Friday, July 27, 2012

What we have here is a failure to communicate

Truth be told, our 17 year old son is living the Life of Riley this summer.

At least, that's what Superdad would say. I, myself, have never understood this little expression that my husband likes to employ anytime he thinks someone is living it up, or has it easy. Given that he is 8 years my senior I can only assume that the "Life of Riley" is a clever reference to some cinematic gem from the olden days, or perhaps a radio program he and his family gathered round to listen to on Sunday nights. I can't be expected to understand everything that hearkens from prior generations. I wasn't a history major, you know.

Anyway, all I know is if this Riley fellow was 17, had a car he was allowed to drive, was provided 3 square meals a day and a bit of spending money, and had a midnight curfew- he was livin' large. Because Jack sure is.

If it's true that "all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy," then our Jack must be positively fascinating! Given the numerous social engagements he is invited to partake in, I guess there are others who would agree that apparently "mostly play and minimal work makes Jack an incredibly fun guy to have around." Put that on a bumper sticker.

Just yesterday, my charming boy (and I say that with all sincerity, he really is a charming boy) came to me and inquired politely,

So, my friend C's parents invited me to go to their lake cabin again with them (he already spent one night there earlier this week). I know I still need to wash the other car and vacuum out yours, but if I promise to do that when I get back, could I go?

Putting on my best gee-I-don't-know-I'm-going-to-have-to-think-about-this face, I placed an inquiry of my own and asked about the state of his room.

He assured me,

Okay, yeah. I'll clean my room first. It's really not that bad, mostly just clean laundry I need to put away. So, if I do that and I promise to finish the cars when I get back, can I go?

With a heavy sigh, in order to convey just how much I felt I was conceding in allowing him this privilege, I offered my reluctant okay.

Here's the thing, I was perfectly fine with him going to his friend's cabin for a night or two. I trust the parents and I'd rather know he was out having harmless fun tubing and wake boarding then making the rounds and driving home late at night. But a parent must keep hold of what power they have and teaching your child at an early age that they don't get "something for nothing" is an important lesson. Without using these exact words (because it would be crass) you want your kids to come to you with any request ever mindful of the fact that you are looking for the proverbial what's in it for me token gesture. The offer to clean his room and the acknowledgment that he still had a job to complete when he returned was enough for me.

Jack disappeared upstairs for a reasonable amount of time and then reappeared to say his good byes. After a short discussion in which I reminded him of my expectations that he let me know when they arrived at the cabin, that he keep in touch via text or phone, and that he didn't sully the family name with his behavior or boyish antics, I set him free.

It wasn't until much later that evening that it occurred to me that I might enjoy seeing this freshly cleaned room of my eldest son.

Yes, I might have enjoyed seeing the freshly cleaned room of my eldest son. In fact, I'm certain I would have enjoyed it immensely. But there was little to enjoy when I poked my head in the door of his room. I could only laugh.

Now, you have to understand that my boy is not a deceptive young man. I have no doubt that he really truly believed he had cleaned his room. He would never try to pull the wool over my eyes with something like this; something that could be so quickly and easily disproved by my taking a few steps down the hallway from my own bedroom door.  Believe me, he knows enough to save his poker face for something a bit more critical than this.

So, yeah, he thought he cleaned his room.

I'll give him this- the floor was clear. I'm realizing now that a clear floor, available for vacuuming, must be his operating definition of a "clean room." Alrighty then. We will start there. When he gets home I'll be sure to add some sub-definitions for him.

Things like:

-no empty chip bags and soda bottles on your desk, windowsills, or dresser....or anywhere.

- a made bed

- no piles of clothes on the extra bed in your room- just because you don't sleep on it, doesn't mean it is an extension of your closet.

- if there is a suitcase in your room still needing to be unpacked from a prior vacation, well, ummm... unpack it.

I think we will just start with those.

Rome wasn't built in a day...right?


  1. Okay, first your description of the generational gap between you and your husband made me laugh. Second, our kids must have gone to the same school of room cleaning. :)

    1. Yeah, can't wait until Superdad reads that paragraph! :) Of course he'll need to find his glasses first...

      Can we get our money back for whatever Room Cleaning School this was that we sent our kids too? Clearly we didn't read the fine print.

  2. Jacob still hasn't even gotten to the clean floor stage. We can't even seem to master the "get the dirty clothes INTO the hamper that they are lying on the floor in front of." Of course, if you could see what my house looks like after coming home from a week at the lake, you would know that I am in no position to throw stones at him right now. Living in a glass house...

    1. We all live in glass houses from time to time... I hear you. And, like I said before, given the state of my room as a teenager, I can't throw many stones myself. But there is still valor to be found in a clean room so we must continue to fight the good fight! :)