Thursday, July 24, 2008

Thursday Tears

My four-year-old daughter and fourteen-year-old son were overcome with tears this Thursday afternoon. It was heart wrenching...and funny.

The four-year-old is the youngest of a trio of girls - her six-year-old sister and ten-year-old cousin. The two older girls made a game of "club" and "secret language" that decidedly excluded the younger girl. She kept trying to infiltrate this older girlie exchange and finally gave up in a burst of frustration, "they hate me!" She did this while billowing to the floor like a deflated balloon. I was trying to mail a package to my son in Japan so this was a public display of emotion. She wouldn't be comforted. The older girls were sitting down in chairs with the look of Cheshire cats and eyes of mischief.

We left the Post Office with hopes that the rest of the errands would be tear free. The younger girl sat in the middle of the two older girls in my old, 1998 Chevy Venture. How they managed to talk over her is still amazing. Her little pigtailed self kept looking up woefully from sister to cousin, hoping for an "in." It didn't happen at World Market.

Peace finally came at Target. My errand of just milk turned into a small collection of school supplies along with the frozen fruit bars the youngest girl loves. The tears melted into laughter as they gleefully looked at new book bags and lunch boxes. They were each clutching their Build-A-Bears and finding common ground. I gave a stern look to the older girls and told them I was onto their little game. They complied. There is nothing new under the sun.

My fourteen-year-old son's burst of tears was from being told to do the dishes. It is summertime so he spends most of his evenings up - courtesy of an extended howl out night. He sleeps uninterrupted until about noon, also one of the pleasures of summertime. He was sleeping when the girls and I left for errands. I came back to him and a friend sprawled out in my family room playing video games. My son slept on the sofa last night so his covers were a crumpled mess.

He gave me a little lip about how he just woke up and why did he have to do the dishes. I told him to just take 10 minutes and get them finished and that I had been up at 5:30am cleaning up their mess from last night. He pouted his way to the kitchen and started slamming bowls and slapping the counter with the dish towel as he was making the dish water. I just ignored his tirade until he started talking about how this was "unfair" and I was "disrespecting him." Why did he do that?

Are kids today not supposed to do chores? I often have to tell him that cleaning up is part of the price of living in a family. It is not high up on my list of favorite things to clean the toilets, do laundry, sweep, mop, and an endless supply of to-dos. I am a firm believer in teaching children to work at home so they can handle their responsibilities. It is not my philosophy that kids are just supposed to have an easy time with either their mother or hired housekeeper cleaning up their messes. My son kept saying his little sisters could do the dishes and they were old enough. I told him not yet and for him to just do it without the lip. Maybe it is because it was raining outside but his face was covered in as many tears as the water in the kitchen sink.

He kept his tearful mumble up and I finally said, "enough" and told his friend to go home. I was not going to have a further exchange with him and his buddy. The young man willingly complied, something told me that he knew his mom was like me.

My son finished his chores with his lips pouting out. He hung his head and went upstairs to change clothes. His dad is home for a couple days and thankfully didn't come downstairs to try to "solve" this mother-son exchange. Teenagers have this misguided notion that the world revolves around him.

He packed his book bag and left, with permission, to go to his friend's house. I imagine they are over there now complaining of how "unfair" and "unreasonable" his moms was to make him to dishes! Just imaging the complaining he will do when I tell him it's his turn to clean the toilets.

The tears were overflowing this Thursday afternoon. I hope the sun comes out soon!

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