It’s Not All Mary Poppins

And this is one of the GOOD ones

I wish to diverge a little from my usual topics so that I may mock my youngest child.

My youngest child, who is, I remind you all, a MODEL teen. I mean that quite sincerely. At seventeen she is sensible, respectful, polite, cheerful, easy-going. She does her homework without reminders or monitoring. She cooperates cheerfully with her tutor, and does the extra work he assigns without complaint. Her teachers like her, the neighbours like her, her babysitting clients adore her. She dresses fashionably yet unskankily. She has nice friends, and her romantic taste improves with each boyfriend. (Don’t let us linger over version one. I was horrified and, three years later, she is appropriately mortified by the very thought of him. So it’s all good.)

So, what I’m describing is a paragon, pretty much. I have nothing to complain about with this child. I know that, and am suitably proud/grateful.

However, she is seventeen.

For a while, when there were more of us living in the house, we were each doing our own laundry. However, there are only three of us now, and, as it happens, I actually like doing laundry. (Yes, yes. Weird, I know. We all have our quirks.) But since I do enjoy the task, and having assured that my children know how to do it, I am quite happy to do the family laundry. It’s not total altruism, either: taking on this task allows me to hand off tasks that I loathe. (A little quid pro quo and I am free of dishes. For the rest of my life, if I’m lucky.)

Normally I do a load every couple of days, one person’s laundry at a time, so that we each get a load done per week. An extra load every so often for household things — linens and whatnot. There are no set days, so the night before I will ask whoever it is to please leave their laundry in that hall in the evening so that I can scoop it in the morning. Because I, you see, get up at the total butt-crack of dawn, long before it would be reasonable to expect people to be bringing me baskets of laundry, even if I am going to be washing, drying and folding that laundry for them.

Emma’s offering last week looked a tad… meager. I waited a while to start the load, double-checking with her when she woke. “Is this all your laundry?”

Yes, it was.

“For the entire week? Are you sure?” My obvious skepticism riled her a bit. Yes, it was, for sure, the tone making it clear I was being foolish to even ask. I could cease forthwith with the impertinent questions, thankyousoverymuch.

Call me crazy, but I’ve been doing laundry for a lot of years, more years than the girl has been alive, and I know when I’m seeing a full week’s worth of dirty duds. And in this particular basket? I was not seeing them.

But she had declared herself, with some indignant vigour. This was indeed her full week’s complement of laundry. I needn’t trouble myself further. Really.

So I didn’t. I’m rather a fan of natural consequences. One doesn’t need to argue when one has natural consequences on one’s side, and I could feel them all, jostling around behind me as they lined up in my corner. When this spartan smidge of laundry was completed, and the girl ran out of something critical before next week, or wanted to wear something that was still mustily lingering in some dusty corner of her room? Oh, well… Natural consequences rock, I tell you.

So when I came to hang that laundry? There was: one pair of jeans. Barring spills, stains or obvious dirt, we do wear our jeans far more than a single wearing. And there was a dress in there, too, so only six days required jeans. But still… six days on one pair of jeans? Eeeeeh. Possible. Unlikely, but just barely possible.

There were five pairs of socks. Did she go sock-free inside her slippers all weekend? I’m doubting it.

There were six shirts. Hm. I will wear a shirt more than once. But I am in my late forties. I do not reek like unwashed goat have the body odour challenges of even the sweetest adolescent. Six shirts for a week is highly unlikely.

And the final, damning bit of evidence: There was one pair of underwear in that basket. One. Time to call the girl out.

“Emma, there was only one pair of underwear in your laundry.”

“Oh.” I can hear the defensiveness rising. She’s caught, and she knows it. She decides to add a smidge of aggression, hoping, I’m sure, that I’ll just go away and cease with the embarrassing … facts. “Yeah?” It’s not a full-out attack. We don’t do that, Emma and I, but I can hear the edge. I’m sure I disappoint her by persisting.

“So, you think that’s an unreasonable question? To wonder why you only had one pair in an entire week’s laundry?” (Particularly since I expressed doubt when you gave it to me? Ahem. I don’t say that, but she hears it anyway. We also don’t go for “I told you so’s”, Emma and I. But she knows she’s earned one.) My voice is mild, but she knows I’m not going to go away without an answer.

“No.” She pauses and it all comes out in a rush. If you’re going to eat crow, there’s no point in lingering over it. “Okay, you’re right. I didn’t look hard enough when I brought you my basket.”

