Trait Fret: Part 2

“I love you more.”
“No, I do, mommy.”
“Nope, it’s settled. I do.”
“Okay, well, maybe,” my 10-year-old mutters as his sleepy eyes close.

“Good night,” I whisper as I turn out the light and turn to exit.


He stirs. “Mom, are you okay?”

“Maybe,” I reply, wincing from my knee-banging stumble over errant, over-priced footwear. A pair of them, actually. I limp from his bedroom, “Go to sleep! Now!”

It’s one thing to see one’s worst characteristics reflected back in living color. But to see the things that piss you off most about your spouse rendered in both children–like stumbling on errant Tretorns, Vans or whatevers while exiting a tender mother-son moment… well, that’s when thoughts of Chardonnay start to swirl in my head.

Why is it such a Herculean effort for everyone in my family to put their things away?

My husband’s law files are meticulous, his desk and dresser drawers more organized than mine. But his shoes and clothes, his dirty dishes—let’s just say my kids don’t get their housekeeping habits from me.  My shoes and clothes are in my closet and my dishes – which I rinse off – are returned to the cupboard or put in the dishwasher, thank you very much.

Why can’t they perform these simple tasks?  Their IQs are all in the triple digits? Is there lead in those trendy shoes in which I’ve indulged them? Do they expect sweatshirts to fly into laundry baskets of their own volition? Our house has closets. I use them, why can’t the rest of my family? The house is also equipped with cupboards that close as well as open.

Is sloppiness now in my family’s DNA? If so, why is a dominant trait? It’s maladaptive – e.g. the icepack on my knee – and just plain rude.

I’m not OCD, but there is a place for everything, and everything should be in that place.  

Why doesn’t everyone in my house understand this? I’ve installed hooks in closets and on bathroom walls so that my husband and children can let their towels and clothes ‘air out’ someplace other than the floor. But no apparently, they can’t make it past the floor, or if I’m lucky, and the gods of housekeeping converge, a chair.

Why can’t my children be more like me in this way? Why can’t they just inherit the best of both parents? Why can’t we pick the traits we pass on?

And that’s just at home. When we travel… well, vacation is synonymous with an even more lax attitude toward tidying up. Yeah, I didn’t think that possible either. But the trail of debris –clothing, shoes, ski boots, towels, unidentifiable nylon objects – in every hotel room makes a trip to the bathroom an adventure on an obstacle course. 

How do I explain to a neurologist that no, it’s not Parkinson’s Disease that caused my fall – but the slobs with whom I live.  Is there no respect for nicely-designed closets, custom cabinetry, hotel rooms– or mothers with Parkinson’s Disease? 

One small trip on a sneaker. One giant tumble toward the downfall of civilization.

When you’re young and in love and planning a family, no one imagines that the bad traits will be reflected back in your kids – and dog, I’ve tripped over her chew toys too – along with the good. Be warned. Prepare to see everything that annoys you about your spouse staring back up at you (or down in the case of my daughter who is now a millimeter taller than I) in living color.

And then pray that you live long enough so that you can see your kids tripping over your grandkids’ detritus. 

A therapist once asked me–during a session with my daughter–not to speak as if I were in a boardroom. But why not? Aren’t I the chair of the family?

Yeah, I’m the chair everyone throws their stuff on.

But why can’t I be the manager working to set progeny on a preferable path. Why can’t I insist they get the best from each parent instead of the mixed bag of traits they appear to have inherited? 

I want my bottle. It’s cocktail hour somewhere, right?

No, it isn’t. At least not here where I belong. It’s just the circle of this family’s life–the one in the middle of the floor that we’ll forever be tripping over–and into the loving arms of the slobs who left their shit there in the first place.

1 thoughts on “Trait Fret: Part 2

  1. ProfRobert says:

    I had this issue with my son and his toys. Nearly every flat surface in the house is covered in toys. The one that was most problematic was the dining room table, because unlike, say, window benches, we actually use the table to eat. So I instituted with Toys Off the Table Rule. At the end of his day, Son was required to remove all toys from the table (absent a specific dispensation). Failure to remove resulted in the toy in question being confined in Toy Jail, where its release would have to purchased for 25 cents (an eighth of his weekly allowance at the time).

    The results have been highly satisfactory. After a few fines, Son got in the habit of clearing off the table before going up to bed. I don’t know if you can impose this on your daughter at her age, but you could still get away with it with your son, I’m pretty sure. It’s all about incentivizing and creating a routine for kids (which they thrive on). Good luck!

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