I want the kids to learn to pick up after themselves. I swear I do. I really do. That’s why I tell them I’m not their slave. That it’s time to take that goddamn wrapper and put it in the goddamn garbage where it belongs.
The problem is, I am their slave, and it’s only getting worse now that they’re teens.
Here’s how it goes: I point out the wrapper 50 times before it moves. In the meantime, another 12 wrappers appear along with a jumble of plates and cans. Not to mention the trail of clothes from front door to bedrooms, where lo and behold, the carpets are virtual seas of underwear and inside out sleeves. At this point, that little wrapper has grown in intensity. It now has the power to morph me into a raging monster or, more likely (to save my sanity and vocal chords in one fell swoop), I will do the unthinkable.
I can’t help myself. I try but I can’t. I give in and pick up after the slobs.
I’m tired and hungry and the last thing I feel like doing is screaming bloody murder. So right after I commit the heinous act of cleaning up after my kids as if they were still two years old, I start justifying to make myself feel better – to help me feel less like an unpaid maid who is getting downright manipulated by her lazy butt teens and more like a grown mother who made a conscious, generous decision. “Hey, it’s not like I’m Miss Neat myself,” I tell myself as I toss that wrapper in the trash. “And the truth is, I was a teenage slob not so long ago, right?”
I actually remember my mother saying to all of us teens: “Good luck finding anyone to marry you” when she came into the kitchen after a long day at work and found plates, forks, and open jars all over the place.
Sound familiar? If so, check out this story in Today’s Parent magazine (yes, it’s by Yours Truly but it wisely focuses on my friend Whitney instead of me).
Lucky me. In writing this one, I got to enjoy a serious job perk: Advice from an expert in teen behavior. Thanks to family communications specialist, Jo-Anne Cutler, I learned that kids are conditioned to ‘forget’ to follow through because I’ve taught them that if they do nothing, I’ll throw up my hands and come to the rescue. I gotta tell you though, watching that wrapper hang out in the family room for three days while the kid is hanging out on Facebook can (and does) drive a Mama insane – even a messy Mama, like me.
If, like me, you know you’ll never be able to stop yourself from moving that wrapper, there’s really no choice. Calmly tell your teen there’s no Facebook until that wrapper, or cup, or coat, is in its rightful place. Then, despite the teenage tantrum (which, lemme warn you, is a ton more infuriating than the drop-on-the-ground toddler-fist-pound), I dare you to stand your ground – without losing your cool. Sounds easy, right? The tough part here is – you guessed it – the calmly. If you take your child’s (expected) shout/moan/eyeroll personally, you’ll lose focus and that wrapper is going nowhere fast, baby. You’ll be too busy engaging in warfare.
For the whole story, originally published in Today’s Parent December 2011:
Or, if you want to make life a little bit simpler, just follow the advice of one of our very best friends. Kat from JackStrawlane demonstrates in easy-to-understand comic strip form exactly how your kids should hang up his towel after a shower.
We’re printing this one and posting it on the bathroom mirror for our teens. Dare you to do the same.