Selective Idiocy

The serial nature of the teenage mind never ceases to amaze me.

Sunday morning, as we prepped for church, I found my son sitting on his bed wearing shorts but no shirt or shoes and watching videos on his phone.

“Why don’t you put a shirt on?” I asked.

“It’s in the dryer.”

“Okay, well we need to leave in 15 minutes or daddy will be late to choir.”

“Okay.”

Fast forward 15 minutes.

“Come on! We need to go!” I called out.

“My shirt is still in the dryer. It has another minute on it.”

“It’ll be fine. It’s close enough. Go ahead and put it on. Let’s go.”

“But I still need to put my shoes on and brush my teeth.”

“And why didn’t you do that while you were waiting on your shirt?”

*Shrug*   (Seriously, no words. Just a shrug.)

It’s like his brain went: Must get dressed. Underwear on. Shorts on. Shirt wrinkled. Put in dryer. Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait….

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Like it absolutely couldn’t proceed to any other step until the shirt was on. Even though they aren’t sequential steps. There’s absolutely no tooth-brushing dependency on wearing a shirt.

Encore performance – later that afternoon. He came into the house claiming to be done mowing and weed-eating. I dragged him back outside to point out all the places that I knew had not been touched. (He’s yet to get all the grass cut in a given outing. Or in two or three redo’s for that matter.)

Among other things, I pointed out the basketball goal.

“I weed-eated that,” he said.

“Where?” I asked, staring at the taller-than-the-other-grass-around it blades surrounding all four sides of the goal’s base.

“There,” he said, vaguely pointing in a circular motion around the base.

Exasperated, I retrieved the weed-eater and in my shorts and sandals, demonstrated a proper, albeit slightly unsafe, weed-eating job. “That’s how it is supposed to look,” I said.

He just stood there with the mad-at-the-world-you-are-so-incredibly-mean-and-unfair teenager look he has perfected in recent months.

Since the weed-eater ran out of gas as I finished, I told him to get it filled up while I moved the cars off the grass so he could mow. After an attempt to open the tricky gas cap failed, he moved to sit on a bench and wait it out.

“Go get your dad to help you fill it back up with gas,” I said.

As I finished moving the first vehicle, I saw him sitting on the bench.

“Where’s your dad?”

“I’m going to mow first.”

“Seriously, Daryl! Don’t just sit there. You can still get him to help you fill up the weed-eater while you wait for me to move the cars. Otherwise, it will all take longer because you’ll have to go get him after you mow instead of doing it now while you are waiting anyway.”

He went back in the house in a huff.

I think I’ll call this condition Selective Idiocy. When a capable person knows they must complete an undesirable task yet deliberately engages in steps to draw it out as long as possible, as if they are too dense to put together the most efficient way to complete the task. Add that to the general teenage conditions of moodiness and disconnect from the world around him, and you have the perfect recipe for Parental Frustration Overload.

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When Parenthood is Like Solving a Mystery

One day, shortly after Daryl had allegedly mowed the yard, I noticed a large patch of uncut grass about 8 feet by 20 ringed completely by a strip that had been cut.

“Daryl,” I asked, “why didn’t you mow this?”

“I’m going to cut it with the weed-eater,” he said, a response that I found patently absurd.

I said as much. “That doesn’t make sense. It’d have taken you 1 minute tops to cut it with the lawn mower. It’ll take considerably longer than that with the weed-eater.”

“Not really,” he said in that droning teenager voice, this being the response I get every time I say something he disagrees with but won’t give reasons to support his position.

“Yes really,” I said. “Besides that, the weed-eater won’t cut it evenly. It won’t look as good. Always cut as much as you can with the lawn mower.”

“OK” – same monotonous drone.

“Did you see that patch of grass Daryl didn’t mow?” I asked my husband next time I saw him.

“I did,” he said. “I told him he should have mowed it.”

There wasn’t much we could do about it though because the lawnmower had returned to our friend’s house. Rats had chewed through our wiring harness so in a desperate pinch, we hauled hers out to our house.

About a week later, that friend was sitting at our dining room table.

“Did Daryl run over some telephone wire or something when he was mowing?” she asked.

My shoulders sagged as the pieces started to fall into place. “He didn’t say anything,” I said cautiously. “Why?”

“Well, we couldn’t get the blades to spin and when we got to looking under it, there was this telephone wire wrapped tight around the blades. I don’t see how he could have mowed with it like that.”

My husband and I stared at each other silently for an extended second or two before simultaneously calling out in a stern tone, “DARYL?!”

