When I was a teenager, I used to play the piano, sing, and write songs. I had a plan for my adult life. I was going to go to NYU, major in music composition, and then sell songs to famous artists. I never wanted to be famous, but I did imagine a certain amount of monetary success for my lyrical musings. I loved the hustle and bustle of busy city life. The lights and sounds of New York City intrigued me, and after my trip there to visit, I knew that I wanted in on everything that city had to offer.
Fast forward about 12 years, and here I sit-in my husband’s home office, writing a blog post and drinking lukewarm coffee while my street-rat of a dog snores ridiculously loudly nearby. Every single morning is routine in my house. I wake up to my alarm, listen to a chapter or two from my audio bible app, take the dogs outside, scrub the pool (trying to get rid of a pesky mustard allergy problem, oy ve), heat up yesterday’s coffee, watch a few minutes of the news, and then I park my behind in the school room to prepare the day’s lessons. My boys usually come trudging down the stairs shortly afterward, and within minutes I can smell eggs being scrambled, smoothies blending, and the dogs going absolutely psycho at the pieces of food dripping and dropping all over the kitchen floor. I wanted hustle and bustle. This was sorta like that…kind of.
At a certain point, I open up a school bell app on my phone, plug it into a speaker, and sound the alarm for the start of the school day. The boys know the routine. They have exactly 5 minutes until the next bell. Sometimes, I grab my youngest’s noise-cancelling headphones so I don’t have to hear the raging battle to the top of the stairs. I still don’t understand why they have to race to their bathroom. They each have their own room and their own toothbrush. Why does one kid have to beat the other? It’s so dumb, seriously. Within their 5-minute time limit, their teeth are brushed, hair is combed, and they’re dressed quite snazzy for a couple of homeschool kids. My youngest tends to go for the comic-book hero’s outfit replica, and my oldest tries to mimic Bruno Mars. This doesn’t make any sense either. No one is coming over, and we’re not going anywhere. Why are you dressed like you’re either
a) about to fight an epic battle against Eggman or
b) about to star in a Youtube video asking a girl to the dance?
I have no earthly idea why these kids are looking so fashion-forward(ish) on a daily basis, but whatever. They’re the ones who do their own laundry, so I don’t even care.
After finishing 2 hours of school lessons, the boys head into the kitchen to make lunch. The squabbling between the hounds begins, yet again, and I lean back to swing the classroom door shut. Oftentimes, I stay behind in the room to grade papers, clear the chalkboard, look over assignments, and assess what the kids need more instruction on. It’s during these moments that it occurs to me that my kids are smart as heck! I scribble a big, fat 100% onto my oldest’s fraction sheet, draw a rainbow-colored smiley-face onto my youngest’s adjective challenge, and begin sweeping up the pieces of paper hole-punches and dried up glue residue. Just behind the door, the boys are screaming about something-honestly, I don’t even care what it’s about. I just open the door and head back outside to scrub the pool again.
At this point, the pool deck is burning my feet, but I don’t care. I’m straight-up gangster. I fight the urge to dip my soles into the pool just long enough to make it to the shaded end. My arms burn from the back and forth motion of moving the pole from one end to the other, but whatever. I’m getting ripped, and I think to myself, “See, this is why we don’t go to the gym.” …er…I don’t go to the gym. My self doesn’t have multiple selves, just to clarify. My inside-my-head voice tends to be a bit stupid sometimes. I trot back up the stairs, open the door to silence, and my oldest hugs me while the youngest is holding a sloppy peanut-butter and jelly sandwich up to my face.
“We made your lunch, mom.”
“Yeah, mom. Thanks for working on the pool for us,” my oldest chimes in while squeezing me tightly. These are the moments when I realize that my kids are so dang thoughtful!
