It has become a running joke in our household that if you want something specific, you have to ask for it. Specifically. Like, saying “Go get ready for bed” sure SEEMS straightforward enough, but for children who are distractible and/or who suffer from selective hearing, that may simply not be enough information. Because, really, “Go get ready for bed,” MIGHT mean “Go upstairs and sit in the middle of your floor half-dressed and read a book.” Or it might mean, “Go upstairs and make a big mess.” Or one could argue that it means, “Go upstairs and put on your pajamas and then remember that you have some homework in the bottom of your backpack that’s due tomorrow.”
Really, it’s not their fault. I wasn’t being specific enough.
Nowadays, instead of “Go get ready for bed,” we’re more apt to say, “Please go up and put your clothes in the hamper, take a shower, put on clean pajamas, hang your towel back up, brush your hair, brush your teeth, pick up any large obstacles on your floor, and come back downstairs.”
The children—quick studies that they are—are apt to respond to this with a disinterested, “Huh?” (That is often followed by a bewildered, “Why is Mom banging her head on the wall?”)
I’ve learned some interesting things about my children, along the way, as they’ve trained me to be clearer with them about what I want.
For example, just because brushing your hair post-shower is something that has always been part of the routine doesn’t mean that I want you to do it TODAY, right? Not unless I specifically highlight that, of course. Because maybe TODAY I think y’all should leave your hair in knots. Or that you should wander the house, alternating tormenting your sibling and strewing detritus, and that these activities are clearly more important than brushing your hair. I can totally see where a child would arrive at that conclusion.
If he or she was ON CRACK, anyway.
I’ve also recently come to realize that my children suffer from some weird sort of Dish Dysfunction. I find this perplexing. Saying, “Please take care of your dishes” after excusing them from the table wasn’t nearly specific enough—that was variously translated as “Leave your dishes for the maid,” “stack your dishes on the counter in such a way that a slight breeze will send them crashing to the floor,” or “Please commence bickering about who touched which dish when.” This was obviously a huge problem, because we don’t have a maid.
So I got into the habit of saying, “Please throw away your garbage and put your dishes in the dishwasher.” More specific. Better, right?
Except no, because ONE child will still attempt to leave dishes on the counter, just ABOVE the dishwasher, then protest that that was CLOSE ENOUGH, and the OTHER child will open the dishwasher every single evening and ask, “Are the dishes in here clean or dirty?” Because said child apparently lacks EYEBALLS. Or the ability to conduct any sort of deductive reasoning, like that if there’s only one plate in the entire dishwasher, chances are EXCELLENT that said plate is dirty. (I hardly ever unload the dishwasher and then just leave a couple of things in there for shits and giggles.)
I find this exasperating, and I have NO IDEA where they get it from.
This morning I was doing laundry—
[Digression: I’m editing this to add that actually, here was where I meant to tell you that I asked the kids to strip their beds and bring their sheets downstairs. But knowing that that might not be SPECIFIC enough, I entreated Monkey to bring me one top sheet, one bottom sheet, and one pillowcase. And then I asked Chickadee to bring me one top sheet, one bottom sheet, and two pillowcases (her bed is bigger). They LAUGHED AT ME for being so insistent, and then Chickadee came downstairs short a pillowcase and Monkey came down with a pillowcase, top sheet, and a blanket. I swear. So in that case, I was specific, they just didn’t listen. I guess. I don’t know.]
—and the sheets in the dryer seemed to be taking an inordinate amount of time to dry. So I checked the lint trap, and the WAD of lint I removed was the size of a medium-breed puppy by the time I rolled it up and stuck it in the trash. This made me positively indignant, because the lint trap is to be emptied after EVERY SINGLE LOAD or you end up wasting an hour of electricity running the dryer ineffectively, and the last person to do multiple loads of laundry was… ummm…
Like I said, no idea where they get it from. Also, I—oh, look! Something shiny!