Our house is not the tidiest of places. Long ago, I gave up the losing battle of making sure toys were in the toy box at the end of the day. I have gotten to a point with my fibro where I don’t have the strength or stamina to take on the stress of making sure the girls clean up, let alone doing it myself. The result is floors littered with land mines of plastic dinosaurs and stuffed baby dolls, Legos and princess dolls, books and dress up accessories. Rather than picking things up, we clear paths from couch to kitchen to stairs.
But last week, I couldn’t take the mess in Rachael’s room any longer. So covered in toys, there was barely enough floor to clear a path. It became difficult to open her closet or dresser drawers because so much crap was in the way. So, before bed one night, I told her she needed to pick up the princesses, Minnie’s Bow-tique, and her princess dresses. This wasn’t a huge task; it would only take two minutes at the most. But, like most kids, Rachael’s initial reaction was to whine about having to pick up her things. Then she had the audacity to say the following: I’m tired of always being your house maid.
Oh, hell no!
When I was still in elementary school, we lived with my grandmother for awhile. At the time, she was working as a grocery store cashier. I don’t remember what possessed me to argue with her that she shouldn’t be tired because all she does is stand there all day. When my parents were told about what I said, punishment was handed out. I was to spend the following Saturday doing yard work. By the end of the day, I was begging to go to sleep.
That experience inspired me in my dealing with Rachael’s disrespectful attitude. No amount of yelling would make Rachael understand just how ridiculous what she said was. So I very calmly used my NPR voice and told her that what she had just said was very rude and disrespectful. I explained that it isn’t unreasonable to have her be responsible for her own toys, and that while I wash her dishes, her clothes, and pick up her toys, I do not make her responsible for my things. I informed her that, in order to show her just how little she had to do around the house, she would be spending the following Saturday helping me do all the chores I do around the house.
We began our Saturday morning attacking the piles of dishes that filled our sink and covered our counters. Rachael was giddy about having a chance to unload and load the dishwasher. She loved washing the baking sheets by hand. She declared that this was fun and easy, and that daddy’s job was much harder than mine. I erupted in shrill laughter and told her to give it time. It wasn’t long after that when she asked to sit down and take a break. Ehhhhhhhxcellent.
Over the course of the day, Rachael helped with two loads of dishes, sweeping floors, picking up toys in the living room and her bedroom, vacuuming, and dusting. Mike even pitched in to help Rachael with the laundry. There was some whining about wanting to be finished and there were unnecessarily long water breaks but, all in all, she had a pretty good attitude and plenty of energy. I, on the other hand, started breaking down by the time I was mopping the kitchen floor. I was getting so sore, but I wasn’t quitting, dammit! If I pooped out, Rachael wouldn’t learn her lesson. (And, more importantly, our powder room would remain super gross.) So I pressed on, fibromyalgia be damned.
Before I read Rachael her bedtime story, I asked her if she still believed she was my house maid. “No!” she said with a silly smile and giggle. Good, I thought to myself. She gets it. Lesson learned. “Well,” she said, thoughtfully, “I was today.”