Last night we had the same struggle we’ve been having for fourteen years in my house; the drama of garbage night. Collecting the trash, taking it and the recyclables to the large wheeled containers and taking it to the curb has always been a job for one or more of my three boys. For some reason, they hate it and have spent countless hours avoiding it and having me fuss and sometimes yell at them because of it. It seems stupid to them that they have to do it. It seems stupid to me that they will spend hours avoiding a task that takes less than ten minutes out of their week to accomplish, and it has happened with all of my boys, not just one or two.
This week it happened again. My youngest son is only a week post-surgery and is supposed to avoid lifting anything heavy, so I didn’t want him to haul the cans to the curb. At 10pm I reminded him to collect everything and take it to the cans and to tell his brother to take the cans to the curb. At 11pm it still wasn’t done and I told him to get to it immediately, so he gathered the trash and piled everything by the back door, where it stayed until I got fed up at midnight and took care of it myself, and I got angry. I knew my neighbor was already in bed so she could go to work early in the morning as I rattled down the driveway, passed her bedroom window. I was aggravated because this stupid scenario has played out negatively so many times in my home and in others I know too. I felt put out because of all of the mom martyrdom that bubbles up when moms end up doing a task we’ve asked our children to do, sometimes more times than we care to count. I thought about the endless loads of laundry, meals and hours of cleaning I’ve provided, and I got angrier. I made the 16 year old turn off the computer and get ready for bed. I let the 19 year old, who swore he had just been informed that he was supposed to take the cans to the curb, that I was not happy with having to do this one task that is relegated to my sons and is not my job. I told them I loved them, but I was angry and reminded my 16 year old especially that he owed me an apology, and I went to bed.
I’m typing this the morning after, and I admit there are still some residual resentments. I have spent much of the morning mulling over why this bothers me so, and I finally figured it out. These are not the men I am raising them to be. I am raising them to be better than this, so why is it so damned difficult to get them to comply? They just don’t see the significance. They don’t understand that taking out the trash is the beginning of teaching them how to become men who take care of their home and their family. They don’t understand that this is the beginning of taking them into a manhood they can be proud of. They don’t see that this trivial task that they only have to do once per week is designed to teach them about self-discipline. It’s such a small thing, and yet it isn’t. Now, I understand that taking out the trash regularly won’t determine who my children become. They can become wonderful men never taking out the trash. They can become awful human beings after taking the trash out every week, but in our family, the beginning of responsibility and manhood begins with the trash, and I owe it to them to tell them that. I owe it to them to let them know that everything I do, especially now, is to help them to have the best adulthood possible.
Years ago when I was only the mother of two preschoolers I heard the quote by Stephen Covey to begin with the end in mind. It was a revelation to think that I should parent these little boys, not to manage their day to day behavior, but to help them be the great men I believed they could be. I also had a preschool teacher tell me that my job as a parent was to fill my child’s bucket of self-esteem so full that the world could not poke enough holes in it to drain it dry. This was not how I was raised or how anyone I knew was raised, but it changed my perspective. It made me realize that I was in this parenting thing for the long haul, and that it was my job to raise good men rather than good kids. At some point, I also realized that I was raising husbands as much as I was raising sons, and my parenting changed. When you can look at the big picture, the little things don’t matter anymore. You can let go of the little hurts, the tantrums (yours and theirs) and the irritations of everyday life. You still address the issues. You just don’t let those molehills become mountains anymore. This is where my husband comes in. My husband seemed to understand that from the beginning. Very few things get him flustered. Most days, it is one of the things I admire most about him, unless I’m fuming about something and he won’t join in, but that’s a story for another day. I’ve learned so much from his way of approaching problems, and it has been incredibly helpful in our parenting.
So, why did this garbage thing bug me so much last night? It was a combination of things. I have approximately 82 days until my next book launch if this blog entry posts on July 14, 2016 as I intend for it to post. I am being challenged to be incredibly self-disciplined to make this launch even more successful than the past two so when I see a lack of self-discipline in those around me, it is magnified. That’s on me. I took my boys out for lunch and some shopping yesterday and thanks to Pokemon Go, they were happy to tag along as I purchased items for myself and even for them. I think I may have felt a sense of entitlement that they owed me to do their task without my constant attention to get it done. That is on both of us; me for my sense of entitlement and them for procrastinating. Finally, the following question popped into my head this morning, “Don’t they see that this is just a part of life and the sooner they learn that the better?” and I realized that the answer to that is no. They don’t know the motivation behind the task. They don’t know that I believe in them to not only take care of this task, but to grow into the incredible young men I know they can be. They only hear me moaning and groaning about too much screen time, when what I really want to tell them is that they have other skills that impress me so much more than their ability to play a game, and I know in my heart that developing those woodworking, clock fixing and drawing skills will take them just as far in life as their game playing skills. So, as I sit here typing and thinking about all that they can become, I’m hoping to share this with the world, but have no idea if I will. I will give my boys the power to decide whether I share this with other parents who may need to read it. I hope they will understand better why their dad and I do what we do and insist on certain things. I know they won’t understand fully until they hold their first child and feel the enormity of the next 18 plus years to guide their own child to be someone amazing, but perhaps we can move on from here and have a better day and a better rest of the summer. Perhaps they will understand the “why” of the stupid garbage, and maybe, just maybe, that will be the last time we have the great garbage struggle in Bemmesland. A mom can dream, can’t she?
As always, thank you for taking the time to read what I share, and most importantly, thank for being you. Have a great day everyone!
Postscript: My boys read the blog post and gave the ok to share it, but reminded me that their computers are often how they connect with friends all over the world. Just as many in my generation used to hang on the phone until our parents made us hang up, so my children hang on the computer. It gave me some additional perspective and a laugh that they had no disagreement with anything else.