By Heather Trent Beers
I’m amazed how two empty rubbish bins left by the front porch can transform me from Mother of the Year to a raging inferno in two seconds flat.
One morning, I entered my 15-year-old son’s room. “John” I said. I waited for eye contact.
“Yes, Mum?” His eyes darted between the screen and my face.
“I’m heading out on an errand. Please bring the rubbish bins in before I get home in an hour.”
Now, I’ve learned two things about John. First, I must say his name and make eye contact. Second, I need to make him repeat what I’ve said. Both are helpful in the “But I Didn’t Hear You” battle.
“What will you do?”
“Bring in the rubbish bins.”
“Before you get home.”
“In one hour.”
“Good. See you in an hour.”
I left with a spring in my step. He’s growing into a responsible young man. An hour later when I came home, however, the bins were still at the end of the driveway.
I fumed as I pulled into the porch. “Why do I even bother?” I stomped to the end of the driveway, jerked the bins off the ground and took them to the back-yard.
My blood pressure soared, and my heart thumped wildly.
I knew John needed a consequence for his inaction, but all I could think about were the chores that awaited me, and here I was doing his simple chore on top of it!
Suddenly, I smiled. If I’m doing his chores, he can do mine. The simple brilliance of the plan filled me with hope.
I whispered to myself “Please let this work!”
Upstairs, I stopped by my son’s room. “Hi, Mum!” He flashed a quick smile and continued his game.
“You left the rubbish bins at the driveway, so I brought them in.”
“Oh…I’m sorry,” he said, grimacing. He looked at me, but his fingers continued tapping.
In the past, I would have made a smart remark like “Sorry doesn’t change things.” This time I said, “That’s all right. You can do one of my chores. The laundry needs folding.”
John froze. He knew he’d been had, and it was fair and square.
While he hung shirts and folded socks, I read a few pages of a novel. I thought about what just happened. Bringing in rubbish bins: One minute. Folding laundry: Six minutes. Five extra minutes reading with my feet propped up. I could get used to this.
Two days later, I asked 9-year-old Ann to put her shoes away before lunch. I went through the “Say Her Name and Make Her Repeat My Instructions” deal. She passes with flying colours. Lunch came and went, but the shoes didn’t. So I put them away myself, without saying a word or sighing like a martyr. I was planning my next five-minute escape.
After lunch, I said, “Ann, you didn’t put your shoes away, so I did it.”
“Oh, I’m sorry. Mum,” came the usual reply.
“That’s OK. I need to vacuum the carpet in the living room, so you can do that for me.”
Ann looked as if I’d slapped her. “That’s not fair!” she wailed, eyes wide with shock.
“Well, it’s certainly not fair for me to do my chores and yours. Since I did yours, you can do one of mine.”
Her face fell. She hates vacuuming, so she didn’t do it with the best attitude. But it was done, and I got my five-minute reading date.
Over the next several days, I assembled my to-do list with glee, calculating how many chapters I might finish if all went well. I asked the children to help more, and they did with improved attitudes. I started to feel less like the Lone Ranger and more like Mum.
I was even begging to feel transformed in my thinking from “Help!” to “Let them forget their chores; I just started a new book!”
© 2008 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured. Used by permission.