Friday, November 26, 2010
I Ruined Thanksgiving
I ruined Thanksgiving. Not just the holiday itself, but the whole weekend.
It was a quiet one, with only my husband’s mother coming to share a meal with us. It was planned to be as stress-free as possible.
I guess I blew it.
I’d asked the kids to each do one thing to help. I asked Eli to clean the living room--which included digging all his wayward socks out from the corners and underneath the couches and chairs, dusting, and straightening up. I asked Josie to vacuum ‘the kitchen and the living room’. Dinner was planned for noon. I made my first requests at eight a.m.
Eli began his chore shortly thereafter, but he got side-tracked. The TV, the video game, the computer… who knows, really? Josie, immediately upon being asked to vacuum, began with “I HATE vacuuming!” The morning went downhill from there. Each time I passed the living room, I spoke to the kids.
“Eli, have you dusted, yet?”
“Oh! I forgot!”
“Josie, please vacuum.”
“I WILL, Mama. I thought Grandma wasn’t coming until noon!”
Lather, rinse, repeat.
At ten-fifteen, I stuck my head into the living room, where my daughter was laying on the sofa, covered up with a blanket and watching the parades on the television.
“I WILL, Mama! When the commercial comes on!”
Off went the TV. Sulking girl stomped to get the Kenmore. Grumpy mother took the turkey out of the oven. Grrrr…….
She vacuumed, but she stopped exactly short of the door from kitchen to hallway by the stairs. From where I stood at the stove, I could see the cat hair and dust on the floor clearly, and I wasn’t the one pushing the vac to within inches of it. She studiously ignored it (I hadn’t mentioned the hall, after all) and moved to the living room. If that young woman can channel her stubbornness into something positive, she will go very, very far in this life. She will also be terrifying.
Grandma came, and we had a nice visit over turkey, stuffing, squash, and the rest of the trimmings. I cleared the table and began to take care of the left-overs. Steven’s mother asked if she could help with the dishes, and I thanked her but said ‘no’. Steven remarked that the kids could wash the dishes.
This time, HE was studiously ignored.
Even though our bellies were full, the kids didn’t want to wait for dessert, so the chocolate cream, banana cream and pumpkin pies came out. Then the table was cleared once more, and everyone got up from the table.
“Who wants to wash, and who wants to dry?” I asked my teenagers.
“I’ll dry. Josie can wash.”
“I don’t want to wash! I ALWAYS do the dishes!”
“Josie, wash the dishes, please.”
“YOU said that if one of us kids said the OTHER ONE should do a chore, then THEY would have to be the one to do it!” A statement I made ages ago, but obviously held onto as future ammunition by a girl with the memory of an elephant. A selectively cognizant elephant.
This arguing and whining was being conducted in front of my mother-in-law, and I was embarrassed. I couldn’t understand why my children weren’t somewhat shamed, themselves. I also thought perhaps my husband would step in and say something. Usually, when Papa speaks, the kids listen. After all, they always hear me bark. I’m just ‘old hat’, to them. But no. Nothing helpful from that quarter.
“Josie, wash the dishes! Eli, dry!”
I walked from the kitchen and went into the bathroom. I brushed my teeth. I waited a minute, hoping to hear the sound of running water, of dishes clinking. Silence.
I came out. No one was in the kitchen. No dishes were being washed. I walked into the living room, and there were my children, lolling on the couches, with Steven and his mother chatting in the opposite corner of the room. I saw red.
“You kids get out there NOW! You can bet that if Betsy’s or Gail’s kids were here, they’d be doing those dishes without even being asked! Shame on you! Now, get out there!” I pointed towards the kitchen. I knew I’d made a fool of myself in front of Steven’s mother, but what I’d said was 100% correct. Steven’s nieces and nephews are helpful, polite and hard-working young people, and when they come for a holiday meal, they leave the house in better shape than they found it. AND, they make the work look fun!
The dishes got washed. They got dried and put away. One glass got broken. Sullenness reigned. A pall hung over the house. Mum had hollered at her kids. On Thanksgiving. In front of Grandma. Ugh.
I apologized to my mother-in-law, but I had to qualify it. I had to talk about how hard it has been, lately, to get those kids to do anything helpful around the house. All the while, I felt guilty. I should have and could have washed those dishes, and allowed my children a few extra minutes to visit with their grandmother, whom they don’t see very often. Or, I could have waited until she’d left for home before making them do the task. But no. I had to have a minor meltdown. I had to act like a harridan. I’ll say it again: Ugh.
This morning—Friday—I announced that the kids were going to clean their rooms, today.
“How come?” Eli asked. If the question hadn’t been so sad or so aggravating, it would have been laughable. The rooms are pig sties--and have been, for months. But, I gave my reasons, anyway. The holidays were approaching. The rooms were disgusting. And I was going to be kicking both children out of the house next weekend and entertaining friends who will be coming for the benefit comedy show I will be performing in. Their rooms will be needed for guests.
Their eyes widened in horror. Not just a token straightening, then! When I said they had to clean their rooms, I meant… they had to CLEAN them! Top to bottom.
“And,” I looked at my husband, my mind’s eye seeing the detritus left behind after some of his most recent ‘projects’, “YOU get to clean the parlor!”
Yep, I’ve single-handedly managed to ruin Thanksgiving. And then some!
Peace on earth, good will to men. Yadayadayada...