I am being driven slowly insane by a condition known as Having Children. It’s a vicious circle – The kids drive me crazy, which stresses me out and makes me less tolerant of their nonsense, which stresses them out, so they act up more, which stresses me out even more, and so on.
I have been harassing the boy to get room clean once and for all. Every time he cleans it, he ends up sitting there doing nothing until he hears you walk up the hall, then he looks busy. This goes on for hours until those 2-minute bursts of activity result in a room that is “clean” rather than clean. Things in drawers, under the bed, in the closet – whatever it takes to make it look clean. And by the time he’s done, it’s late, I’m tired, we have somewhere to go, I’m stressed – a million reasons to just let it go.
But a couple of weeks ago, I reached my limit – that room was getting cleaned no matter what. He had to go to play in the pit orchestra for the school musical that evening, and he was supposed to have a friend stay over afterward, so I told him he needed to get the room cleaned before he had to leave or his friend wasn’t coming. He started off in his normal, sitting on his ass way, until I made it clear that his friend would not be allowed to come over if he didn’t get it done. Suddenly he kicked it into high gear.
He was working and cleaning and doing what I asked. The girl was even helping him. I gave him garbage bags to get rid of the 600 pounds of paper and crap and broken stuff that he had been shoving in the closet and in drawers and under the bed for the past god knows how long. I was happy to see the first bag come out of there. And the second. And the third. I praised him and said, now doesn’t it feel good to get that done?
He admitted that it did and kept on going. And then another bag came out. And another. And I started to get suspicious. I asked him if he was just throwing stuff away because he didn’t want to clean it. He insisted he wasn’t and that he was only throwing out old, broken stuff and garbage. I was skeptical, but given the amount of stuff I had recently seen under his bed and in his closet – it was possible. Finally, after many hours (and seven bags), he was done. He got ready and we dropped him off at the school.
After I got back, I happened to glance into the last bag he brought out, which he hadn’t tied shut. And my head exploded into a million I-Will-Kill-That-Kid shaped pieces. Right on top, I found a game. A game that had never been opened – that still had the plastic shrinkwrap on the box. And a science kit. And a sculpting book & set. And a set of good (and very much not cheap) artist pastels. And a robot-building kit. None of which had ever even been opened. Some of these things, I tried to donate to Toys for Tots the previous year, since they were still brand new, but he insisted he was going to play with them, so I didn’t.
By now, it was clear that I was going to have to go through every single bag. I understand if he had outgrown something and didn’t want it anymore. But there is no way in hell I was going to let him throw away a bunch of perfectly good stuff that we could donate or sell, or give away to someone who would love to have it. So this week, I spent hours going though those bags. And oh the things I found.
In addition to the previously mentioned items (and lots of broken stuff and garbage), I also found: the remote control car we paid about seven bajillion dollars for him to build, another remote control car, a set of air hogs helicopters, a paintball gun, a sweater, two t-shirts and a hat that he just got for Christmas (that still had TAGS ON THEM!), Several other articles of clothing – some outgrown, but in pristine condition, and some which still fit – including brand names like American Eagle, Gap, and Calvin Klein. Several baseball hats, including two scout hats and a Gap hat with the tags still on it. A favorite pair of MY sandals that have been missing for a couple of years. One of my hiking boots. A pair of his father’s shoes. A couple articles of his sister’s clothing. Approximately 1,000 marbles. His entire keychain collection (which his sister has been eyeing for years). A pair of roller blades. About a dozen books, including a boxed 3-book reference set. A Lion King collectible. A Pirates collectible coin book with several coins. The same with Steelers coins. A Sidney Crosby trading card in a protective case. A huge box of trading cards, including sports, pokemon and yugioh. Three brand new packs of pencils. A brand new pack of pens. A stapler. A calculator. Several scouting/camping items. Two scouting books. Two souvenir baseball bats – one from the final game at Three Rivers. A small piggy bank (with some money in it). A brand new set of markers. A brand new set of colored pencils. An electronic door alarm kit. A Steelers sign. Karate pads. A giant ear of corn hat (a treasure that should never be thrown away). And a whole bunch of other things that have no business in the garbage.
I gathered up all the goods and waited until he got home. Then I watched while he noticed the huge bin of cool stuff and approached it. And then I attacked: “BACK OFF! That is not your stuff!”
“What? This is stuff from my room!”
“No – that is stuff you threw away, so it isn’t your anymore”
“No way! That’s not fair! I didn’t mean to throw that stuff away! Come on, Mom!”
“Forget it, Pal.”
And then I happily gave a bunch of the stuff to his sister while he watched. Sometimes I love being the mean mom.
PS. I know that he didn’t throw this stuff away out of pure ungratefulness – he was in a panic that he wouldn’t get to have his friend stay over so he started throwing stuff out without even looking at it. But it’s still no excuse.