“What?” he asked as he sulked into the room.

“Did you run over something with the lawn mower?” I asked, now understanding why he had inexplicably stopped mowing before finishing a section he had obviously started.

“No.”

“Really? You just stopped mowing even though the mower was just fine.”

“Well, it started smoking…”

“It started smoking and you didn’t say anything to us?!”

“Well!” His tone got defensive. “I thought it was just out of gas.”

“Seriously, Daryl,” my husband said, “you are smarter than that. It doesn’t smoke when it runs out of gas. And you are supposed to tell us when it runs out of gas anyway.”

“This wasn’t our lawnmower, Daryl! We were borrowing it and you knew that! You have to tell us when something like this happens, especially if it isn’t ours.”

“Sorry…”

This scene played out again a few days later when we discovered that his recent abysmal weed-eating performance was due to there not being any thread in the weed-eater. Rather than telling us as much when we got home and questioned his completion of the task, he just kept repeating that he had weed-eated. Even though every tree and fence post and porch or sidewalk edge had tufts of grass surrounding them. Every. Single. One. It wasn’t until a couple of weeks later when we set him to weed-eating again, that the truth was uncovered.

Seriously. I don’t know how they expect to get away with this stuff.

When You Talk and They Only Hear the Teacher from Peanuts

Children are impressive creatures. And not always in a good way. I’m surprised by how much they continue to surprise me.

My husband and I were preparing to leave the house. I searched out the boys and found them huddled on Daryl’s bed, Daryl playing a game on his phone and Hal on his Kindle Fire.

“Boys, listen to me,” I said to get their attention. They glanced up quickly and then looked back at their screens.

“Daryl, I want you to put this basket of laundry in the washing machine. Are you listening?”

A brief nod.

“And then I want you to move it to the dryer when you can. There are clothes in the dryer. I want you to dump them on my bed. Do NOT leave them in a hamper – they are delicates, okay?”

He looked up and nodded.

“I also want you to fold your laundry that is in the green hamper at the end of the couch. Okay?”

He nodded.

“Both of you. I mean it. If that laundry isn’t folded when we get back, you are both losing your electronics for the rest of the day. Do you understand?”

“Yes,” said one, looking up.

“Yes,” said the other.

“Don’t put it off. Don’t think you can just do it later because you’ll get busy and distracted. Go ahead and do it soon. Okay?”

“Okay.”

“Okay.”

When we returned a couple of hours later, the first thing I saw was two boys sprawled on the couch watching TV. The second thing I saw was the Kindle Fire in Hal’s hands. The third thing I saw was the green hamper still full of clothes at the end of the couch.

“Give me your electronics. Right now – hand them over. And turn off the TV. Now!”

“How much is left in the episode,” my husband asked as he passed through.

I ignored him and picked up the green hamper and shook it in the general direction of the boys.

“I told you. I told you I’d take away your electronics if you didn’t get this laundry folded.”

“Oh,” said my now clued-in husband who walked on.

“Did you put the other laundry in the washing machine like I told you to?” I asked as I headed toward their room to find out.

“There wasn’t any laundry in our hamper!” protested Daryl.

“That’s because it was all in the white hamper in your room,” I said as Daryl continued with, “and we did fold the laundry. I didn’t know about that hamper!”

The pieces all fell into place as I heard his words and saw the empty hamper in the center of their room.

“Did you fold the laundry in that hamper?!” I asked incredulously.

“Yes.”

“But that was the DIRTY laundry! Seriously, guys?! Did you put all the dirty laundry away in your drawers?”

“We didn’t know! You didn’t say!”

“I most certainly did! And you didn’t notice any of those clothes were dirty? So where are the clothes that belonged to…”

My husband called from our room as intuition led me to head that way, “So what are all of these clothes?”

“They’re dirty!” I exclaimed.

“You told me to put your clothes on your bed,” tried a defeated Daryl.

“The clean clothes from the dryer!”

“You didn’t say…”

“Yes I did.” And I proceeded to recount my original instructions as Daryl looked on in confusion and Hal looked like he was going to cry.

“I didn’t hear all that,” Daryl said.

“Yeah, I picked up on that. How could you not notice that any of this was dirty? The clothes on our bed stink to high heaven!”

“That’s because they are workout clothes,” laughed my husband.

My initial anger abated and I started to see the humor and need for grace in the situation. Daryl and Hal were both ill, Hal very much so. They had nevertheless attempted to follow what they thought my instructions were and had put away some laundry.

