I thought my years in the social work and counseling field had prepared me to handle our teenage sons. But after weeks of asking our two boys to remember to perform difficult tasks, such as flushing the toilet and picking up clothes, I am sad to report I have stooped to the level of tantrum throwing. Worse, I am acting like a little girl, crying and pouting. Even worse, I am acting like my mother.
My mother had twelve children and would lock herself in the bathroom when she was angry. I do not blame her for needing privacy, and this was a very effective technique. She tied up one of the two most valuable rooms in the house. We all would be very apologetic so she would come out and free up the room. This does not work for me, as we have enough bathrooms to go around. I could rot in there for all they would care.
In order to motivate my darling boys, I have tried several sophisticated techniques. First, the guilt route: “Where have I failed you?” Then the shame route. “Were you raised in a cave?” Now I have turned to stamping my feet and begging, “Pleeeze clean up after yourself.” The tantrum.
Looking for guidance, I have thought about the religious route. A little wrath of hellfire and brimstone could go a long way: “You pick up your room or you will rot in Hell.” Actually, they probably think Hell is “cool” or “bad,” meaning “they are down with it” or “up with it.” So instead I could try, “If you don’t flush you will go blind” — an all-time favorite of mine. Actually, I did try the religion thing once. I asked one of my sons, “What would Jesus do?” He replied that Jesus did not have a toilet or many clothes to pick up as he wore only a tunic and sandals.
The boys may not keep house well, but, not like Jesus, they do spend a lot of time on their appearance. Without permission, they pierced their ears and now want to pierce their lips. I tried using reverse psychology and hinted that I would pierce my navel and wear midriff tops. They told me that if I wanted to look like a cheap old woman that was fine with them. I hadn’t even mentioned that I wasn’t sure if I could find my belly button in order to pierce it.
When the boys do try to perform chores we have communication issues of the “Mom, I did not hear you ask that” kind. There is also the selective memory problem: “I do not remember you telling me to do that.” Finally, (especially creative) we have the: “If I really do a bad job she won’t ask me again” ploy. I asked them to take out the garbage before the garbage man came; instead they brought it all out too late and put the overflow into the neighbor’s cans. Now the neighbors are throwing tantrums.
To really understand my plight one needs to see “their bedrooms.” Just thinking about it makes my hair stand on end. We try not to go into our boys’ rooms. I am not sure there isn’t a lost boy in a Twinkie-coma underneath piles of blankets and dirty clothes.
The boys have actually shown their rooms to girls. I thought these young ladies would scare them straight. But, nooooo… “Your room is awesome!” they gush. These girls really know how to impress their boyfriend’s mother. My son and his girlfriend actually wear each other’s clothes. This is not the old “Can I wear your letter sweater?” of yesterday. The couple of today trades skinny jeans, shirts and earrings.
The real problem is that our boys happen to be kind of cute, even when wearing earrings. God made children adorable so their parents would put up with them. When I am at my wit’s end they plop their big arms around me like oversized puppies. They nuzzle up to me and tell me they love me. “I’ll clean my room later, Mom, I promise.” “I know, sweetheart,” I respond, hugging them back. Then they ask me for money.