Then I watched one of my children make a sandwich for lunch and leave the peanut butter, knife, and sticky honey mess out on the kitchen countertop. I glanced around and another child's shoes were sitting on the kitchen countertop (yes, really). Two more pairs of the same child's shoes were in the entryway. The upstairs bathroom was a mess of toothpaste, brushes, and various hair accessories.
I'm not quite sure what came over me, but it was one of those moments where the need to take control won out over giving up entirely...letting ourselves be swallowed up in piles of clutter and sticky kitchen messes.
I made an announcement: Everyone has to clean up their trail before they go to school. When you leave, I will collect all trail items that aren't picked up and put them in a bin and you have to do jobs to get them back.
At our house, "trail" is a regular part of daily jobs. If I can tell where you've been in the house, that means you left a trail...socks, food, not flushing the toilet (yes, that happens also). But for some reason, not being able to keep up on the mess of dishes gave everyone permission to ignore the trail rule.
A few minutes later, I walked through the house and all personal items were picked up but there were still trails of messes...the lotion in the living room, the sticky mess on the countertop, the scissors and glue on the coffee table. I realized that no one cared if I took those items away so I amended my announcement: And there will be jobs assigned for non-personal trail items that can't go in a bin.
I am not kidding when I say the house was clean when we all walked out the door by 8:00 a.m. (with the exception of the dishes which were done after the dishwasher repair man came today).
Clean dishes. Clean house. All is right with the world.
My lesson for the day: Why didn't I do that sooner?
Which leads to my confession of the day: I'm a therapist and I still struggle with mom boundaries.
My excuses for becoming an enabler to my children this week are many:
- They're busy. (Memo to self: So am I.)
- They're tired. (Memo to self: So am I.)
- Gabby is sick. (That one was legit...she even had a fever)
- The dishwasher was broken. (I know how ridiculous that will sound to my mother who raised me without a dishwasher so I would know know to do dishes.)
- Tim is out of town. (i.e. I'm busy.)
And the list goes on and on. Seriously, as a therapist you'd think I'd have mastered this by now. Maybe I should have titled this post: How Not To Be An Enabling Parent 101. And the subtitle would be: You know you're an enabling parent if you're burned out, tired, and exhausted.
While it might be a fact of life that it's a true human condition to find ourselves in enabling roles as parents, it sure felt good to reclaim my house and my life today.
Note to kids: Mom is back. (Hello! Three of you are taller than I am. Did you really think this could last forever?)
(And since the dishes are done, all is right with the world again.)