I think my definition of ‘everything’ and Alyssa’s definition are a little different.
See, yesterday afternoon on our way back from my mom’s Alyssa was complaining about the fact that Tom made her gather the upstairs garbage.
She muttered, “Why do I have to do everything?”
I blinked at her. “Everything? You really think you do everything?”
She started to roll her eyes and give me a snappy comeback but then stopped and really thought about what she’d just said. She finally said, “No, I know I don’t do everything.”
She has, in the last six months, folded three baskets full of towels. She feeds the fish every morning and she refills the napkin holder on the table each time it gets low. She is also asked to make sure the downstairs bathroom never runs out of toilet paper. We have a little narrow cabinet in there that holds five rolls. When it gets down to the last roll, she’s reminded to go get four more.
That’s it. That’s ‘everything’ according to my twelve year old.
I know. I was sort of disgusted too. This kid has it made. They both do. I gently explained to Alyssa, “It’s not unreasonable for your dad to ask you to gather the upstairs garbage. We don’t ask you to do that much around the house.”
She acknowledged sheepishly, “I know.”
I wondered, though, if she really did know. I don’t think either of my girls have any comprehension of what it takes to keep our household running.
So, in the hopes to gently reminding them both that they’re damned lucky to live in a house with me and Tom, I reminded them of EVERYTHING that we do on a daily basis.
I reminded Alyssa that Tom feeds her and Olivia breakfast every single morning. I told her about the endless loads of laundry I do every single weekend. I pointed out that I make them dinner every night of the week and then I wash the dishes every night after dinner.
I told her that someone vacuums the carpets several times a week and that someone is NEVER her or Olivia. I pointed out that someone also sweeps the kitchen floor a few times a week and again, that is either me or Tom because neither A nor O ever thinks to grab the broom and start a’sweeping.
I mentioned the grocery shopping I do every week. She interjected, “But we don’t have the money to buy groceries.”
I told her it wasn’t about the money, it’s about the time and effort we put into actually going out and doing it.
I reminded her that I am often the one who picks up the wet towels off her bathroom floor after her shower. I told her about changing the sheets on everyone’s bed. I went on and on and on. It was cathartic, actually.
I didn’t bother mentioning that I go to work five days a week. That seemed a little like overkill at that point.
I think she got it.
I don’t think Olivia did. But…she’s eight and still very much in her own world, a world in which underwear are miraculously cleaned and put away each week, a world where food just magically lands on the table at each mealtime and the dishes are licked clean by elves after everyone goes to sleep at night.
Her time of awakening will come too. I can only bring myself to dash the illusions of one kid at a time.
I ended the conversation with, “You know, it would just be nice if you could start picking up after yourself a little more. That’s all we’re asking right now. Later we might ask for more but for now, please just remember to put your clothes into the basket each evening instead of leaving them on the bathroom floor.”