I have a confession:
I am a meanie. Not a small-time, eat-your-vegetables meanie, but a big time, mafia-grade, clean-your-room meanie. I was informed of this fact today, and not for the first time.
My kids are usually pretty good about chores. They know what their jobs are, and they do them when they’re asked to, most of the time. At most, all it takes is for me to hit them with “Dude, seriously? I asked you to do this ten minutes ago,” and they’re on it. [Around here, my “dude” is what yelling is to some moms. That’s how the kids know I’m serious.] The two things they can’t seem to grasp are picking up after themselves-the basic every day stuff, like throwing away their empty juice boxes instead of leaving them scattered around the house like relics from the Hello Kitty Belly Washers era-and cleaning their rooms.
O god, the dreaded room cleaning.
The other night, baby girl fell asleep in my bed watching a movie, and I carried her to her room. At her doorway, she lifted her head and said in her precious sleepy voice, “I’ll walk from hewe. My woom is too messy.” She was right, her woom was pretty messy, but I managed to get her to her bed. Today, though, it was time. Her room needed attention desperately. If her bedroom was a celebrity, it would be Kanye West at the Grammys, okay?
I sprung the bad news on her in the kitchen:
“Hey, baby girl.”
“Oh no. What?”
“Your room needs cleaned.”
“Muuuuuuunnnh. I knew you were going to say that.”
Thing one then decides to join the conversation.
“Haha, you have to clean your room.”
“So do you, actually,” I tell him.
“Listen! What is that? You people aren’t humans, you’re like mutant baby cows. What is that noise?”
“I don’t want to clean my room,” says thing one.
“Duh,” I tell him. “Nobody does. But it needs done, and it won’t take long.”
“Muuuuuuuuunh,” says thing one.
“Moooooooo,” I say, hoping that’s Mutant Cow for just quit whining and do it already. I must have mispronounced it, because the kids just laughed at me.
“Go on,” I say, reverting back to my native English. “Get it done.”
“Why?” asks baby girl.
Seriously? She’s not two, she’s ten. Why is not a question at this age, it’s a stalling tactic and an attempt to make you grow tired of the conversation and tell her whatever, who cares, just leave me alone so I can take a bath.
Doesn’t work with me. I’m old and cranky and unfortunately for her, she’s the youngest of a huge litter and I got bored with the tricks a long time ago, back when her oldest siblings were silly enough to think they’d work. “Because it’s messy. Duh. Go.”
“Your room isn’t clean,” says thing one.
Oh, but see, they’re smart kids, but I’m experienced at this. Normally, what thing one said is true, but I knew what I’d be up against. My room is clean. Ha. Now what, kiddies?
Baby girl finally resorts to that last, desperate hope, the thing that all kids fall back on when they know they’re in the final stages of a losing battle.
“It’s not fair.”
Oh reeeally, child. “What’s not fair?”
“That I have to clean my room.”
“No, see, here’s the thing about that. It’s your room. It’s your mess. It’s your stuff all over the place in YOUR room. It’s totally fair that you should have to clean it up. What wouldn’t be fair is if I had to clean it up, or if I asked you to clean my room.”
At that point, the fight goes out of her, thing one knows when there’s no chance of escaping, and the room cleaning commences.
Five minutes later, thing one is back. “Thing two isn’t helping,” he says. [Note: thing one has asperger syndrome. He is brilliant and stubborn and while he can probably take your computer apart and reassemble it while you’re figuring out which end of the cord plugs into the wall, logical reasoning isn’t always his strong point. He is also 13. That just adds to the hilarity. Har har.]
Apparently thing two is still outside on his bike, not having been informed that it was room-cleaning time. He’s gathered up and brought inside, and they get to work. Two minutes later, thing one is back again. “There’s a bunch of clothes everywhere,” he says. “What do I do with them?”
“Put them away,” I tell him.
“Oh. Okay. Yes, that makes sense,” and off he goes with his little scientist voice and skinny wrists sticking out of his cuffs. [If you watch “The Big Bang Theory,” you have seen my child in action. He is Sheldon, down to needing His Spot to sit on.]
One minute later, he’s back. “Some of the clothing appears to be dirty.”
“Put it in the dirty clothes, then.”
“Oh.” Thing one considers this for a moment. “Would it be okay if I placed them in a pile and then carried them to the laundry all at once? That might be easier than taking each item one by one.”
“I think that’s a fabulous idea. Make a pile. Good job.”
“I know. I’m full of fabulous ideas,” he says, and of course he’s correct.
Eventually, the rooms got clean…ish. As clean, I suppose, as they’re going to. The kids have more stuff than places to store it, and they might possibly have inherited my tendency toward creative organization. Most importantly, though, they survived my incredible meanness and unfairness relatively unscathed, though the scars may linger forever.
Poor, poor baby mutant cows.