Joanne Palmer: Setting the clock to Mom time
November 10, 2010
The stinky, salty smell of my son's dirty laundry greets me as I open the front door.
"Well, I guess that answers the 'did he clean his room' question," I mumble to myself.
Yep, there in the hallway sits an aromatic heap of hoodies, socks and sweatpants all emitting the distinctive l'eau du Peter smell.
Nothing strikes temporary paralysis in a teenager's body quite like the edict, "clean your room." No matter how many times I utter that phrase, my son reinterprets it to mean: "Do nothing. Absolutely. Nothing."
And so the negotiating begins. I threaten not to drive him to school, take away his PlayStation and cut him out of my will. Moving as if 100-pound blocks of cement are tied to each ankle, he drags himself into his bedroom and with a great sigh picks one T-shirt off the floor. The exertion of lifting this feather light T-shirt causes him to collapse onto the bed.
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"Done!" he trumpets confidently.
"No way!" I reply. "I am going to get a Jack Russell terrier and train it to clean your room. I just watched a YouTube video that shows a Jack Russell unloading the dishwasher and the clothes dryer. I think house-breaking a puppy and training it to do chores would be easier than motivating a 13-year-old."
The conversation goes back and forth like this:
Peter: First, I'm easy to motivate, I just need a promised reward. Second, Jack Russells are really annoying. Third, you can't believe everything you see on YouTube.
Me: Chores are what children are meant to do. It's stated clearly in paragraph one of the "Parents Constitutional Rights Manual." I can't wait for you to have a driver's license so I can send you to the grocery store. Besides, chores and room cleaning are part of being a family. Everyone has to chip in and do their part.
Peter: First, children are meant to help, but unfortunately I'm a teenager. Parents don't have the right to be master of everything. When I get my license I will not be your personal assistant. And don't give me this team thing — all parents use that. Plus, you did not ask me nicely; you harassed me into doing it, which I did!
Me: Throwing dirty clothes into the hallway is not cleaning your room. Did you make your bed? No. Did you put the dirty clothes into the washing machine? No. Did you use a little elbow grease and a sponge in your bathroom? No. No. No.
I have come to the conclusion that in our house there are two distinct time zones: mom time and teenager time. Mom time means work requests are responded to right away and generally completed within a 24-hour period. In teenager time, fun, allowance and going to the store for the new "Call of Duty: Black Ops" video game must happen pronto. Immediately. Post haste. School, chores and anything that hints of responsibility and work gets put into a "when-I-feel-like-it-which-will-be-never-so-don't-hold-your-breath" time zone.
Peter: OK, finally something interesting: "Call of Duty: Black Ops." I want this game and I did my duty so don't give me these shenanigans. It comes out this week and I want it. I worked for it and I'm going to get it.
Ah, the black-and-white world of teenagers. All of this immediate gratification and sense of entitlement. Whatever happened to doing something just to be nice, without being asked, without a reward? I guess that only happens in movies. I guess I will have to invent a self-cleaning room for teenagers.
Or get a Jack Russell puppy.
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