Wednesday, November 9, 2011

I'm Disappointed In You

When I was a kid, my brothers and I were pigs. We were worse than pigs, we were lazy, selfish, thoughtless slobs. My mother is a saint. She always managed to know the right way to deal with the crap that we put her through. I don't remember a lot of it, but I do remember one time when she sat us all down and started to cry. She told us that we hurt her feelings and she felt like we didn't appreciate all of the hard work that she did for us. I remember feeling like scum. I wanted the earth to open up under my feet and swallow me whole rather than see my mom crying because of me. It was awful. But you know what? It made me want to be better. I never wanted my mom to cry because of something I did. It was a turning point for me. Did I keep my room clean forever after that? Nope. Still struggling with that. But it changed the way I thought about it. I tried to do better and I think I succeeded a little.

Fast forward many years into the future and here we are in 2011 and I have three little pigs of my own. They are little kids. They make messes. They make the same messes every single day. I spend most of my time in my house cleaning, cooking, doing laundry, and taking care of my children. I do the same things day in and day out. I make meals and clean them up, I brush teeth and comb hair, I make beds, pick up toys, read annoying children's books, vacuum, sweep, dust, mop, wash marker off of walls, play barbies and legos, ooh and aah over schoolwork that comes home, help with homework, fold laundry, keep up with the yard work, flush the toilet a thousand times a day (because my children NEVER remember), say "NO" a thousand times a day, and about a zillion other things. Going to work and dealing with grown ups all day sounds heavenly sometimes. I have to remind myself that I chose this life and really, I do love it. It's just a thankless job and sometimes I get in a rut. (when i really feel like i'm in a rut, i do crazy things like paint rooms turquoise or dye my hair red!) 

Today was one of those days. I spent all morning running all over town and spent the afternoon trying to have a nice afternoon with my kids. I let them have friends over. I let them eat Halloween candy. I let them play the Wii (after homework of course) and even let them get out ALL of the stuff in the costume box and play dress up. The only thing I asked them to do was to put their toys away when they were done. That's all.

I told them this at 4:00 pm. At 7:35 pm, I looked around and there were toys everywhere. I had reminded them several times about needed to put things away, but I tried to keep it nice and calm and not yell -- which is obviously what I felt like doing. I was staring, dumbfounded at the mess and all three kids looked at me. I could see the gears turning in their heads. They were all thinking about what was going to happen. They knew that they had blown it. They knew that they were supposed to be picking up and they completely ignored it. Instead of quickly trying to pick up a few things or even apologizing, they just shrugged their collective shoulders and went on playing. I walked quietly into the girls' bedroom and sat on the bed. The kids followed me and saw that I was crying. Now they were worried.  Moms don't cry.

My mom cried, and now I was crying. I gave the kids a speech that was very similar to the one I received as a teenager. I dumbed it down a little since they are only little kids, but it's the same basic points. I told them that they hurt my feelings. I felt like they didn't appreciate the hard work that I do for them day in and day out. I felt like I didn't matter to them. I felt like if they don't care about what our house looks like, then neither should I. I'll just stop cooking and cleaning and I'll play all day long just like they do. At this point, they are all crying. Tyler is trying to be brave, but he's quickly wiping away tears before they fall and his lower lip is trembling. Nicole is curled up in a ball next to me crying silently. Tori is on my lap sobbing like a baby. Now it was time for the big guns.

"I'm disappointed in you."

I could see all of them shrink. They all felt like scum. I could see it on their sweet little tear-stained faces. They all tackled me and hugged me and apologized. They made promises of clean rooms and toys that never touched the floor. They wanted to do nice things for me that cost a lot of money (which I would need to front, of course). I told them that really, all I want is for them to put their things away when they are done with them. Well, this sounds like the easiest thing in the world when you're ready to offer to make dinner for the next month, do all of your own laundry, and mow the lawn until you move out. All three of them quickly worked together and went from room to room cleaning. They cleaned both bedrooms, the bathroom, hallway, kitchen, family room, and toy room... in 15 minutes. It was amazing. I have never seen them work together like this. When they were done. They felt good. They hugged each other and then they hugged me. They said that it was so much more fun to work together and they were shocked at how fast it went! They said they loved looking at our house when it was all clean. 

I looked at them and wanted to dance a jig. I was so happy! They had finally done what I wanted them to do! I didn't have to yell or get mad at anyone. I don't know if this will be a turning point for them. I don't know if they will remember this a week or a month from now. But now, I'm going to bed in a clean house with children who will try harder tomorrow.

What do you think they would think if they knew that I had to REALLY work to force myself to start crying in the first place?

1 comment:

Annie said...

Awesome Kristi! I'm glad they got your point. I told Phoebe I was disappointed in her when she ate Halloween Candy AFTER brushing teeth and After I told her 10 times NO she could not eat more candy right before bed. She looked crushed! And she has been pretty obedient about asking permission and accepting NO for an answer. In the end, Kids love their moms so much and know in their hearts that they couldn't make it a day with out their mom! You are an awesome mom!