That’s good enough. I don’t need her to grovel. She’s acknowledged my point and her error, and I hand her the folded laundry without further discussion. (Is it my fault if the ONE pair of underwear is in the VERY CENTRE of the VERY TOP of the meager pile?

Okay, yeah, it is. Heh.)

And you know what? She is my third child. She is the seventh of eight children in this blended family. I am so used to teens and their ways that I didn’t even consider the implications of her statement until much later that evening.

“I didn’t look hard enough.” I took that statement totally at face value, because I know what her room looks like. I know what her six older siblings’ rooms looked like at her age. I know what her younger sibling’s room looks like. I took her statement at face value because I am inured to adolescent household incapacity. Barring outright department of health violations, I leave an adolescent’s room to the adolescent. They can live in whatever kind of swamp they choose to live in, so long as they keep the door shut. Emma, as it happens, voluntarily cleans her room — about once a week! Voluntarily!!!She doesn’t maintain the clean worth beans, but she cleans. And did I say she does this without being told? So, again with the “nothing to complain about”.

But really? If this were NOT a teen we were talking about, but a NORMAL person? “I didn’t look hard enough?” How hard does one have to look to find laundry in a laundry basket???

There does come a point in a mother’s life when she wonders why she bothers with fripperies like laundry baskets. Why not just a garbage bag hung from the bedroom doorknob once a week? Because really, it would save valuable floor space, not having that laundry basket lying around empty. Valuable floor space, which could be much better used storing, oh, I don’t know…

dirty laundry, maybe?

February 16, 2011 Posted by | my kids | , , , , , | 3 Comments


It’s Friday!

It’s a lovely Friday, too, nicely cool, sunny, no humidity (thank GOD) to speak of.

I love Fridays.

I love Fridays because it’s the end of my work week, true. Even though I love all my little charges, they are indeed work, and the break at the end of the week is always welcome.

I love Fridays because I can get up exactly when I want the next morning. (Which, morning person that I am, is exactly the same time as I always get up, but somehow the feeling of freedom persists.)

I love Fridays because two of my part-time children don’t come, so it makes for a lighter workday at the end of a busy week.

I love Fridays because my Wonderful Husband always brings me a chiller at the end of the work day.

Those are all good reasons to love Friday (and that last is one of the very many I love my Wonderful Husband so much), but there is another reason I love Fridays.

See, this is a busy house during the week, and I am a woman of moderate energy levels. Some people have indicated they believe I spend my day in a vibrant whirlwind of singing and dancing and playing and clapping and jumping and just general all-round giddiness. Because that’s what good caregivers do, right? Nope. That’s what children do. Good caregivers encourage and supervise/monitor all that good stuff, but we partake when we feel like it, not out of obligation. Because play is the child’s work, not mine. Mine is more over-arching than that.

Besides, my energy levels, those admittedly moderate energy levels? Some weeks they are taxed to the max just being in the same room with all that singing and dancing and playing and clapping and jumping. Partaking, full-time partaking, is pretty much beyond me.

Which is fine.

On Monday I start out with tons of energy, fresh with ideas and enthusiasm. The ideas and enthusiasm usually carry me through — I genuinely love my job — but the energy? I start out sparking with the stuff (by my standards, anyway) on Monday, and then, as the week progresses, I go into conservation mode. It’s called “pacing yourself”.

And where does that show?

Not in the childcare. (Not usually, anyway. Maybe on the odd particularly bad week. A confluence of fretful children, behavioural challenges and some slight illness on my part, perhaps. Then I slack off. Yes, I do. And you know what? So long as that’s only an occasional thing, I don’t feel guilty about that. I am human. And even slacking off, even cutting a few corners, I am still tending to the children in a way that enables their parents to go to work without worry.)

It shows in the housework. I will never have a showpiece home. Better Homes and Gardens I ain’t, and that’s just fine with me. I grew up in a family culture in which being “house-proud” was an insult, not a compliment. It was used to describe people who valued the appearance and accoutrements of their home to a point which cause discomfort to its inhabitants. What was the point of a nice house if you were so busy cleaning it you could never enjoy it? If everyone in it is constantly being harangued: feet off the couch! don’t eat that here! don’t put that there! walk on the mat! put a coaster under that! If furnishing were chosen for appearance rather than comfort and usefulness. All that was ‘house-proud’ and all that was foolish.

