That’s the question that was on my mind last night after not one, but TWO strange phenomena happened in my home.
Incident #1: The first strange occurrence happened after picking up Boy #2 from school. It was all going according to routine. I idled in the parent pick-up line while waiting for the teachers to release the children. I did what I normally do while waiting:
read War and Peace, meticulously color-coordinated my to-do list for the evening, got caught up on the latest world news on the radio played Scramble 2 on my iPhone. Finally I saw a boy with mussed up brown hair, a fleece Lands’ End pullover that I had snagged from Goodwill, and a sheepish grin heading my way. He opened the side door to the van, pushed the crumpled papers and empty McDonald’s cup out of the way so they didn’t blow out and litter the schoolyard, and climbed inside. “How was your day?” I asked as he proudly held up his library book on Annie Oakley and informed me we had to do the homework that we had forgotten about over the weekend. (Whoops!) Then I waited for what usually came next: a request to either play with his friends or play the computer when we got home. But instead, words that my ears have scarcely heard passed his lips:
“When I get home, the first thing I’m going to do is clean my room.”
Seriously, a boy shouldn’t startle his mother like that while she’s behind the wheel. It’s lucky I didn’t drive off the road!
I had “helped him” (meaning I did 99.9% of it while he “entertained Boy #3”) clean his room over the weekend, and I had threatened him with bodily harm (or worse—no video games!) if he did not keep it clean this time. Apparently, he took me seriously. I guess the 3,328th time’s the charm.
After gaining my composure and repositioning my van on the correct side of the road, I tried to sound nonchalant when I said, “Oh?”
Then he went on: “Yep. I don’t want to clean my room at night, but every day when I get home from school the first thing I’m going to do is go up and pick everything up.”
And you know what? He did.
So I was feeling pretty good about myself and composing chapters of my “Ask the Expert” parenting guide in my head already, when the second incident nearly knocked me off my feet.
Incident #2: After Boy #1 got off the bus, he stayed home with Boy #2 while I ran to Target to pick up
prime rib, potatoes, and asparagus frozen pizza and Weight Watchers ice cream sandwiches for supper and then picked up Boy #3 from daycare. I returned home, carried in everything, dumped my bags on the floor, and headed for the bathroom. I’ll spare you the details of what I did in there, but while I was in there, I yelled at Boy #1 to make sure the Dog didn’t rifle through the sacks before I had a chance to put the food away. Boy #1 was playing XBOX, so I expected what normally happens to go down: I’d have to repeat myself three times before he begrudgingly got up with a sigh and did what I asked. Meanwhile, the Dog would have already claimed a package of hamburger buns and have chewed up half an apple.
So when I emerged from the bathroom, you can imagine my surprise when I saw that the bags were empty, the dog looked miffed, and all the groceries were put away. And I DIDN’T HAVE TO EVEN ASK.
Do you understand how HUGE that is? I mean, that NEVER happens. EVER.
After picking myself off the floor, I frantically searched my brain for parenting tips for what to do when your kids are good (I rarely need to retrieve this information), and I poured on the praise. Did it make a difference? Did it reinforce his good behavior enough to ensure that he’ll do it again? Who knows. But for now I have these two pieces of evidence that some of my yelling, nagging, lecturing, grounding, pleading, and guilting actually gets through to them—these smart, stubborn, sassy boys of mine.
But two in one day?
I know. I really should’ve bought a lottery ticket last night.
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