Don’t Mind Me

March 19, 2021 at 2:00 pm 5 comments

I walk into the kitchen and see the remnants of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. The bag of bread is left open with a slice or two tipped out onto the counter. The jelly jar is open and has the peanut butter and jelly-fied knife resting across the top. A few bits of jelly run down the side of the jar and dot the counter top, even the floor. Though the lid to the peanut butter jar is on I know not to lift it by the lid because that lid is not actually secured to the jar. If I grab it the jar will fall and that’s a lesson a parent needs to learn only once.

These are the signs of children who do not listen to me. So it is time, once again, to go petition one of my heedless offspring to do the task of cleaning up after themselves. I have been doing this for a few years now. I know where to go next. I tell my son not to eat in his room. Therefor, I know exactly where he is.

Asking For This But Getting That

Every day I can point to at least three or four different places in my house where objects belonging to my kids have sat for many days, despite the number of times I have asked they put them away. I have worked on phrasing so I am as clear and rational as possible with my request, leaving little room for misinterpretation. Yet what I ask for and what they end up actually doing are rarely the same. It’s a constantly shifting Venn diagram of “What I Ask For” and “What My Kids Will Do This Time”. For examples, “please put these clothes away” can result in a kid sliding those clothes into a pile and moving them closer to their destination, or picking up some amount of them and throwing them into another room. “Please clean your room” often gets interpreted as “please shove everything under your bed or into the closet”. Sometimes they get it right and the sports toy actually ends up in the sports toy closet. Other times a dinner dish, and the large pile of uneaten dinner it holds, gets dumped into the sink full of soapy water.

Not to put too fine of a point on it, but those kids* have been living in our house for their entire lives and they still don’t understand the difference between the garbage can and the recycle bin, despite one of those containers having a big blue sticker with the word “Recycling” on it.

Brain Barriers

I understand there are obstacles between my requests and those kids’ young and still-developing brains. Their concept of time is… well, they don’t have one yet. “Please be ready to leave the house at 6:00” for them means “I am going to begin thinking about getting ready to ask Dad where everything I need is so we can leave some time later”.

Good luck if there is a screen involved. Too often when I issue a command to clean this up, or get ready to leave the house, and the kid is staring at a screen? I get the inattentive reply of “okay” while they continue to stare at the screen. A couple more rounds of “request/okay” and eventually I do something that shuts down that screen. Suddenly the kid wakes up like they just realized someone is speaking to them. What adds even more spiciness is when they get angry that I’ve interrupted them.

Maybe they are just trying to push the boundaries because they know they can. This is likely the answer because I know my kids** are smarter than they pretend to be when it comes to simple cleaning chores. Putting me off as long as they can has become their game, as if they have a “Snooze Dad” button and press it as often as possible.

Sidewalk Talk

I’m hoping, like many parents do, that the light will go on for my kids and they will have this magical moment. Their young little minds will finally make the connection between that pile of clothes that I washed, neatly folded, and set on their bed that they let fall into a heap on the dirty bedroom floor, and Dad’s stern, red face and pulsing vein in his forehead.

Having said all of this, consider a bright, Sunday afternoon a few weeks ago: as we are walking home from our grocery shopping trip I once again asked my kids to move to the right of the sidewalk to avoid a potential collision with an approaching cyclist. This is when my son piped up with “Dad why are you constantly telling us what to do? You keep telling us to stay to the right, which way to turn, to brush our teeth, to pick up our things, to clean our rooms. You tell us these things like 22 times a day!”

Looking back, I sometime marvel at the discipline it took to take a deep breath in that moment and calmly ask a question. “So, did you clean your room?”

He seemed irritated. “No.”

I said nothing, just waited. Would this be the moment one of my kids finally figures it out? Would this be the moment when they understand how much better our lives would be if they simply did what was requested of them the first time rather than the fifth or sixth or twenty-second time? It felt like I was staring at my lottery ticket and so far I had hit five of the six numbers. We turned down our street and eventually my son spoke.

“Do you want to play Rocket League when we get back?”

“Sure,” I replied. “Stay to the left of the street because there’s a car coming.” And we continued walking home.


*When you are in the middle of a solid parenting rant, you sometimes temporarily disavow ownership of your kids.

**See? They’re my kids again.

Entry filed under: Being Dad. Tags: , , , , , , .

What My Daughter Can See Growing Up to 12

5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Peggy  |  March 19, 2021 at 4:29 pm

    I feel your pain. They do grow up and become responsible. Eventually. Lol

    • 2. Hop Dad  |  March 19, 2021 at 5:09 pm

      I assume that happens AFTER they leave the nest?

  • 3. Jo  |  March 19, 2021 at 9:55 pm

    I concur with the Pegster. It does hsppen!!! Hang in there….the reward in the end its worth every nagging minute!!

  • 4. A Friend  |  March 20, 2021 at 9:01 am

    Speaking of disowning kids, I have found that calling them “your kids” when addressing Mom is a very bad strategy. See, I’m a Dad, not a kid. I can be taught.
    Responsibility, like most things is gained gradually. Some responsibility cones before they leave the nest, much is gained after, and some disappears again the moment they re-enter your house. It’s just how things are.

    • 5. Hop Dad  |  March 20, 2021 at 1:21 pm

      Ha! I will certainly remember that. Thank you for reading and for your wisdom!


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