I feel kinda bad pointing them toward the chore chart in response to their sweet lunch-making gesture, but those toilets aren’t going to scrub themselves. Of course, the groans and complaints about housework begin again, and I scan the room quickly for my son’s noise-cancelling headphones. I wish I could just press a button and mute the children sometimes. But, then their noise gets quieter as they huff and puff off to clean the bathrooms, vacuum the floors, and sweep the deck. I sound like Mrs. Hannigan, but I don’t mind. My kids are NOT going to take part in this god-awful entitlement generation! Period! If they want privileges, they need to earn them. I’m all about letting kids be kids, but kids don’t need wifi. They need to climb trees and roll down hills. Relaxing the body is for a body that has worked hard. Once their body has done some hard work, I’ll tell them where I hid the Roku remote. Until then, they’ll figure out a way to get the vacuum to the third floor of the house. Gangster, like I said. I don’t even feel bad as I hear Thump. thump. thump.
“You’ve got it buddy! One stair at a time! You’re so strong!” I shout as I carry my basket of laundry out of my bathroom.
“Mom! It’s so hard! I can’t do it!”
“I bet you can! And you’ve got 3 minutes to make it happen or I’m going to do it. You know that if I do the hard work, then only I get the reward of relaxing, so you make the choice,” I shout back up the stairs. Then, again I hear Thump. Thump. Thump, then nothing. Step, step, nothing. I stand and listen to the silence for a few more seconds before I hear the sound of the vacuum vroom-ing across the floor of the bedroom above me. I smile as I mentally high-five myself and continue with my load of laundry. These are the moments that I realize that they will learn how to be problem solvers.
I’ve found that when I tell my children, “Go on and make me proud,” they tend to do just that. They love taking my hand, pulling me to their chore-site for the day, and pointing out all that they accomplished. This is when I toss around every little word of affirmation that I can grab hold of. I love to watch their big, cheesy grins as I tell them how proud I am of them, and eventually, I also tell them where they can find the Roku remote. They have about 2 hours to watch TV, play outside, make origami, draw, or do whatever it is that helps them to relax. Once the time is up, it’s back to them hating my dictatorship once again.
My kids have learned (the hard way) that if the kitchen isn’t clean, I don’t cook. So, at about 4:30, they get to unloading and loading the dishwasher. One of them is usually more interested in helping me make dinner than the other, so most of the time, I have a helper. This doesn’t make quick dinner nights easy, but it does turn them into slow dinner nights. Remember, I’m a Gangster, so I do like to live on the edge. Sometimes, we eat later than planned. I don’t care. It’s my thug-life choice, and I ain’t changing for nobody! (Man, I’m so hardcore, I just can’t stand it!) Every parent knows that Dinner time is basically like your 2-minute warning in football, only it’s more like 2 hours. You’re so close to the finish-line! Just gotta get through showers, the I-want-water’s, the go-back-to-your-room’s, and such. Once 9 o’clock rolls around though, that’s when I know I’ve done it! Finally, mom and dad’s relax time! But wait, I just remembered that I need to go brush the pool one more time…
When I woke up this morning to my wash-rinse-repeat cycle of life, it occurred to me that I once had that New York City music-selling dream. Some people might feel like they’re missing out on their life’s purpose if they don’t live out their childhood dreams. But, I totally don’t feel that way about my life at all-not even in the least bit. I have done so much more for the world in my one day of raising my children than I ever could producing an album or selling a song to Beyonce. When I exhaust myself over the repeated words and phrases through my mom-of-a-life, I know that I’m not just doing it for myself or for them. I’m working for their future wives, their children, and the generations to come. Every day, I have the choice to work hard at creating a legacy of being someone who knows how to both work hard and relax. I am doing something far more incredible with my life than I ever dreamed possible, and I wouldn’t trade my daily routine for a single second of living out my previous hopes.
I still dream about New York from time-to-time, and I still have plans that involve the hustle and bustle of the city life. Yet, this time, I’m researching plane tickets for a family of four, hotels that allow dogs, tours that are sensory friendly, and noise-cancelling headphones that will clip to the belt loops. I want to give my sons those same childhood dream experiences that I had, because dreams are fun. It’s nice to make plans that are so far-fetched that people tell you it’ll never happen. It’s also nice to try to make it happen anyway. And sometimes, it’s nice to fail and just enjoy the detour by making new plans along the unplanned path. I have my own hustle and bustle in my home, and I like it a lot more than most people realize. I’m pretty sure that New York should probably schedule a visit to my house. It’s quite entertaining at times, and people get stabbed with Nerf swords all the time…so there’s also that.