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…

… me.


Like I said, no idea where they get it from. Also, I—oh, look! Something shiny!


  1. Kath

    haha … it’s like exercising, I mean, I did it once, shouldn’t that be enough???

    Happy Love Thursday

  2. Barbara

    I love leaving reassuring comments for you, Dear Mir. Don’t worry. They will outgrow this phase. In about 10 years. You’re welcome!

  3. Sara

    Oh, man. We suffer from the exact same maladies around here. I feel your pain…

  4. Trish

    Oh my gosh, Mir…I am SOOO feelin’ your post this morning! My son is Mr. Responsible. He’s the kind who’s up, dressed, breakfasted, brushed, and be-shoed by the time my feet hit the floor in the morning.

    And then there’s my daughter.

    Don’t get me wrong, I love her free spirit and creative mind. I just wish she’d find a creative way to remember that she’s supposed to be dressing herself and not the cat. Every last detail of directions must be laid out for her and repeated ad nauseum or she will simply float off to braid the other cat’s hair.

    My hubs and I often quote Bill Cosby from “Bill Cosby: Himself” when she has one of her mind drifts. Our favorite part is his recounting of his bedtime instructions to his children:

    “Please go upstairs and into the bathroom. Please take OFF your clothes. Get INTO tub. Turn ON the WATER (you have to tell them that or they’ll just get in there and wander around the tub). Please use SOAP. Please rinse yourself OFF. Dry yourself OFF. Put on your pajamas and get into bed.”

    I work with kids all day long and as such, I usually explain things with microbic detail…to everyone…including grown-ups. I think there are some mothers at school who are convinced I am completely cracked.


  5. Karen

    Those tendencies to leave plates and all other dishes laying around the house, clothing scattered in the bathroom and bedroom were what caused me to go into shock when I saw my son’s first apartment for the first time. it was clean and tidy beyond belief! he is a neater freak than I ever thought of being, now that HE is the one in charge.

  6. Lori

    OMG – it must be a girl thing!!! Both you and Trish have completely described my daughter at bedtime. We have the same routine EVERY. SINGLE. NIGHT. and when I ask her if she’s done A or B or C, her response is, “No, I forgot.” Or, “Oops.” Her older brother, on the other hand, does everything without being reminded. I just don’t get it! But I feel better knowing that I’m not alone!!!

  7. ali

    “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.”

    were you at my house last night? because we had a case of that.

  8. liz

    They get it from their dad. I know. :)

  9. Amy

    My kids are the exact same. And I can’t give them more then one set of directions at a time or they forget all together what they are suppose to be doing!

    Any idea when they grow out of this??

  10. Half Assed Kitchen

    What? They can do all that themselves?? My God. I cannot wait for the day.

  11. Karen

    I have always argued that children are just exagerration of their parents. I once told my sister this and she wouldn’t speak to me for a month. (Her son was going through a rough phase.)

  12. Flea

    You said “y’all”. I’m so proud of you. *sniff*

  13. Megan

    Just last night:

    me: Okay, Before you go to bed you will?

    them: (bored drone) pick-up-alla-things-and-cleana-sinkiff-I-used-it

    me: And ALL your things includes?

    them: (eye rolling plus bored drone) books-and-shoes-and-stuff. Yes Mum, yes we know.

    This morning? Three socks, two pairs of boots (under the tree! How festive!) seven pieces of paper and four cups strewn around. Notice that none of those items were on the specific list? Yeah. My bad.

  14. Kemi

    My kids ask for lists. As in, “Please make me a list so I can check it off.” (I wonder where they get that? Ahem.)

    The problem is, the lists get lost (or, more realistically, ignored), and really, what 8 and/or 9 year old needs step-by-step instructions for a bedtime routine?

    Mine, obviously. *sigh*

  15. Crisanne

    I snorted when I got to the shits and giggles line. I need a tissue now. Thanks for the laugh!

    Every night I tell me kids after we read books to go potty and brush their teeth. Every. Single. Night someone argues with me about when they last went to the bathroom. Every. Single. Night I tell them to try anyway. My favorite is when my son (chronic bed wetter) tells me that he went at school…which ends at noon!


  16. Debbi

    ROTFLMAO. I really think it is just a childhood disease, my kid has it too. I thank you so much for this post today, I really needed a good laugh. Happy Love Thursday to you!!

  17. exile on mom street

    See, my issue with this post is that I have to get really specific with my HUSBAND.

    He has turned this into the “House of No Hinting.”

    The 2 yr old, well actually he does pretty well.

  18. Krismom

    LOL I’m sending a link to my hubby so he can better survive the nightly routine with our 10-year-old!

