Thursday, August 13, 2009

No Kidding

This morning, my teenager made a statement with a sense of amazement in his voice. “Mom, most of the stuff on the list we don’t have to do because we did it last night!”

Let me digress. I am a maker of lists. It’s the only way I seem to be able to keep track of everything that needs doing. I don’t know if it’s midlife or my hormones or not working full-time or have more than two kids or living with all guys, but I really need to have that one big To Do List to give me my daily marching orders.

Now it seems lists are necessary for the others in the house, meaning my husband and two oldest. And by lists, I mean my lists. Not their own lists, which would be something like: get up, eat something, watch TV, play video games, eat something else, watch more TV, eat something, play another video game, more TV, fall asleep.

I’ve been valiantly trying to get the house decluttered and organized, and am making noticeable progress, so their lack of help has become more evident. Like not putting stuff back when they’re done with it. Or dropping their shoes/clothes/books/games wherever they happen to be. And it’s not easier to do it all myself. I know some moms who do that and I’ve been there too, but I finally acknowledged I can’t do it all. I’m not SuperMom, and I don’t want to be – I don’t want these kids expecting me to show up at college to clean their dorm rooms, do their laundry, and make their beds!

The final straw came when I realized that if they weren’t reminded, they wouldn’t bother to brush their teeth, change their clothes, wear their retainers, or even eat breakfast! Then the two oldest spent a week with my parents, two people who can best be described as Neatniks. Afterwards, my mother described how often they had to be reminded to do simple tasks, weighing in on how they should be more responsible and how I needed to be on top of them all the time like she was with us. But I also don’t want to yell all the time or feel like I’m talking to a wall or always be the Bad Guy. So I typed up the list.

It’s a simple list. There are morning tasks and evening tasks, and half of it is more reminders than tasks, things like “eat breakfast”, “brush your teeth”. There are also simple tasks: “take out the compost”, “take out the recycling”, “vacuum the kitchen”. The list also must be completed before the TV is turned on, video game is plugged in, or friend enters the house.

Yesterday was the first full “List” day. With some prompting, things got done. So this morning, before I left for work, they were already on it. And then the comment. Because they had taken the kitchen scraps to the compost bin after dinner, had taken out the recycling, and had emptied the dishwasher LAST NIGHT, those were tasks that didn’t need to be done this morning.

Ah hah! The light has dawned! Now to see if it lasts once school starts!

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