(scene opens in moderately clean kitchen)
Beta: (snaps off dish gloves) Done!
Me: (surveys work) Thank you, Beta,for all your hard work and for abiding by the contract.
Beta: What do I get out of it?
Me: You continue to get fed.
Beta: I can feed myself.
Me: With my food.
Beta: Fair enough.
(scene opens in cluttered kitchen)
Me: I need these dishes washed. Each of you needs to do a whole load to clear this counter. Alpha, you go first.
Alpha: Can I finish my jello?
Beta: I’m going to have breakfast too.
(time passes, Beta finishes first)
Me: Beta, you’re up. Fill the basket, nothing halfway. Plates, glasses, silverware.
Beta: (starts to cry) But you said Alpha had to go first!
Me: He’s still finishing his jello.
Beta: But it’s not fair, you said he had to go first, I want to go downstairs to watch TV!
Me: You can watch TV when you’re done.
Beta: (crying intensifies)
Me: I am not spending the rest of the summer doing this. Alpha! Get in here! (Alpha arrives, has jello cup taken from him) Do a load of dishes.
Alpha: (sighs, begins washing)
Me: (gives crazy eyes to Beta) There. Now you can go second. And when Alpha is all finished, put all those dishes away and then wash your load of dishes.
Beta: But that’s not fair, he didn’t have two jobs!
Me: Then maybe next time when I tell you to go first, you go first instead of crying about it! You’re so busy arguing fairness you just screwed yourself. Hope you learned something.
Beta: (sullen pout)
(scene opens in a toy strewn finished attic, heaps of dirty intermixed with still folded clean on the floor)
Me: (still has her cool) Okay boys, welcome to Sunday morning, this room needs to be cleaned. (waves her hand to encompass the room) Please pick all this up; clean clothes hung up, dirty laundry in the basket, books on shelves, legos in bin. Okay?
(insert busy mom montage of washing dishes, feeding Delta breakfast, helping Gamma get dressed, more dish washing, reheating forgotten coffee three times)
Me: (returns to attic, stands in the only perfectly clean space on the floor) Oh my god. Why the hell is this room still a wreck?!
Alpha: You told us to clean this part. (mimics maternal hand wave that perfectly circumscribes the only clean spot on the floor)
Me: (strokes out) Pick up everything on the floor. Every. Thing. On. The. Floor.
(scene opens with some intense negotiations over the lawn mower)
Alpha: (suffering) But mom! It takes all day to mow the lawn! I want to go to Brian’s house!
Me: (swallowing deamons) The reason it takes you all day is because you take one pass across the lawn, stop for ice water and a five minute break to cool down. Start the mower and don’t stop until it’s finished and you’ll be done in 20 min. It’s less than a quarter acre. You could do finish it before I finish the dishes. Besides, Delta loves watching you.
Alpha: (looks over to see baby face peeping through the screen door grinning at him. Sighs. Starts up the mower)
Gamma- I found my wedding ring!
Me (folding laundry) – Oh yeah, who are you married to?
Sera – A nice boy.
Me – What’s his name?
Gamma – Alpha. He’s my brother.
Me – You can’t marry your brother.
Gamma – Can I marry him when he’s all grown up?
Me – No.
Gamma – But he’ll be nice when he’s all grown up. All the nice boys are already all married. I’m out of time!
Me – You can’t marry your brother. You will find a nice boy when you grow up. I promise.
Gamma – You don’t understand! (stomps off)
(For the record, she’s five and last week she decided she was going to marry me because she loved me so much.)
Found myself re-enacting childhood scenarios of making the children quail in table-flipping house cleaning because the mess was a clear indication that we had fallen into barbarism and they were going to grow up living like hoarders thus I had failed them as a parent. All before school. Need to get my Early Childhood Programing in check before I set fire to the bedrooms. If exterior applications of order are meant to quell inner chaos, the problem is within. Coffee first. Then loud music. Then dish washing. The rest will follow.