We live on a street where stately old oak trees are the norm. When we bought our house in 1996, we had two such oaks in our front yard. Unfortunately, two storms, one a thunderstorm that took out one tree with a bolt of lightening that sent sprays of pointed shards of our beloved tree around the neighborhood took the first tree. It looked as if a medieval war had been fought.
The next storm a few years later, was an ice storm where one sizable branch sheared off a gutter, missed the house itself, but split the tree down the middle so that a previously nurturing, enormous, protective branch became a looming threat. On a recent walk, admiring the many remaining trees on our street, many of which are younger than our trees, it occurred to me that if we had cut off part of the tree when it was younger, that maybe we could’ve saved our tree.
Ah, hindsight. It’s so darn smart.
Or, is it?
Now that my progeny are, mostly, grown, I find myself doing little accountings of what I did right and what I did wrong. What part of them could I have “cut off” and, therefore, saved the whole? Fortunately, since Harold and I are mostly home by ourselves these days, I only rub my nose in this issue during my little darlings’ visits.
Don’t get me wrong – our children are, in many ways, perfect – kind to others, show up for their respective responsibilities on time, pay their bills, respect their parents, and can really make me laugh. I love who they are – the whole package.
But, little things irk me, probably because my children’s behaviors remind me of what I didn’t accomplish. Trivial, inconsequential dealings, perpetrated by my progeny whom I was sure I had trained correctly, whose behaviors were my duty to mold, drive me insane.
Here are a few of the highlights:
1. The practice of getting the dirty dish from whomever’s hand it was in, into the dishwasher, has not gelled. Thus, a living history of what was eaten on a given day lines the kitchen counters, and too often, the coffee table in the family room – a glass with a smidge of juice, another glass one quarter full of water, a mug with a tea bag hanging out, a knife with crumbs sticking to the butter left on its tip, a plate (yeah, he/she used a plate!!) with a tiny bit of oil and bread crusts, an empty mixing bowl with a few popcorn kernels in the bottom, another bowl that must have held a salad, with the remains of the scrupulously avoided green peppers, and…let’s not forget, the dirty napkin.
2. Eating standing up. When food appears, it’s as if a plane has materialized, carrying rations to a malnourished nation. The natives cannot wait another moment to ingest the cure for their distended stomachs and exposed ribs. Must eat NOW. Saying grace usually happens about one-third of the way through the meal after all food is tasted. Standing while eating is a big Weight Watchers no-no, so I’m surprised they don’t each weigh 2000 pounds and have to be transported from place to place on a cart.
3. Eating cookie dough, out of the bowl as I’m trying to stir the dough – or put it on the cookie sheet, or… a good case of salmonella would have nipped this habit in the bud long ago, but, apparently, the eggs we’re eating now are pretty safe. Darn.
4. Although I’ve managed to get them to take off their shoes as they enter the house, the shoes, one in front of the other, look as if the wearer were vaporized in mid-step, before getting the chance to move his/her footwear out of the way. Of course, anyone walking in or out of the house has to walk around/through the abandoned shoes. My son’s size 12’s are particularly problematic.
5. Not making their beds – I don’t know this for sure, but I’m pretty sure I’m right when I say they don’t make their beds. No, I don’t want to go to their respective homes and look. That would just be too depressing.
So, I’m a big believer in learning from one’s mistakes. Let’s analyze.
- Harold comes home everyday and puts his travel coffee mug on the counter, right on top of the dishwasher. Clearly, his mother – God rest her sweet soul – should take the hit on this one.
- Especially when I’m home alone, I eat standing at the counter – whole meals. I had no idea anyone ever saw me. This proclivity must have been passed on genetically. Nothing I could have done about that.
3. Harold and I both dip into the cookie dough, Harold making a big deal out of its deliciousness with expressions of “Yum!” and “Can’t beat the dough!” etc. I, however, in an attempt to protect my young, sneak my dough and, to others, pretend it’s a disgusting habit. Therefore, it’s Harold’s fault.
4. I’ve been able to trace Harold’s movements throughout the house by the trail of dirt or freshly cut grass that has come off his shoes which trumps anything our kids are doing. His mother, again?
5. I admit to having given up on ensuring their beds were made and their rooms were clean, somewhere around 1999. I plead partial insanity.
Clearly, I am–ahem-innocent of all charges. And, I am not alone.
If you give my friend Lisa enough to drink, she slams a mean poem on her family’s penchant for leaving dirty socks in the middle of the living room showing, once again, that great art speaks to us all.
When Harold was hospitalized a few years ago, I found myself sobbing in the kitchen when I realized his partially-drunk diet Pepsi bottle wasn’t where it usually is – on the counter – proving, without a doubt, that I may not have trained my family, but my family has sure trained me.