    At our house, “clear the table” seems to mean “dance around to the radio and look at yourself in the mirror everytime you pass by”. :P

    Thanks for the good laugh of the day!

  19. Asianmommy

    I totally hear you. I love your last line–I’m distracted by shiny things, too! :)

  20. MomCat

    QED…it never gets better. When they move out, you miss it. Sorta.

  21. Rachel

    I can relate to this post, but then I can relate to most of your posts. I think it’s because our kids are close to the same age (girl 12, boy 9). The bedtime thing really bugs me too, because they know the routine, know how long it takes & what time they’re supposed to be in bed. Bedtime is not the time they are supposed to start the routine.

    This also reminds me of one of my favorite stories about my brother, who was in high school at the time. (He’s 43 now.) Mom asked him to put the clothes in the dryer – as in out of the washer, into the dryer, followed by the next logical step, starting the dryer (logical, right?). Well, he didn’t start the dryer. When my mom went to get the ‘should be dry by now’ clothes out & asked him about it, he responded, “Well, you didn’t say to start the dryer.” He is very intelligent, just has no common sense.

    = ) Happy Love Thursday!

  22. Ariel

    And here I was hoping that she’d outgrow it by 7 or so…

  23. Ani

    I alternate between smile and cringe…smile because this is oh so familiar…including the being specific to the husband that someone mentioned.

    And cringe because…if my husband still needs specificity at 39, is there any hope for my kids??

    Now off to find something shiny. For me. :-)

  24. Katie in MA

    That’s why I call my two kidlets Blessed and Possessed. They take turns swapping the titles around. Keeps me on my toes because I never know which one will need extra parenting and on whom to spend my patience! (or, really, which one will drive me to drink on any given day.) (or, you know, bang my head against the way in a much more acceptable fashion.)

    Happy Love Thursday!

  25. Katie in MA

    uh, way = wall.

    Clearly, they’ve already gotten to me today! :)

  26. Tracy in Utah

    It doesn’t get any better when they’re teenagers either. My 16 and 14 year old boys have to be told, EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. we get in the car to put on their seatbelts. The 16 year old is bothered by them, so I have to add on, for his benefit, “FOR REAL.”


  27. just beth

    last night I tell my thirteen year old to do the dishes after dinner. as he does EVERY NIGHT (mostly)… it’s his only real chore, but he HAAAATTEEEES it and ROLLING THE EYEBALLS and the SLUMPING of the shoulders!!!

    I went to nurse the baby, came back, and Lo! dishes all in the same spot! But wait, the DISHWASHER is running! Why? Well, he figured he would just run the dishwasher that was full of CLEAN dishes and call it GOOD!

    at least he confessed.



  28. Brigid

    I tried a wonderful thing with my 4yo where we made a chart with pictures of her doing the activity on cards so she could get herself ready in the morning, and ready for bed. The problem? It’s supposed to be things like “go potty.” Not for my child. Go potty has turned into “go potty,” “wipe,” “flush,” “wash hands,” “dry hands.” Seriously she has 35 cards just for the morning part. If I got any more specific it would say “brush the top teeth,” “brush the bottom teeth,” “spit,” “rinse your brush.”

  29. Beth

    In my family we keep a small glass bottle in the dishwasher at all times. If the dishes have just been washed, the bottle will be full of water from the washing. When you put the dishes away, you empty the bottle. If the bottle is empty, you know that the dishes are dirty.

  30. Sheila

    And do you get the look? The one with the “Sheesh, Mom!” and foot stomping for emphasis when you have to repeat yourself thusly:

    “I did NOT say lay down on your bed fully clothed and start reading– I said GET READY FOR BED!!!”

    I am treated to heavy sighing and eye rolling every evening from my ten year old daughter. A real nighttime charmer, that one.

  31. Ernesta Rossi

    I just started getting the rolling eyes and heavy sighs 2 weeks ago – I’m thinking my world had changed forever!

  32. Jennie

    Same at our house with the whole dishwasher thing…only it’s my husband and not the kiddo.

  33. barbara

    ummm, Mir…
    This doesn’t sound like the sort of “Love Thursday” post we have become accustomed to…
    Just sayin’…

  34. dad

    Thursdays are not for bemoaning. Thursdays are for feeling fuzzy and warm and for being made to cry because life is so remarkable that it should be celebrated with trumpets and tears.

  35. Becky

    At long last! Educational Psychology pays off! We learned about how it’s common for kids to wander off/forget instructions. According to my notes, this is what is called “pseudo-stupidity” and according to Elkind that i happens thanks to being more congnitively-able! Monkey and Chickadee are merely appreciating the fact that they have more choices than the obvious.

