Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A little prison time never hurt anyone.

We have a carpeted, bright and cheery finished basement playroom area that I used to think of as a very nice part of our home.

Until I went down there yesterday.

Our house is only a year old, but this room is aging quickly. Mess is not even a word I would use to describe it.

How about squalor? Is that helping you picture this basement? I would have taken a picture, but even I have my limits on how much I would like to humiliate myself in a public forum. Moldy apple cores. Empty yogurt wrappers. Dirty underwear. Toys covering every square inch of floor space. Chocolate and blue yogurt stains on the carpet.

Ugh.

Double ugh.

The kids love their playroom, so I try not to suck the joy out of life and be OCD or anal-retentive about cleaning it.

As if I have the energy to be OCD.

We just ask that they tidy up their playroom at least once a week so that we can restore a little order to our home. I also have another strict rule for the basement playroom area: absolutely NO food of any kind down there, unless Bill or I have okayed it.

Sound mean? Too bad. I must have this rule, or they would be bringing sippy cups and plates and yogurt wrappers, and goodness knows what else to the basement, and it would sit there and get lost among the wreckage of the toys. And I am not interested in living with mice. Or bugs. Or the constant smell of rancidness assaulting my nostrils.

My kids have consistently ignored this rule, and usually I just make them clean up the food wrappers.

What is that they say about the definition of crazy? Something about doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result?

Well then call me cri-za-zy because my previous tactics aren't working. The basement is still a mess, and they're still bringing food down there.

So I cracked.

It was bound to happen. Bill and I were helping the boys clean the basement playroom, and I found one of their socks wedged between two couch cushions. Annoyed that they love to take their socks off and shove them in random places, but thinking it wasn't such a big deal, I pulled it out. As I did, a moldy, nasty, ancient strawberry fell out. It was so fuzzy that I thought it was a small mouse. I screamed and dropped it.

“THIS BASEMENT IS DISGUSTING!!!” I yelled.

Then I yelled something about respecting our house and keeping our house clean, but I’m positive that the only thing the boys heard was, “Blah blah blah blabbity blah blah…”

Sometimes in these moments when I’m so mad I can barely speak, I issue these punishments like, “You’re grounded for a week!” Then I find myself immediately regretting it.

Bill shot me a look that said, “Don’t go writing checks your ass can’t cash, lady.”

As I stood there fuming, I took a few deep breaths, and knew that whatever punishment I issued had to be a doozy and had to be memorable if I wanted to get my point across.

So I said, “You are all officially grounded to this basement until it’s clean. And clean means my idea of clean. No shoving crap in cupboards and thinking I won’t notice. No TV, no Wii, no playing outside. Nothing. You will live in this basement until it’s done.”

To which Charlie and Henry responded, “Good. We like it down here. Who cares?”

I said, “Fine. I’m glad you like it down here. Because you’re living down here until it’s done.”

“Good,” Charlie snottily chirped.

“Fine,” I chirped back.

“Good.”

“Fine.”

It went on a few more times until Bill shot me a look that said, “Who’s the adult here, Clare? End it.”

(It’s a good thing Bill and I have a language all our own that doesn’t require speaking. It involves a series of complex looks.)

Oh crap. What did I do? Who’s being punished? It’s sunny and in the 80s and perfect weather to go swimming this week, and I’m stuck in the house with whiny kids who are perfectly happy living in squalor, and have no intention of cleaning the basement?

They were fine for about 2 hours this morning, and kept assuring me, “We don’t care that we can't have TV or outside! We can live without it! We’ll just play down here!”

It was like a game of poker. They were trying to call my bluff, and I had to give them credit. They were trying hard to see if I would cave.

Little did they know that I could wait this thing out for days if necessary.

Mama ain't no chump.

Lucky for me, there was soon dissent in the ranks, and they decided that the idea of being stuck in the basement for all eternity probably wouldn’t be that much fun. When I looked down the stairs, I saw my guys cleaning. Of course they had to argue about who was actually doing the most cleaning, and a few punches were thrown.

Prison messes with your head.

I dangled a carrot in front of them and said they could turn on some music while they were cleaning. After several hours, the whole job was done, and now they “promise, promise, promise” me that there will be no more eating in the basement playroom.

Yeah right. We’ll see how long that lasts.

After all, they might have learned some of this messiness from me.

I mean, have you seen the inside of my purse?

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