We didn’t teach Conor bad habits. Even as a toddler, he was required to put his toys away before bedtime. He happily toddled back and forth to his toybox and cubbies and returned every thing to its rightful place. He even put his dirty clothes in a laundry basket. Somewhere, between two and ten, he became a slacker, a slob, someone who cared little about his house or surroundings. My husband and I have different concepts of how to clean a house. I believe in cleaning as you go, doing dishes when necessary, wiping counters, dusting and vacuuming when necessary. But my husband’s idea is whenever it gets out of control, then it’s time for a massive cleaning. I can’t do that. I am disabled from fibromyalgia and lupus. I do better cleaning as I go. Mass cleaning just doesn’t work for me.
My son seems to mimic my husband. When he starts to lose things, that’s when he starts to clean up. And, I emphasize, starts. He never finishes. He drops candy wrappers and soda cans on the floor, instead of throwing them in the trash. He’s learned to sneak around the corner to the little market that sells candy and soda. He’s not allowed caffeine. That he does abide by. Just what I’d need: an already hyperactive kid full of sugar and caffeine. I’d like to throw a no-sugar birthday party but I’m afraid no one would ever come back over. I got a fruit basket from “Incredible Edibles” for his last birthday party and was surprised that most of the kids ate the fruit before the candy and snacks. Maybe I’ll try this idea for his next birthday. Risk losing kids from coming to my house. Less mess to clean up.
And it’s not like Conor is dumb; he was on the Principal’s list all three years he’s been at his school. I ask him what he does with his trash at school and he says he throws it in the trashcan. I try to get him to imagine this is school and he needs to follow the same rules. But today was the end of my rope. He lost his allowance for two weeks and his video games for a week. He gets $10 a week allowance. For this, he must clean the cat litter boxes, feed the cats and dog. And clean up his mess and clean his room. His room has been the sticking point. He currently has about three layers of trash and clothes on his bedroom floor. He has boxes to put back his toys but somehow they never get there. I spent a day cleaning up his room last Spring, but it only took about three weeks for his room to go back to its natural form. His dad did the same, hauling away four big trash bags of trash and old toys and clothes, and it was only two weeks later that it was like it never happened. So now the threat is no trip to Dorney Park with his cousin in July.
We want to be foster parents but we can’t do it until the house is clean. Our bedroom is fairly clean and is my refuge from the aggravation of dealing with the wash, dry, and ironing of his clothes, only to find them on the end of his bed or on the floor. I made a system that all his school clothes were in his closet. All he had to do was look in his closet and pick out what he wanted to wear. He’d come home with a too-small T-shirt and jeans. I asked him about the closet but he claimed he forgot. He can name any military weapon in the history of the U.S. back to the Civil War, but he can’t look at his closet. I can’t figure this out.
So I dream of my little house, with the fenced-in yard, and lilacs and ivy growing like when I was growing up, and flowers everywhere. My husband prefers firs, because you plant them once and they just grow. It’s the wussy gardener’s way out, in my opinion. I have an herb garden in our front bed, because the sun was killing them in back. They are flourishing. So are the pansies I planted earlier this Spring. And my one little Lilac bush is growing slowly. I think I need to plant a few more. I dream of a back porch, where I can sit and sip my un-sweetened tea and listen to the sounds of dusk, the crickets and bats and birds flying from tree to tree. My bird-feeder would be full all the time, not just when I have to remind my boys to fill it. And my garage would be neat enough that I could fit my car in it.
Everyone dreams of another life. Most have dreams of bigger houses and more expensive cars. I’d be happy with my little house and my SUV, a Sante Fe that I bought with cash in 2002, when I got my back pay from fighting with the government over Social Security Disability. And I’d like to have a pool, a small one, heated, where I could do my PT every day, instead of trudging to the gym and going through an hour before and after getting into the pool. Some days I want to spend three hours there, when I’m the only one there. It’s a sanctuary like my bedroom. No kids, no husband, no responsibilities except to myself and my pets. Now that’s nirvana to me.