“Listen guys,” I said, taking a more conciliatory tone and hugging Hal. “I won’t stick to the punishment if you will get all your dirty clothes out of the drawers and put them back in this hamper and fold the clothes in the green hamper.”

“You tried to do what I said,” I added, laughing.

Then I turned to the closet, where a pair of dress pants were hung very neatly. They were hung so neatly that you would have thought I had done it. Hal never hung his pants so well. But this time he had. He had very nicely hung up the pair of pants he had vomited on the night before.

“Hal, you even hung up your vomit pants, buddy?”

“Well, I thought you had washed them,” he said as I looked at all the obvious spots along the front.

No, dear, I don’t think you thought at all. You or your brother – the entire time we were gone. Bless your little hearts. I think I’ll blame it on the fever.

Laundry Minefield

{NOTE: I wrote this back in December, but… pay close attention to the first paragraph… it got lost in the shuffle. So I’m running it now. Hope you still enjoy it.}

I did laundry on Saturday, just like I usually do when life is running like it should. Life wasn’t exactly running like it should however… I was on day 2 of a debilitating head cold. I was stressed about an upcoming doctor’s appointment that I might not be able to keep if still sick. Between the two boys, we had three basketball games and two basketball picture sessions. And Christmas was rapidly approaching. But still, I stuck it out and got all the laundry washed and dried, if not folded, between sessions of resting and running to-and-fro.

Or… I thought I got all the laundry washed and dried. After insisting firmly that everyone was going to bed at their usual time because I simply couldn’t handle folks staying up late even if it was Christmas break, I headed into the boys’ room to tuck them in for the night. As I carefully picked my way through the debris on their floor to approach their bed, I noticed that a considerable amount of that debris was stuff needing to be laundered. I looked around in dismay as I gauged that there was at least a full load of laundry on their floor: half a dozen towels, several pairs of pants, oodles and oodles of socks and underwear, even some sheets and blankets and coats!

Now, illness often makes us terrible parents. We are much more likely to make the children fend for themselves at meals, to yell at them for trivial offenses, to let them do all sorts of things they shouldn’t because we are too tired to intervene. That didn’t happen this time. No, this time illness gave birth to parenting brilliance. I hatched a plan and carried it out the next day.

While lying in bed wishing I could breathe, I instructed the boys to get one of the empty hampers out of my bathroom. I then told them to gather all the clothing and other laundry from their floor and place them in the hamper. After checking their (lack of) thoroughness, I had the older one carry the hamper to the washing machine, load it, add detergent, start it.

When the machine finished, I called them both into the laundry room. I pointed the older one to the dryer and told him to clean the lint catcher. The younger, I told to take the basket from the top of the washer, place it on the floor, and pull all the laundry out of the washer into the basket.

At almost the same time, they each touched their respective items and… also at almost the same time… recoiled from the touch. Hal looked up and said, “Oh, it’s wet.” He then pushed the item back into the washer and prepared to close the door.
“No,” I said. “They are all wet. They’ve been washed and now they need to go into the dryer. Pull them into the basket.”

To the eleven year old trying to remove the lint without actually touching it, I said, “No, like this” and demonstrated how to do it. He still acted like he was touching raw sewage and didn’t get as much of it off as I would have, but he got it done.
After the six year old finished the arduous job of getting every single wet item out of the washer, I told him to pick up the basket and hand it to his brother. That’s when he discovered that a basket full of wet clothes is heavy. Too heavy for him to pick up, in fact. His brother took over and between the two of them, they got all the clothes in. I stopped them from shutting the door until they added a dryer sheet. I told them how to start it.

When the dryer finished, I watched from the recliner as they struggled to fold it all. I reminded them that I do that entire routine a minimum of four times every weekend and unless they just really enjoyed themselves, they should make sure they get their dirty clothes in the hamper next time.

They might remember. Or it might take some more lessons. But if their sister (who is responsible for her own laundry) is any indication, they will eventually decide a little extra effort when removing their clothes is worth not having to do the laundry.

Elite Family Laundry Club

We were away from home for nine days and got back home about midnight Saturday night.  Even though I had done 2 loads of laundry while at my mother-in-law’s house, there was still more to be done when we got home.  So I started a load Sunday afternoon.

And then I joined the elite family laundry club.

I was sitting at the dining room table playing Candy Crush while Hal watched Max Steel, Daddy (our primary driver the day before) took a nap, and the older two hung out at friends’ (that didn’t take long, did it?).  I heard water that didn’t match the tone of the show Hal was watching.  Daddy must be using the hall bathroom, I thought.  The water stopped.  Then it started again.

