Sometimes you come to a point in your life as a parent when two of your deeply held principles go head-to-head and one has to lose.
You will probably always question your decision, but no one said parenting is for the faint of heart.
Last Saturday was an anomaly, a day where the forecast rain and storms held off until evening, leaving Middle Tennessee with a warm, partly cloudy February day. Leading up to the weekend, I believed the weather forecasters’ predictions of storms and rain all day Saturday. I made our family plans accordingly.
Generally, our family calendar gets very full beginning in March, and this year is no exception. Softball begins for my girls this week, and with two kids on different teams, it requires advanced logistical training to coordinate our family’s schedules. Add to that an increased number of planned weekend trips for myself, and we’re talking hiring an air traffic controller just to get us through the season.
In advance of this craziness, I like to plan a chore day for the family.
I know, funnest mom ever, right?
So last Saturday was to be that day. We had no obligations whatsoever, which is a miracle in itself. Since it was supposed to rain, we would all stay in the whole day doing deep cleaning and neglected maintenance before we abandon our home and live at a ball park.
While I drank my coffee Saturday morning, I made the chore list.
I’m talking horrible stuff like cleaning the air filter cover and the bottom drawer of the garage fridge. There were at least 17 loads of laundry once I removed all the curtains, couch cushion covers and pillow shams. We were going to organize the craft supplies before they turned into a paper machè avalanche and scrub the floors on our hands and knees.
This is the first of my deeply held parenting principles: ruining my kids’ weekends by forcing them to do hours of horrible chores, and do them right. I anticipated the sweet refrain of whining and complaining, which would confirm all my suspicions that I am still in the running for that coveted “Meanest Mom in the World” title that I so hope to win.
I announced the countdown early.
“When I finish my coffee, the TV turns off and we get to work,” I said.
We were really in a groove around 10 a.m. Their bedrooms were organized and they were working together to fold the first six loads of laundry. Their hopes of having any fun were crushed and I was delighted to be making great progress toward not living in a complete pigsty.
And then the melodious sound of my children’s complaints was drowned out by the giggles of all 142 of our neighbor friends riding bikes and playing in the street. I looked out the window and saw the beautiful weather and all the neighborhood kids enjoying it together.
And there was the conflict. Parenting principle number two is the obligation to shoo your kids out of the house on a beautiful day and expect not to see them until the street lights come on. They should return home around supper time, sticky with sweat and dirt, possibly with a skinned elbow, asking for Kraft mac and cheese and some juice.
While they’re gone, they’re community property. The five moms who live within our kids’ boundaries each stick their heads out every once in a while and listen for crying. Otherwise, they’re out there, Lord of the Flies-style, duking it out for authority.
I was beside myself deciding which old-school parenting principle should win out on such a day. Both chores and running around outside with neighbors obviously help them grow and learn, but which was the right choice?
I eventually settled on making them finish the laundry and pick up a few more toys before I told them to get out of here.
I got a lot done without having to micromanage three complaining children, and they stayed out with the neighbors for six hours, only coming in for snacks. I don’t even want to know what they did about bathroom breaks. It’s probably better to just let that go.
My choice probably hurt my “World’s Meanest Mom” chances, but I feel good about finding ways to make it up with my mean mom game. Somebody’s gotta pick up all the dog poop in the yard …
Overheard at the Salon: Does anyone know how to hack an Instagram account? Asking for a friend.