I announced my new summer rule shortly after the kids’ breaks began.
After breakfast, the first hour of the day belongs to me. In that hour, chores will be done and I will not bother anyone the rest of the day.
Before going to a friend’s, having someone over, needing a ride to the beach, or becoming immersed in a cyber world, there is a list of things to be done: Feed the dogs, feed the guinea pig, pick up dog poo, empty the dishwasher, load the dishwasher, sweep, vacuum, wipe down bathrooms, fold laundry, put laundry away, wipe down kitchen counters, pick up room.
With the four kids and me working, that is a total of five hours of house cleaning every morning. Our home should be sparkling from top to bottom. Everyone’s belongings should be in their place, Ne’er a dust bunny or tuft of dog hair should collect. Yet order and tidiness still seem an elusive dream, impossible to achieve.
Part of the problem, I’ve concluded, is that the inmates have become skilled at manipulating the warden. They dodge the less desirable jobs and jockey the path of least resistance. They come up with excuses, try to distract me. I do my best to implement the rule – to guide, redirect, and threaten until things get done. It’s ridiculous that I should even be involved at this point, as it’s the same jobs needed to be completed day after day.
On Monday morning I had to take Payton to an appointment and Janey was out of town visiting cousins. I left Sally and Wyatt home to do their hour of chores. Within a half hour I received a phone call from Wyatt. He was letting me know that Sally was writing an email to me and that none of it was true.
With Wyatt calling and Sally emailing, who was cleaning?
Shortly, the email came through my smart phone. The subject heading simply said “Wyatt.”
There was no salutation, Sally got straight to the point:
Wyatt is being a total brat, I have told him numerous times to clean the Lego room. Then he said he would rather clean the kitchen, after about two minutes he went to clean the windows because he got bored of the kitchen. He used about 15 sprays for the windows. So I took over because he was doing nothing. Then, Isabella asked to come over And he said yes thinking he wouldn’t have too clean, so I had to tell her we had no parents home, he walked around “picking up trash” for about 25 minutes but still, nothing got done.
I now have documentation of the ways in which our system breaks down. I figured out the problem of my summer rule of doing chores before anything else each morning. Samuel Butler, writer and poet in the 1600’s said it best: “There are two great rules of life; the one general and the other particular. The first is that everyone can, in the end, get what he wants, if he only tries. That is the general rule. The particular rule is that every individual is, more or less, an exception to the rule.”