There’s a balance, of course, a happy medium. The inhabitants are more important the the house they inhabit, but certain standards of cleanliness also contribute to comfort. While you may never be able to eat off my floors — which is not to say it doesn’t happen pretty much daily around here — you won’t stick to them, either. So it’s good. Or at least, good enough for me.

When my own children were young, it was the third child who pushed me over the housework brink. I managed just fine with two; three was the challenge. (Not that she was a difficult baby, anything but. It was simply the logistics.) That’s when the older two really got drawn into helping out (and at 7 and 4, it was none too soon – I could have, should have, started them earlier). With their help, it was good again. But with five? None of them older than four and a half? And me, I’m twenty years older (twenty years tireder) than I was when my own were that young.


I don’t like clutter. I don’t like things piled on things. I like it when light can bounce off surfaces. I feel claustrophobic when there are heaps of things here and there.

And every Friday, I start to feel that claustrophobia. Nah, I start to feel it Thursday. On a bad week, Wednesday afternoon.

Because I have only so much energy, see, and if I’m not conserving it with the children, the next most energy-consuming arena in my life is housework. That’s where I ease off. And so, as the week progresses, the clutter gradually, steadily, inexorably creeps in from the corners, and by Friday lunch, I find myself having to shift a pile of books from a high chair tray before I can put the child into it. Where does that pile go? Well, were it Monday, it would go on the bookshelf in the kitchen, of course! But by Friday, those few extra steps just seem too much work, and so the books are deposited on the floor under the high chair. “For now.” (“For now”, that self-defeating concept, the bane of people who yearn for ‘tidy’ … I know better, but by Friday I generally can’t do better.)

Do “for now” ten times in a day, and you can see where I end up: a pile of books on a high chair tray, a pile of mail on the mantel, a pile of miscellania on the front hall table, a pile of clean cutlery on the shelf by the sink, a pile of fruit (washed, but not stored) tumbling around the other counter, a pile of laundry sitting on the bottom step, waiting to be taken to the bedrooms upstairs, a pile of glasses on my bedside table.

You can also see that not a great deal of this is daycare-related. Because, as I say, I don’t tend to slack with the daycare, and cleaning up after ourselves is one of the things we learn in daycare. Except I’m usually too involved with helping the tots clean up after themselves to do such a good job of it, myself.


But, though that modelling would probably be a good thing, there’s only so much one woman can do, I know that, I accept that, I don’t beat myself up over it. But I do say,


Because it means I get to CLEAN HOUSE!

Really. This makes me happy, honestly and sincerely happy.

Knowing that after the children leave I will have a whole weekend to use my energy differently… well, that gives me an energy rush. I can focus on my household and not the kid-clutter! Fifteen minutes after they leave, I will set my timer and fly through the house, sorting, organizing, storing… and in less than an hour, the house will be clutter-free once more.

I get all inspired, just thinking about it. 🙂 I’m less than ten hours away from a tidy, de-cluttered home.


July 30, 2010 Posted by | daycare | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The play’s the thing — especially when it does the dishes

Remember how I was saying that for small children, everything is play?

Some very clever people have come up with a way to extend that to older children. Called Chore Wars, the site is based on the notions that work can be fun, even drudgework like household chores, if it’s a game. Your family is a team, each with their own character, working to complete tasks for rewards and points. You might even have to battle the occasional troll or paper golem along the way. (I found a “tentacle” while cleaning the bathroom this morning! AND defeated it!)

Add a little competition within the team, and you might just have the key to getting those damned beds made without a fuss!

October 14, 2008 Posted by | parenting, peer pressure, socializing | , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Happy Thanksgiving!

I am not working today.

I have rearranged the clothing shelves in my room, after I had a brilliant moment of clarity re: effective use of small shelves and mesh baskets. (It look SO MUCH better. And will be SO MUCH easier to keep tidy. I am BRILLIANT!)
I took the dog for her pre-breakfast walk. (One hour. We did some “loose-leash” and “recall” practice while we were at it.)
I took a long walk, and had a leisurely coffee with my sweetie.
I will be planting 75 tulip and daffodil bulbs in my front yard. As soon as I clear out the leaves.
I will pull the laundry in off the line and put it away as soon.
I will begin cooking Thanksgiving dinner for seven tonight (seven people, not seven p.m.). After I plant the bulbs. In two hours from now.

Somewhere in there I will have a shower.

But I am not working, not me!

So, no daycare stories today. If you want to read about some woman’s weird-but-wonderful teen, you might follow that link.

October 13, 2008 Posted by | Canada, holidays | , , , , , , | 6 Comments