Here’s another of my columns on the Irish Examiner’s Feelgood. Maybe not the best parenting advice but it worked for me. I like to call it rage and revenge.
Last Saturday I woke in a good mood. Not having to leap out of bed for any early morning reason meant I could lie there a little while longer. Some may call this laziness, I prefer to look at it as a mindfulness moment. By the time I got up I was smiling, looking forward to the day ahead.
That smile soon slipped when I caught sight in the full-length mirror nearby, of the apparition who exited from beneath my duvet. What made me think that was a good place to hang a mirror?
Stumbling out of the bedroom the mirror had broken my good mood spell. I shook my head in disgust as I passed almost every towel we possess draped over the banisters, supposedly drying. Some had been there for as long as I can remember as I’ve refused to move them.
Walking down the stairs I sidestepped the large number of items of clothing littering each step. It struck me that I shared a house with children who seem to have adopted the Hansel and Gretel approach to life, signalling the way to their rooms by dropping clothing at intervals along the floor.
Realising my annoyance was peaking a little early I poured myself a cup of tea and tried to rekindle the happy bed thoughts of a few short moments earlier. I remembered reading on a card once, that picking up after children is like shoveling snow in a snowstorm. When I first read it, my children were young and I was innocent enough to think that once they got a little older they’d learn to tidy up after themselves.
So how did that work out for me?
Well, I’m not sure if they’ve reached that age yet, despite at least three of them becoming adult in the eyes of the law.
I’ve tried every parenting technique known to man and woman over the years to foster a tidy streak. As young children, we heaped praise and rewards on them if they did anything at all, with limited success. As they grew up, we were advised they’d do better if offered financial rewards like their friends, for doing chores, so we dumped positive parenting and moved towards parenting which involved roaring and the threatening of all manner of consequences.
This too failed.
Finally, one afternoon, I discovered a new technique, which I now think of as, the two ‘R’s of parenting… rage and revenge. I don’t think it’s politically correct, but I’ll admit it was my favourite and the most successful.
I happened upon this parenting technique quite by accident. My teenage children’s bedrooms were health hazards and demanding or begging them to hang their clothes up and make their beds was having no effect.
“Someday, I’ll tidy your clothes and you’ll never see them again,” was my favourite threat. Finally, one day, as I discovered freshly laundered clothing among a sea of dirty clothes on the floor, I snapped.
I tried deep breaths and counting to ten, twenty, one hundred but it didn’t work and within seconds I was in a magnificent rage.
“I’ll clean it for you,” I roared to myself, opening the bedroom window. Clothes, shoes, books, bags were all hurled out. Unfortunately, I was never the best at throwing and it being a dormer meant some items scattered about the roof. Minutes later as I surveyed the clean floor I felt my blood pressure returning to normal.
Later that afternoon I heard screeching and a roar,
“You’re a psycho, Mum.”
How I smiled.
Did it work?
Like a dream. For a long time after I’d only to say,
“I might tidy your bedroom later if you haven’t time?”
Although, looking at my youngest child’s bedroom floor, I think she was missing that day!