“Hal? What are you doing?” I asked.

“Watching Max Steel.”

The water stopped.

The water started again.

I got up to investigate and realized the sound was coming from the opposite end of the house.  As I tracked the sound toward the laundry room, it suddenly hit me what I’d done.  I rushed into the room and punched the pause button so the water would stop pumping out of the drain tube onto the window sill and floor.


Yes, I had followed in the illustrious footsteps of my daughter and husband.  Of course, I had a good excuse.  I had spent the last week doing laundry somewhere that I didn’t have to snake a drain hose out a window first.  Then again, they had good excuses too.  The husband rarely does the laundry – that’s my chore.  The daughter rarely does laundry either.  She should do it more often… but she doesn’t.

Ok, I thought. I need to do something about this.  We can’t keep mopping up water with towels and running fans all night.  The real solution would be to fix the drain line for the washing machine.  But I don’t realistically see that happening anytime soon.

So I came up with a solution.2014-08-10 23.27.26

The solution was simple enough: covering the power button with a contraption built from a milk jug cap and some duct tape.  In Sharpee, I drew a red stop sign and wrote “Drain Out Window!”  You can lift the bottom of the button cover to push the button.  The assumption is that this action will be enough of a reminder to check the hose.

I’d like to think I went all MacGyver on this, showing my ingenuity and ability to use materials on hand to solve a problem.  Unfortunately, I think it may be more along the lines of “You may be a redneck if…”

Oh, well.  At least no one is likely to pump the laundry room full of water again.

Laundry is for the Birds

Jane is responsible for doing her own laundry. She’s not particularly good at it. I’m sorry, I’m just being honest. She’s not. I’ve been told it’s rather common for folks her age. They stink. At doing laundry, and as a natural consequence, sometimes literally as well.

A little while ago she declared that she needed a second laundry hamper. She needed it to transport the clean laundry back to her room. You see, I have a hamper that serves to transport the clean laundry from the laundry room to the living room to be folded and she felt she needed the same luxury.

I said that she would just use it to store the clean clothes, as she was already doing with the single hamper, piling the dirty laundry on the floor. She insisted she wouldn’t do that. I recommended a collapsible hamper for her clean laundry transport, arguing that her room wasn’t big enough to hold two hampers. This way, during those mythical times when the laundry would be folded and put away, the hamper could be too. She didn’t want a collapsible hamper.

Lucky for her, her Daddy does the shopping and she got exactly the hamper she wanted. And then it all went down just like I said it would. Only worse. Check this out:

Any guesses which pile or hamper has the clean clothes?  Me neither.

Any guesses which pile or hamper has the clean clothes?

She left for summer camp Sunday. Saturday morning, we were having them pack so they could tell us what they needed us to pick up at Wal-Mart.  She told her Daddy that she needed socks and underwear.

He looked at the scene above.  “Isn’t this a pair of underwear?” he asked, picking up an article.

“Well, yes, but it’s dirty.”

“Uh-uh,” he said. “And there’s a sock over there.  I’m not buying you clothes when you have a mess like this.  Do your laundry and find enough clean pairs of socks and underwear.”

She then tried to convince me that the two towels in her room were clean because (I quote): “I’ve done laundry twice this month and they were in the first load I did.”  I managed to get clarification that she hadn’t used them since then which answered the question of where all the towels have gone.

She later went off on how she didn’t know where her Kansas City Royals hat was.  “It always sits right here on this shelf,” she claimed.

After she left, I braved her room to look for her volleyball shorts.  I thought they’d serve well as compression shorts under my hockey pants.  I foolishly looked in the chest of drawers first.  That’s where she keeps the clothes she can give away in a garage sale.  Oh, and a bunch of non-clothing items.  Oh, and that hat.  The one that *always* sits on the shelf.  I eventually found the shorts in the pile on the floor.  They smelled clean, I guess.  So the stuff on the floor is clean?

I don’t know.  And here’s the crazy part.  She’ll return Saturday afternoon and then leave for another camp first thing Sunday morning.  That’s a quick turn-around.  So her dad offered her the chance of a lifetime:

Put all your dirty clothes in our hamper and we’ll get them washed and folded for you.

I mean, what kind of a kid passes up an opportunity like that?!  Shoot!  College kids lug their clothes to their cars and haul them home for that.  All she had to do was walk across the hall.

