands. I quit renting movies because I'd fall asleep in the first ten minutes. "Me" time was zzzzzzzzz.

As far as chores went, sadly, often the easiest way out was to just do them myself. Folding laundry took less time than showing an ornery 9-year-old how to do it. The kids knew I wasn't up to dictating the finer points of a wrinkle-free lifestyle.

Now, however, I had time to think about who should clean what, and how, with what, and when. Armed with eight hours of sleep and Lysol, I was ready to do battle with my raggedy offspring. Visions of orderly bedrooms and healthy snacks danced in my head.

What mother of a boy hasn't dreamed of raising a tidy son? I was attempting the Everest of male perfection – to find a way to get my guys to like cleaning and still grow up to be manly men, to get them to love a spotless kitchen and march those errant socks into the laundry basket with a smile. Someday their wives would thank me. Or perhaps the wives would simply assume my boys were genetically programmed to be neat, which I would be forced to take as tacit thanks, since that's as close to a thank-you as those spoiled, ungrateful wenches would get after stealing my sons away from me and never letting them visit their poor, dear mother. Whoops, getting ahead of my angry self there.

I grabbed some dust rags and holstered my Windex. "What's that?" asked my eleven-year-old.

"It's that stuff that makes bubbles," my nine-year-old replied. They didn't even recognize cleaning supplies. This was going to be harder than I thought.

"Mom, no bubbles in the house," snarked his older brother. They both chuckled and returned to watching television.

That was it. The kid gloves were coming off. The cleaning gloves were going on. I sauntered Patton-like in front of a flickering Scooby Doo. "Gentlemen," I boomed, "The time has come.... to clean."

I handed them dust rags and disconnected the life-support to their vidiot-box. "Mom, we can't see!" they squawked.

"I have the same problem with the top of the coffee table. I can't see that either."

They stared at the rags. They stared at me. They stared at their hands. I knew they were searching their brains for a decent excuse, scanning my face for weakness, looking for a way out. The next one to flinch would lose.

"Aw, Mom, not noooooow!" The familiar white-flag whine. I won. It was now. It was time. It was going down.

They'd be gobsmacked. They'd be flabbergasted. They'd be busy. My first area to attack was the coffee table. At one end, Lego warriors fought back an onslaught of tiny plastic troll monsters. A copy of "No, David!" served as a rebel stronghold, and sticky rubber mice wallowed in the moat. Cries of “Die, trolls, die!” filled the air as the horde was eliminated.

We kept rolling. Next up was the video game corner. Long known as a notorious dust-bunny breeding ground, it was an archeological dig site dating all the way back to Pong. Mario and Luigi had perished in there without as much as a proper burial.

Yeah, guys clean. My guys clean. Yes, it may have helped that I referred to Windex as "the ultimate liquid power-tool" and encouraged them to "murtilize the evil dust bunnies.” Nevertheless, the fact remains that they cleaned and will live to clean again. We beat back the goo and clutter of a hundred tiny toys and recaptured a small part of my sanity.

Losing my day job gave me time to focus on my main job - being a mom, and being, whether they liked it or not, there for my kids. Kids who could learn to eat a few more vegetables once in a while. Hmmmm….


Shania said...

Great post! I've often found that making anything combative or violent makes it more appealing to boys. Gotta love that testoterone (easily the most dangerous chemical in the world).

tom said...

Wow ann, you even clean, sorry about your job I know you will find a better one, you are an excellent writer maybe you could stick that polo mallet into the horses ass that fired you.