As I prefaced in my last post, this too is a fictional story about my wonderful children. This is LOOSELY based on them, but you know I love to exaggerate- except for the part about my son's scores on XBOX Live. This could be a peek into ANYONE'S household with kids.
I Already Paid My Dues
Our school requires summer reading, but in my house Dante and Edgar Allen Poe are no match for Donkey Kong and Nintendo. If I step on one more game controller, I will take steps to recycle my kids’ “Dance Revolution” DVD into a wind chime.
As proud as I am that my kids’ scores on XBOX Live are in the 90th percentile in the country, my techno-teens are a little too consumed with anything on a screen. Instead of mowing down zombies, they need to be mowing some bermuda. My husband and I called a family meeting.
“Until further notice, our family is unplugged,” I declared to three stunned teenagers. “Household chores will be assigned, and ignoring your duties will result in my ignoring to pay your cell phone bill.”
“Why do you treat us like slaves?” my daughter texted me later that day as she dusted in the next room.
“Because that’s why we had you in the first place,” I typed back, like any good parent.
Last summer we sentenced my son to cutting and edging the yard. He immediately brought to my attention that he was melting in the heat while I folded laundry. I patiently smiled and held up a picture of he and his sisters, ages 5, 3, and 1 at Disney World one July, smiling at the entrance of the Log Ride.
“See the joy in your little red faces? That’s before we stood in line an hour for the Log Ride and discovered none of you could ride because you were shorter than Mickey Mouse’s red ruler. Dad and I had little red faces too because we were dragging a double stroller and a 20 lb. diaper bag through Disney World so you guys could meet Shrek, and it was 10 degrees hotter than Hades. Now go finish mowing. You missed a spot by the driveway.”
My daughter wondered why it was her job to walk the dog in all kinds of weather while I sat inside doing paperwork. I guided her to our keepsake box and pulled out the tiny ballerina costume she wore on her first Halloween.
“Sweetums, on Halloween who do you think walked you to every house within range of a tornado siren to fill up your pumpkin pails? Every year I dressed as Cruella de Ville for three school parties and scoured every store for the fake, bloody foot or go-go boots you insisted on. And every October I chased the dog around the yard to give him a bath because you sprayed him orange.”
Handing her the leash, I added, “By the way, Cruella de Ville sort of seeped into my psyche through the years, so you just might want to keep that dog away from me.”
My youngest daughter, whose job was to blow leaves from the yard, complained that it was too windy.
Marshaling the swirling leaves would have indeed been futile, so we rested and I told her about winds from a vicious storm 11 years ago. I showed her a picture of her at age 2 standing on an uprooted tree in our yard, bent almost to the ground by a tornado. When she was a toddler, I roused her from a deep sleep due to the tornado warnings. Her drowsy eyes questioned why I pulled her out of a warm bed to cower in a closet. When the windows popped from the air pressure, she began to cry. My heart ached as I held my face against her wet cheeks.
I’ve always tried to ease her fears, but I won’t be able to protect her forever.
The best I can do is teach her to face her fears with confidence and rise above them. In the picture she stood on the uprooted tree as if she, rather than the treacherous wind, was the one who conquered it. When she leaves us, I want her to believe she can conquer the world. She’ll pay her dues and grow with every goal she accomplishes.
But that afternoon she needed to pay her dues and accomplish the blowing.
The chores were done, and at bedtime I turned off the lights and stumbled, cutting my toe on a game controller. It was time to put my mangled foot down.
The next morning the kids finished their jobs and raced inside to play video games, but they couldn’t find their favorite “Dance Revolution” game.
Meanwhile, I peacefully eased myself into a chair on the back porch. The birds’ singing was especially sweet and the breeze was fresher than usual. My wind chime seemed to jingle with more liveliness too. Maybe it was because of the new ornament swinging in the center that added just the right touch—a shiny silver DVD.