I told my 12-year-old son tonight that I expect him to respect me.
Specifically, I said, that means not duh-ragging his heels on finishing his chores.
He responded emphatically that he was not dragging his heels and also, oh my GOSH, Mom!
I mentioned that taking 22 hours to unload the dishwasher is, too, dragging his heels and that the eye-rolling, body-flopping, voice-harumphing, martyr-sounding drama accompanying the heel-dragging only proves I’m right.
TWENTY-TWO HOURS, Ian. You started unloading the dishwasher TWENTY-TWO HOURS AGO.
Then Ian totally caved and said I had a good point which is such a good point. And he walked quickly away from my crazy eyes to unload the dishwasher.
He came back 1.67 minutes later.
“Ian. Seriously, dude.” I felt that was all the admonishment I needed to deliver, what with my crazy eyes and their dedication to making my point for me.
“But Mom! I want to trade for Skittles.”
“What?” I didn’t ask nicely.
“I want to trade my Skittles.”
“Let me get this straight, kid. You want to give me your Skittles as a trade for emptying the dishwasher? A job you haven’t done for the past TWENTY-TWO HOURS? You think I’ll trade you Skittles for that?”
My eyes were applying for the first available bed at the psych ward. They were a danger to themselves and others.
And also… TWENTY-TWO HOURS.
“NO, Mom,” Ian hurried to reply. He often has a hard time getting his words to come out clearly, so I try – I try – to give him the benefit of the doubt. And I try to slow down and listen even though slowing down is not always this mama’s best thing and even though OH MY WORD, TWENTY-TWO HOURS.
I took a deep breath.
Deep breaths, I’ve found, are good things to take.
“Ian, I need some more information. You want to trade me Skittles. But not for the dishwasher job?”
“Right, Mom,” Ian said earnestly. Smart boy. “You’re right. I want to trade my Skittles.”
“Oookkaaay. So, you want to trade your Skittles for…”
“I want to trade my Skittles for respect, Mom.”
He wanted to trade his Skittles for…
Oh, crap. My kid just wanted what we all want. A little respect.
I’m not gonna lie. My heart fell in a big, fat lump onto my dirty floor. It landed next to my patience, which I’d crumpled up and discarded many minutes earlier. And then my desire to be a good mom stomped on my heart a few times, just so, you know, it got the point. Because somewhere along the way, I thought, my baby got the idea that I don’t respect him (maybe it was the way I said TWENTY TWO HOURS?).
“Oh, Ian, honey,” I replied. “You don’t have to give me your Skittles to have my respect. I love you. I value you. I respect you every day. It’s my job to teach you to be diligent and hard-working. That’s why we have things like chores and why I have to make sure you do them…”
I went on like that for another self-deploring 4 minutes or so until Ian interrupted. Which was terribly unfortunate because I was on a roll. Eloquent. Passionate. Loving. Self-deprecating.
“What is it, baby boy?”
“That’s not it.”
“What? Oh. … … … … … … … Hm. … … … Well, if you’re not trading your Skittles for your dishwasher job or for my respect, what are you trading them for?”
“Mom, listen. I give you my Skittles. Skittles are SO GOOD. Yum, Mom! SO DELICIOUS.” Ian followed with convincing slurping sounds and then he said, “WAY better than respect, Mom. I give you Skittles. Then you don’t need respect.”
“Wait.” The lightbulb in my brain flashed on. “Ian, are you trying to give me your Skittles in place of giving me your respect?“
“Yes, Mom! You get it! Good job!”
Pardon me for just one tiny minute while I go powder my…
… OK – I’m back.
You guys, it was my minute to win it.
The crowd was wild, hollering suggestions. “TAKE THE OFFER!” and “No, no, NO! Go for it ALL!”
My heart beat like a mama hopped up on too much caffeine and not enough sleep. And the battle raged within me.
Because Ian was making me a killer offer. I mean, Skittles are a sure thing, and I think we can agree that going for respect is much, much more risky.
I was tempted. Very tempted.
But in the end, I pulled Ian close in a one-armed side hug. I told him it was a nice try. Really. A very nice try. And then I gently and quietly explained that he better scooch his hiney back to that dishwasher faster than I could say TWENTY-TWO HOURS, and I have a few more jobs lined up post-dishwasher because he clearly needs more practice finishing chores on time.
I hope you’re worth it.