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?”
“Did you take one last night?”
“Did you take one yesterday morning?”
“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!”
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.