I try to give my children age-appropriate instruction in the lessons I think they need to learn. So today, on Memorial Day, I figured it was time for them to start learning some hard lessons about sacrifice, liberty, and the responsibility inherent in being a citizen.
Unfortunately, they don’t live in a democracy. They live in a relatively benevolent dictatorship, but, whatever. Details.
So this morning, I donned my welding helmet and latex gloves, grabbed the biggest trash barrel we have, and went into Chickadee’s room. It’s not like I hadn’t TOLD them what was going to happen. But I really wished I’d had protective earwear, as well.
Slowly and calmly I reiterated the creed of the land, which they know by heart.
I said: If you want to have NICE THINGS, you need to TAKE CARE OF THEM. When you do not take care of them, they become GARBAGE. When they are GARBAGE, they get THROWN AWAY.
They heard: Bad bad children. I hate you. First I shall torch the toys, then you. BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAA!!!
Over the screeching and wailing, I sorted through the piles of… stuff. My little bookworm, oh, I love her so. I love that she loves books. I do not love that there are books wedged into every crevice of her bed. And all over her dresser. And on the floor. And in her toy bins. And… under the carpet…? And under the dresser! Wait… no, that’s just a really big dust bunny. Ewwww.
Once the books were back on the bookshelf, we were in dangerous territory. My daughter is not so much a delicate flower as a bull in a china shop. We hadn’t cleaned her room in… well… too long. And it turns out that when toys get dropped, and stepped on, and shoved in the corner, or stuffed into other objects or stuffed with other objects that sometimes–shockingly!–they break.
And when this has happened over and over and over again, Mama breaks. Whoops!
So. The wails began. I filled up the trash barrel. We organized and sorted and put away the things which (miraculously) hadn’t been turned into trash at the hands or feet of Bratzilla. Drawers were pulled out and dumped, clothes were tried on, items bagged up for donation, and things were rearranged and put away.
Once all of that had been transformed from a condemned zone into what might actually be a child’s room, I moved on to Monkey’s room. This was even trickier, and I was already starting to flag from the time I’d spent sifting through the rubble next door.
Unlike his sister, Monkey isn’t hard on his things. In fact, he takes care of his belongings with a reverential tenderness. No, the problem in Monkey’s case is twofold.
First: He has a lot of those endemic BOY TOYS that come in packs of ten million. Legos; Magnetix; tiny plastic dinosaurs and bugs; matchbox cars; and the seeds of Satan himself: Yu-Gi-Oh cards.
Second: Why play with all of those lovely toys when you can play with SCRAPS OF PAPER? Or perhaps your collection of SMUSHED TOILET PAPER TUBES? No, wait! Toys? Who needs TOYS?? Have some STRING!
So while I’d used the brute force method in Chickadee’s room (“THIS IS BROKEN AND IT IS NOW GOING INTO THE TRASH!”), I had to be a bit gentler in Monkey’s world. Even though the sight of mounds of detritus made me want to weep. So in his room, it was more like, “Oh look! Here’s a toy that belongs downstairs. Could you take that down there for me? Great, thanks!” And while he hopped down the stairs, I would grab handfuls of crap and shove them deep into the trash barrel.
It’s a great system, except that sometimes I slip up. Long after I’d declared the upstairs acceptable and had moved on to berating the children for the slovenly state of the playroom, Monkey spied the corner of a picture of an airplane in the trash barrel. He wanted it back.
This particular piece of paper was touching a baby wipe that I’d allowed him to used earlier in the day to wipe himself. So, um, yeah. No. He couldn’t have the picture back, even if I was feeling magnaminous, because I have this silly little rule about not keeping anything that might have feces on it.
Oh, the tragedy. Such tragedy! Tragedy that was not in the least staunched by my mature rebuttal of “THAT PICTURE MAY AS WELL HAVE COME OUT OF YOUR BUTT AND WE ARE NOT KEEPING IT.” There was stamping, and screaming, and tears. Monkey was pretty upset, too.
Anyway, by the time they went to bed, things were looking much tidier. I’d put out the trash (all seven sacks of it), and bagged up the toys and clothes that need to go, and vacuumed all the new-found floor space, and vowed never to purchase another item for my children until they leave for college.
I think they learned some important lessons today. They may even still be crying a bit for their deceased toys. Which is okay with me, because I’m going to hell anyway.
At long last, I flopped onto the couch with a Diet Cherry Vanilla Dr. Pepper (Tagline: Tastes Like A Whole Lotta Stuff) and heaved a sigh. All in all, not a bad day. I guess. A little lonely, maybe. A whole day of nothing but “NOOOOOO DON’T!!!!” for conversation. It made me yearn for what’s been missing from my life for years; what I’ve been realizing as an acute absence, more and more, as time goes by. Sure, I can handle everything on my own. Sometimes I just wish I didn’t have to. Sometimes I long for a strong presence beside me.
Sometimes, I ache for the mundane parts of life that only a mate can afford. And I can’t think of anything I want to hear from that perfect person more than those four magic words…
… “Listen to your mother!”