The only clothing article of hers in our hamper is that pair of volleyball shorts I borrowed.  So now I wonder if I just wash all those clothes in her room or maybe pick through the piles to determine what smells bad or just wait and let her sort it out, risking her proceeding to the next camp smelling like a dumpster.

That last thought is winning the day so far.  I’ve spent enough time folding everyone else’s laundry.  If she can’t at least deliver the clothes to me, maybe I don’t need to hassle with it either.

All Evidence to the Contrary

My children have lost their minds.

Our 13 year old daughter has several chores that earn her right to her cell phone. We’ve gone over what those chores are several times. I’ve walked her through them. Like, literally, stood in the room with her, told her what types of cleaning solutions to use for which chores, whether to use paper towels or a washcloth, how to not forget certain easily missed areas, demonstrated particular cleaning techniques. It has been explained.

So last night, after being told to clean the bathroom, she told her dad that she had done so. He didn’t check her work right then but commented to me later that we needed to (since we have long suspected that she’s not doing her chores or at least not doing them well). So I did this morning.

They had already left for school so I called her.

“Daddy said that you reported cleaning the bathroom last night.”

“Yeeeessss,” she said, as if confused as to why I was bringing it up.

I tried to keep my voice calm and non-confrontational. “Well, you didn’t clean the counter. Or the sinks. Or the faucets. Or the mirror. Or the toilet. Or the floor. Or the bathtub,” I said as I peeked behind the shower curtain and confirmed that the bath toys they’ve been stepping on during their showers were still there. “What exactly have you cleaned?”

I was afraid that my last question had come across too strident and we would now engage in the indignant screaming match where I would be accused of not appreciating anything she does and it’s not her fault if I can’t see all the work she did. Either that or this kind of baffling exchange: you didn’t sweep the floor _ yes I did _ then why is there visible dirt? _ I don’t know because I did sweep _ no, no you didn’t _ YES I DID! _ then you didn’t do a very good job _ I don’t know what you want me to say! I SWEPT THE FLOOR!!

She took a different approach.

“Ohhhhhhh! You mean that kind of cleaning!”

I choose to refer to this response as Selective IQ Deficit: the sudden apparent decrease in a child’s IQ to justify failure to accomplish an assigned task.

She should know that “clean the bathroom” does not mean to put the toothbrushes back in order and line up the cups and soap dishes.

When I told her that she would need to actually clean the bathroom this evening before or after volleyball practice, I finally got the explosion I was expecting.

Only I wasn’t expecting it anymore.

“What?! I’m going to volleyball practice?!”

“Um, yes,” I said, surprised and confused. “It’s Tuesday evening. You always have volleyball practice?”

“But I have UIL!”

After some very confusing back-and-forth, I found out that the school board wanted to recognize some academic award winners. Lots of people miss this. There’s no reason for her to miss volleyball practice for it. But she was enraged that we were going to make her stick to her original commitment. Whatever.

When I got off the phone, I noticed that her 10 year old brother, fully dressed for school, had really greasy hair.

“Did you take a shower this morning?”

“No.”

“Did you take one last night?”

“No.”

“Did you take one yesterday morning?”

“No.”

“Your hair looks nasty. You need to take a shower.”

“I’ll be late to school!”

“I don’t think so. I’ll call Daddy and make sure he agrees but if he agrees…”

I called Daddy. He agreed there was enough time to not be late for school. I hung up and turned to my son.

“Go wash your hair.”

To my surprise, he walked to the bathroom without complaint.

“And do a good job!”

“I will.”

As I put on my shoes, I wondered why the shower wasn’t starting. I had heard a brief turn of the sink faucet. Surely not…

I opened the bathroom door. He was at the sink.

“Um. You’ll need to get in the shower.”

WHAT??!!” Yeah… there’s the reaction I was expecting.

“You cannot wash your hair well at the sink while fully dressed. Get undressed. Get in the shower.”

UGGGH!!! I’m going to be late for school!!”

“As long as you leave in the next twenty minutes, you’ll be fine. Hurry up.”

He glared at me.

I checked on him later. The sides of his hair were not completely wet. He was trying to lather the shampoo while standing under the stream of water. He was only washing the top. I reached in to help him out. He indignantly exclaimed that he knew how to wash his hair.

Ahhhh, son… all evidence to the contrary…

Indeed, all evidence points to the conclusion that my children will never grow into fully functional, productive, responsible adults. I’ve been assured that they will, but times like this… I have serious doubts.