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Children. They are both a tremendous joy and occasional disappointment. Joy for all the things they accomplish, excel at and do right. Disappointment for all the things they mess up, can't be bothered with and deftly ignore.
My husband and I don't insist on very much from our children. Maybe that's why they sometimes fall short on my expectation meter. No one is perfect, I know, most of all not moi, but couldn't my kids at least pretend to be model offspring? Is it wrong to want children to do better and achieve more while exhibiting enviably character? I sometimes wonder whether, if I went back in time, would I parent any differently. A worthless pursuit, I know, but no less guilt-inducing.
Today is one of those days when I feel like I'm letting one of our children off the hook too easily. The plan was to pick up mattresses ordered weeks ago and this particular child agreed to join me. Two weeks later, the mattresses remain in storage. I'm not sure how long the store will warehouse back-ordered merchandise, but testing the limits of professional courtesy is never a good idea. Any day now, I expect the manager to call, yet again, saying get the damn things already or lose them to another customer.
We have teenagers, three of them to be exact (one of each, my husband likes to tease), and all three are quite capable of handling minor household chores. Hoping to avoid possible setbacks, yesterday, I reminded this particular child to get a good night's sleep. Did the child listen? Not a chance.
This morning when I tried to nudge the bum out of bed, my efforts elicited groans and pleas for postponement. Pushover that I am, I quietly capitulated, closing the bedroom door in disgust and defeat. Inside, I wanted to drag the bum out of bed and give 'em what for, but consciously, I resisted the urge to play Totally 80's: TOTALLY 80'S SUNDAY MOVIE FLASHBACK: MOMMIE DEAREST (1981) and FRIDAY THE 13TH I (1980).
Funny how easily I gave in. But take note of my unwavering commitment to gender neutrality. Wouldn't want to give the little scallywag's identity away now, would I?
The store could deliver the mattresses, I know, but I can't bring myself to justify the expenditure. I also could transport them alone, but in light of my vertebrae shortcomings, I decided on the child alternative. This particular child sleeps in almost every morning and works in the afternoon. Expecting the bum to pitch in isn't unreasonable. Where did I go wrong?
I remember growing up and spending a lot of time with neighbors, mainly because my own family was so gawd awful dysfunctional. Their eldest daughter was my best friend, very gregarious, fun, and fond of adventure. Something about Debbie and her family attracted me. Looking back, I probably envied the way they spent so much quality time together. Not in an overly aggressive, nauseatingly cloying manner, but more in a leave-it-to-beaver, nuclear family sort of way. In a tiny row house full of laughter, love and family time, Debbie's parents created a strong sense of warmth and belonging. Routine chores like washing and drying the dishes were not open matters for debate, but expected. Everyone pitched in.
There must be something about chores and predictability that instill not only a sense of shared obligation in children, but also an enduring measure of character. I performed daily chores at summer camp, but never at home. There I ran wild, often turning the place upside down without consequence. My mother took it upon herself to keep our home clean and tidy. Children could do as they pleased.
Repeating the patterns of yesteryear, I see where I dropped the ball. Debbie's parents quickly warmed to me, treating me like one of the family, though they didn't go so far as to include my name on their rotating chore wheel. It's on days like today that I wish they had.