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Spewing insults in a messy room

I can't believe it!
My kids cleaned their 
rooms and didn't 
complain once

Said no mom ever.Anyone that has ever tried to teach their children how to clean, understands that teaching to clean is a million times more tedious than doing it yourself.

Last weekend we wanted to teach the boys how to clean as part of their self-care/help with the house series. These lessons are never met with enthusiasm and the transition to them takes an eternity. Usually the initial prep is met with resposnes like, "I won't clean" and "why are you so mean?" I usually have to round up all the electronics and promise permanent banishment for actions to happen.

We had them help clean the basement. We organized the toys, decided which toys were going to charity, cleaned and vacuumed. #2 and #3 did most of the vacuuming and sometime during their chores, they named the vacuum "Sucky".

The next day, we cleaned their room. All three boys sleep in the same room together. When we lived in NJ, we only had a three bedroom house and they all slept together in quasi-harmony. When we moved to our bigger house, they chose to remain together, even though one of them could have opted to bunk alone.

We had to teach them the foundations of cleaning: pick up stuff off the floor, put stuff away, wash the sheets, clean and vacuum under the bed. Sounds easy right?

We found countless Legos and mini figure bonded together and scattered all over the room. Under #3's bed was an unofficial mating ground for Legos.  He was excited that he found so many of his figures that he wanted to play, and got really mad when I redirected him back to the task at hand. And although #3 adores his Legos, he despises picking them up and screams when you suggest that he cleans them up. "You are so mean Mommy." You think that is mean, just wait until Sucky eats them.

#2 was angry at me before we started cleaning and his agitation only increased during the cleaning. Every time he was told to pick up stuff or was reminded to keep cleaning, he would give me an explanation of why I was so awful. So awful that he said, "When I grow up, I'm going to have my family over to my house, but not my parents. I'm going to tell my kids they don't have grandparents." Ouch, did he just say that? Where did that come from? I responded, "Well, that's ok. I'll be on a beach somewhere having fun." #2 was a bit surprised that his words had little affect. He repeated it a few more times until he realized that it didn't deliver the punch he had intended. And then #3 began to cry. "He doesn't really mean it", I whispered to him, "and even if he does chose to do that, you don't have to."

Little did #2 realize, is that it did sting. Especially since I had a falling out with my own father the year before. The falling out was a culmination of events, ending with an exchange with my step-mother that rocked me to my core.  It made me question their role in my life and decided that their toxicity was more hurtful than helpful. I put the relationship on the shelf until I decided what to do next. That was a year and half ago.

I had kept my issues with my father on the DL. I never spoke ill of them and offered the kids the chance to call them if they wished, but they never opted to. #2 wasn't mimicking a behavior he had see from me, this idea was all his and it was disturbing.

In the grand scheme of parenting, what is the fine line between nurturing and smothering, the fine line between instructing and nagging and the ideal balance of work and fun? Apparently from the exchange with #2, his opinion of that line and mine were remarkably different. 

I also realized that the relationship between parent and child is uneven from the get-go. From the moment a child is born, the focus is on the child, as it should be. We subconsciously teach them that the world does revolve around them as they watch us sacrifice for them. We show them that they get stuff, and we as parents, are meant to be second to them. By us wanting them to have what we didn't, we have taught them entitlement.  
But in the end, who has the power? The parents have the power to set rules and demands, but the child is really the one who chooses when they will behave and listen, and maybe, inevitably hold us at arms-length or shut us out. I understand that some of that is a child's attempt at Independence, which is good, but some is payback. When we get to that last stage I can't imagine it being easy.

Will that prevent me from holding them responsible to do their chores? Hell, no. Am I prepared to accept the ramifications of my judgements? Absolutely. But does it sting sometimes? You bet. I can only hope that when I am looking at my 40 year old, #2, I can say that I did more good that bad. I guess that what any parent aims for; "not the best, but better than most." I will always have Jerry Springer to thank for being better than most.

Until then, Sucky is going to have a nice, long relationship with the kids. I will ride that wave as long as it lasts. And with five kids, the probability of all of them being angry with me at the same time is quite low. I'll take those odds.

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