    Even the examples we were given work:
    “Go up and changes shirts.”
    Results: 1) Put on a different shirt, but one that is not more appropriate…and then the child might claim that “you weren’t specific enough, maybe you meant a better color”.
    2) Or they just never come back down and end up doing something else entirely upstairs.

    I should probably be working on my Psychology research paper instead of reading your blog, but you provide a temptation too alluring to refuse.

  36. Kaedra

    @Rachel – “as in out of the washer, into the dryer, followed by the next logical step, starting the dryer (logical, right?). Well, he didn’t start the dryer.”

    This is my husband NOW. I guess some never grow up! I have to say “Did you start the dryer?” every time I ask him to put clothes in. I think his plan is for me to realize it would be faster to just do it myself.

  37. ben

    I’m not sure why, but for some reason reading this post brought to mind a bumper sticker I noticed recently:

    “My dog isn’t spoiled, I’m just WELL TRAINED.”

    Aside from that, oh, how I feel your pain, because when I ask a child to go to bed I can likely as not pass their room thirty minutes later and find them sitting on the bed playing a video game, and when I ask why they aren’t asleep yet, they’ll say “You didn’t tell me it was time to SLEEP.”


    Hey, a squirrel!

  38. Tracey

    Don’t they say insanity is hereditary? – You get it from your kids. At least we are not alone. Same things happening here – it’s the same the world over. (Complete with huffing and puffing and eye rolling.) My teenage daughters also specialise in ignoring the first few times I give, for example, the instruction to shut down (the computer) and go to bed. They figure that I probably don’t really MEAN it the first three times I say it, and they have also even admitted that this is their strategy. What hope do I have?

  39. SoMo

    Well, your kids may get it from you, but mine get it from their father. He thought it was so weird that I remind my 2 yr old son not to make a mess everytime I set him up to eat or drink. Then he found our daughter walking in circles buck naked in her room one morning. And then he totally understood as he screamed, GET DRESSED, BRUSH YOUR TEETH AND EAT BREAKFAST!!

    Frankly, I think they do it to drive us crazy and that is why you didn’t empty the lint trap for so long.

  40. Jennifer

    I do so love a person who uses the phrase “for shits and giggles”. You rock!

  41. Sarah

    Our day starts with ” Eat your breakfast ” and then ” Eat your cereal bar, drink your yogurt. ”

    This has, of course, morphed into :

    Sit at the table, eat your cereal bar, then drink your yogurt. Thow out the garbage. Push your chair in.

    Hubby swears I do not need to remind him to eat.

  42. Dawn

    If I had said to my younger daughter, when she was Monkey’s age, “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.” all she would have remembered would be, “go up, put your clothes in the hamper and come back downstairs.” Central auditory processing deficit. Ya gotta love it.

    Mind you, this past week, I plugged in the iron, turned it on, ironed my choir dress and then left it on for THREE DAYS, on the last of which I left town for 14 hours.

    Mensa clearly needs me.

  43. Nancy R

    I feel your pain.

    We have posted a sheet of cardstock which lists (and shows via cute little clip art pictures) the girls’ morning routine and bedtime routine, in both their bedroom and the bathroom. I’m not sure that it cuts down on the dawdling really, but we can just ask, “Have you finished your _____ routine?” and send them back to the poster.

  44. dr aletta

    Loved this post. So funny.

    Being specific is such a slippery slope because they’ve got us at ONE. We are doomed to wander around in detail-land and they know it. No way can we think of every-single-step.

    And how come when I was growing up I knew it was time to go upstairs, clean up, put on pjs, get in bed, etc and my mom didn’t have to say a word. All she had to do was give me that intense wide-eyed look that said it all.

  45. FringeGirl

    LOL! You’re cracking me up. Are you sure you’re not living in my house? Sounds just like my house.

  46. Marla

    Thank you for making me grateful that all I’ve found in the dryer are rocks, large pieces of mulch, DS/GameBoy games, and candy wrappers.

  47. beaux

    Wonderful words. I like that Dad makes comments.(yours I presume?) Hope you all have a wonderful holiday.

  48. Zandor

    Your kids kind of sound like me. Since about middle school my mom has had to tell me specific things to do. One popular thing was with cleaning. She would always tell me to d it mom clean and not kristen (me) clean. Now (I’m 21) when she tells me things or asks me to do things I will do it, but I still like to think of ways I could change what she meant. One thing I like doing is if she asks me to do something I say no. I will say no as I am already starting to do it though so it’s not like I mean it. She usually gives me a look and I just tell her she gave me the option of saying no. I do what she asks me to do though so she doesn’t get mad or anything.

  49. Heather Cook

    This made me laugh, loved it. I think we may have the same children… do they go missing often, like maybe when they are here at my house? Sometimes when it’s quiet upstairs I do wonder where they’ve gone…

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