Over the summer? I have tried to be a little more relaxed about schedules and chores and responsibilities. Instead of assigned chores and checklists, I have just asked the girls to help me out when I need some help.
Mostly, this has worked.
Today, it did not.
This is the story of today.
First, here’s me, all reasonable . . .
“OK, ladies. Kallan’s friend will be here at 1:00, and so I need both of you to help me straighten up a little bit.”
Kallan whirls and dances out of the room, “Sorry! I have to call my other friend and then feed my turtle.”
I call after her, “So you’re not going to help me clean up?”
“Nope. Sorry about that.”
“OK, so then on your way upstairs, could you grab me the phone?”
She stops whirling, “What?”
“I need the phone to cancel this play-date. Could you get it for me?”
She slumps, “Oh, fine. What do you want me to do?”
One girl down, one to go . . .
“Maj, could you help me wipe down the counters in the kitchen, please?”
Maj looks up as though she cannot even believe that I am speaking to her, “What? No. Not even.”
“And why is that?”
“It’s Kallan’s friend coming over, not mine. There is no reason in the world that I should be expected to help clean this house so that a person who is not even my friend will be impressed.”
“Really, Maj? This is how you want to play this? Really?”
“I am not cleaning. Besides, my only real part of this house? My room? Is clean. So my job is done.”
“Maj, your part of the house is connected to the rest of this house,” I spread my arms out to encompass the wonder that is her abode, “and you live here. I need you to help me straighten up.”
“Nope. My room. That’s it. And it’s already done.”
“Alright, well then you are going to go have to live in your part of this house for a while.”
Her eyes glow big and angry, “You are sending me to my room again? What is wrong with you?”
“Sometimes, Maj? It just makes me all happy to torture you for no good reason. I am all crazy and unpredictable that way. Yes, I am sending you to your room. Again.”
She stomps off, “You cannot do that, Mother. You cannot be all happy and reasonable one minute and then all crazy and punishing the next. You cannot do that!”
I laugh and spin at the bottom of the stairs and then look up at her over my shoulder, “Yes I can, Maj! Look at me! I am all loony and multi-tasking!”
She is now screaming at me from the top of the stairs, “YOU CANNOT JUST PUNISH ME BECAUSE I WON’T DO WHAT YOU SAY, MOTHER!!”
I yell back (because I am having such an awesome mothering day), “Oh, but I so can. That is the whole joy of being someone’s mother! Some things are up for discussion, and some things are not. And sometimes? I get to tell you what to do. And if you don’t do it? I get to punish you! Wheeeeeeee!!! It is way fun, Maj. You are going to love it! When you are someone’s mother? You are going to love it!”
“You are like a crazy person!”
I spin some more, “Look at me, I am drunk on mothering power!”
And then I giggle hysterically.
And then Kallan walks by me with a laundry basket of shoes.
“Ummmm, babe? Where are you going with all of your shoes?”
“I am setting up a pretend shoe store in my room so that my friend and I can go shopping.”
“So you’re not actually cleaning anything, then?”
She hoists the basket up so that I can see the error of my words, “I am organizing my shoes, Mom.”
So I straighten. Kallan sets up her shoe store. And Maj fumes in her part of the house.
And then the doorbell rings, and the friend arrives.
Kallan and her friend run up to go imaginary shoe shopping.
I go to release Maj from her room.
After we have talked, I ask her, “So what are you going to do during this playdate?”
“What? I am going to play with them. Duh.”
“Ooooh . . . that’s not going to work for me. See, you didn’t help me clean at all, so you can’t actually do the playdate.”
“ARE YOU KIDDING ME?”
She stares at me angrily for a moment, and in the background, we hear the happy sounds of shoe shopping.
And Maj wilts, “OK, so what if I were to agree to vacuum the basement?”
“Then I think we could work something out.”
I need to make some chore charts.
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