Today I went old school. Thats right I traveled back into the deepest reaches of my brain, drawing upon lessons learned the hard way. Lessons that at the time I felt were bunk, hooey, or just plain old bull! Never understanding or seeing the bigger picture in the situation, I would kick the dirt and thumb my nose at “the man”! Surely one day I would never ever repeat this kind of behavior, it was humiliating and unjust. I swore upon my grandfathers life these lessons would never be repeated. But I was wrong….
The year; 1975 I was nine years old, President Gerald Ford was in office. The average income per year was $14,100.00, a home would set you back a staggering $39,300.00! The cost of gas was 44 cents per gallon. 1975 was the year I saw Jaws and never wanted to go into the ocean again. I also found country music wasnt all there was to listen too and to my parents dismay I started soothing myself to sleep with the classic sounds of Queen, ZZ top, and Led Zeppelin! 1975 was a very good year or at least it started out that way.
1975 was also the year I learned one of the most valuable lessons a young lad needs to learn. Because regardless of who you think you are at 9 years old there are two people you will always have to answer too! Mom and Dad! Now dad was gone a lot on the road as a salesman so mom is the key to my little reflection on life lessons. When dad was gone I built it up into my head that I was the man of the house. Yep that’s right, 9 and in charge, why? AAAA Duh! I was the man! Anyway this constantly led to butting heads with my mother over doing chores over and above my obvious talents and pay grade as head of the household! Oh I did what was expected of me, although it was hard with all my other “head of household” duties! But I managed to accomplish most chores thoroughly and on time. Notice, I stated “most of them”. You see there was two things I was always slacking at, always shirking my responsibility of completion. It drove my mom nuts that I could never seem to accomplish these two simple tasks. Are you ready? Here it is….. Cleaning my room and changing my sheets.
I know! No big deal right? Or so I thought, as have hundreds of thousands of children over generations across this great nation and possibly the world! I’d always throw down some snide little “yeah ill get to it” then brush mom off as I headed off to school. Walking down our half mile road to the bus stop I would be giggling that I had pulled one over on her again! I aint changing no sheets no how, if she wants them changed so bad she can change them herself! Pick up my clothes off the floor, hah! If she wants them picked up she can do that herself too! Yep that’s right, man of the house and in charge! All should kneel before my greatness!
Until one day….
Mom picked me up from swim practice one day and was in an exceptional mood. That should have been a clue right from the start. But heck I was nine and dumb as a box of rocks. Mom was always grumpy in the afternoon, but to her defense, dad was never around and she was basically a single parent frustrated with the situation. She laughed and joked with us all the way home. My guard was down and I had been sucked into the joyous vortex. We got home and snacks were made, the table was cleared and ready for homework. That should have been the second clue! But hey, ole box of rocks is digging the love! Home work was done and snacks devoured, mom leans over and asks if there is anything else she could do for us. Anything else she can do for us, I thought? WARNING, WARNING, WARNING DANGER WILL ROBINSON DANGER!!!! She never says that, and the way she said it, holy crap what did we do! I studied the furthest reaches of my brain to see if there was any pressing bit of trouble someone may have squealed on me for doing or participating in. Nope! Oh this is going to be bad!!!
Thats when she took me by the hand and stated “good, for I have something to show you”! She has something to show me? Oh god this is bad, it’s really freaking bad!! As she turned the corner of the hallway her grip tightened on my hand just enough to leave no room for doubt about trying to escape her clutches. She stood me in front of my bedroom door and slowly opened it. There I stood in shock, sweat pouring from my tear filled face as I looked upon the remnants of my room. I had never been to war or seen its gory ramifications, but I was sure this is what a Viet-cong bunker looked like after our boys were done with it! Like a hand grenade had detonated in the corner of the room! Every belonging, every cherished piece of my room was piled up in the middle of the floor! My model cars, hand painted and dusted everyday lay strewn upon a pile of clothes that were a combination of dirty and clean. You see in her eyes it wasnt enough to make a statement with just the sloppy scraps I had strewn about. NOOOOO she went and emptied all my drawers, tore off my bed sheets and just for effect, the “piece de resistance” if you will. She tied all my clothes into knots. Thats right, square knots, half knots, overhand bends, she had them all well represented! She should have earned her Boy Scout merit badge for such effort! Sock shrapnel was strewn all around the blast site and it appeared my G.I. Joes had been lost in the battle. No survivors…..
As I stared into the depth of this nightmare, my mother leaned over and said very clearly; son, your room will be cleaned before you leave for school everyday, your dirty clothes will be in the laundry room and your clean clothes will be put away. Your sheets will be changed every Saturday and there will be no exceptions! Everyday that you fail to follow these directions you will come home to a room that looks just like this, and everyday you will clean it all back up to my liking until you get it right! I am your mother, I am not your maid! Am I clear?
I hated her for doing that back then, I cursed her when I thought the job was good enough, only to come home to a destroyed room once again. After a long period where my room was aces, I think she destroyed it just to keep my ego in check! And yes, even though I hated it then, it is the sole reason I am clean, neat and organized today.
Speaking of today, here is why I have shared this story with all of you. As I stated earlier, today I went old school! You see my children apparently have decided that cleaning their rooms just isn’t in the cards on a daily basis! When my oldest refused to change his sheets knowing full well I had warned him of dire consequences, well there was only thing left that had to be done! Yep that’s right, you guessed it, my mothers sadistic evil form of cleaning revenge spewed forth like a genetic tumor. I walked into each room individually, took a deep breath, rolled my eyes into my head and let the demon have my soul. When it was over the carnage was spread far and wide! The piles were large and filled with every portion of their little lives. It was a thing of beauty..
I picked them up from school with a smile on my face, I told them we were headed straight home! No barn, no horses, no barn chores. I even-handed out a piece of candy or two. They laughed and giggled and talked about their new-found freedom for the afternoon! We entered the house and I motioned to my wife giving her the sign to please keep quiet. She grinned and walked outside leaving their destinies in my hands. I lined them up on the couch, quieted them down, then very calmly I leaned in close and said: children, your room will be cleaned before you leave for school everyday, your dirty clothes will be in the laundry room and your clean clothes will be put away. Your sheets will be changed every Saturday and there will be no exceptions! Everyday that you fail to follow these directions you will come home to a room that looks just like this, and everyday you will clean it all back up to my liking until you get it right! Your mother and I are your parents, we are not your maid! Am I clear?
Something to be said about “old school child raising” we will see what tomorrow brings. But judging from the work done today, things are looking up!