One of my surly pre-teen daughters and I had a bit of a “come to Jesus” meeting this weekend. Or as my father would put it, “an eyeball gathering.” I had made a list of chores that needed to be done, and then my daughters and I took turns choosing items to do from the list. We each ended up with three items ranging from taking the trash out to folding the laundry to doing the dishes.
To try to keep the kids from getting overwhelmed, I broke garbage detail into two steps – taking all the trash from the house out to the big green can was one step, and then taking the can out to the curb was the other. I did the same on laundry, only I broke it into even more steps (take the dirty laundry to the laundry room was one, sorting it was two, move things from the washer to the dryer, etc., was three, and four was haul it back upstairs, and finally, five was fold it/put it away). I thought I would be more likely to get voluntary compliance if each chore was divided into manageable pieces – rather like eating the elephant one bite at a time.
One child – who shall remain nameless in order to protect the guilty, in case she ever reads this – selected “moving things between the washer and dryer” as one of her chores. However, silly me! I forgot to add “load the washer” on the chore list, and this delightful (is the sarcasm coming through?) youngster was quick to point out my error. I tried to explain that you can hardly move clothes out of the washer, over to the dryer, if you don’t put anything in the washer first, can you? I apologized for not putting it on the list, but honestly – did I really have to? If I have to do that, then why don’t I just go ahead and put “put detergent in washer” and “push start button” on the list, too?!?
We were going back and forth like that and I was getting more and more frustrated (funny how kids can do that to you!). I finally just explained that there are certain universal rules that apply to every group, whether you are talking about a pack of wolves, a colony of bees, a company, or a family unit.
Rule 1 is that all members of the group have to pull their share of the load for the betterment of the group as a whole. Not all wolves hunt, but the ones who don’t, help care for the young, or keep watch over the pack. All bees collect pollen for the use of the whole hive, and any who don’t, are caring for the colony’s larvae and the hive itself. Employees work to make a profit for their company, so that it can stay in business and will be able to keep paying them, so that they can pay for their homes, groceries, etc., and so on.
Rule 2 is that there is always a leader, whether it’s the alpha wolf, the queen bee, the boss, or the parent. And Rule 3, if you don’t pull your fair share of the weight, the entire group suffers and you are punished as a result. The wolves don’t eat, the drones are driven from the hive, poor-performing employees are fired, kids get grounded or put on restriction or parents get reported to DCFS, etc., etc. It’s just the way the world works, and there is no escaping it.
I was feeling kind of proud of myself for explaining things so logically, and tying household chores into life lessons that would, hopefully, serve my girl for the rest of her life. I was quickly deflated, however, when she said, “Yes, but why do I have to do it? Why me?”
Which brings me to my real point: why me? Why any of us? There are a lot of mysteries in life that I have not resolved, and a lot of questions for which I have no answers. But this question of “why me” is one I actually think I might have figured out. The answer is: why not me? Everybody has something. If you ever meet anyone who looks like they don’t, it’s just because you haven’t figured out what their “something” is yet. Because trust me – everybody has something.
So when I feel myself succumbing to a bit of a Pity Party and I start thinking, “Why do I have to have a kid with autism?” or “Why do I have to get a divorce?” or “Why did my sewer have to back up and flood the basement?” or even “Why do I have to weigh 35 lbs. more than I want to?” I just remind myself, “Why not me?” What makes me so special that I should be exempt from any problem in particular, or from problems in general? There is always someone else who has it worse, so shouldn’t I be willing to shoulder my share of the load -- out of gratitude that I am not that someone having it worse, if nothing else? Shouldn’t we all be willing to step up when it’s our turn?
My explanation for “why her” didn’t convince my Little Miss that she should just put the laundry in the washing machine and start it, unfortunately. There was w – a – y more drama after that (heavy sigh!). It was just another day in my house, that's all. Why not? ;)
Martin Luther King Day
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