It's official. I AM the Meanest Mom in the World. I know this because my children told me so. In fact, they're on the campaign trail to make me PRESIDENT of the Meanest Mom Club.
It all started with chores. I am a firm believer in teaching children to work. My belief is that if they're old enough to MAKE the mess, they're old enough to clean up after themselves. As a result, we have chores. All of us. Saturday is chore day at our house; the deep cleaning, once a week kind of chores.
S, who is 8, cleans the two bathrooms; folds her own clothes; cleans her bedroom; and picks up fallen limbs outside. She is learning not only to clean and to clean well, but to not complain. She's pretty good about doing her chores - especially when I suggest that there is a special reward for the first (and I'm included in that "first") to finish their chores.
M - at four - ALSO has four chores. Hers differ from S's in that she vacuums the stairs (the only nailed down carpet in the entire house) and straightens the shoes and boots in the entry way. She ALSO cleans her bedroom and folds her own clothes - on occasion she helps with the limbs and S has the additional chore of helping A split wood (a chore that she DOES complain about). M is NOT motivated by the suggestion of a reward.
I generally take care of the rest of the house: clean and sweep the kitchen; sweep the living room; wash, dry, fold and put away all the laundry NOT for S or M; you name the remaining chores, I'm responsible for them. I'm the MOM. I wouldn't expect any different. (For the record, chores ARE added as children get older and better able to accept responsibility; S will have added chores next weekend.)
The announcement that I was "JUST SO MEAN!" came with such vehemence and force that I HAD to stop and look at the little person making the accusation. She was determined to let me know how she felt, and she was letting. me. have it. So... in the middle of cleaning, I stopped and said, "I am SO sorry to hear that. What makes me so mean?" (In reality, I knew EXACTLY where she was getting her ideas - I'd just spent the last 20 minutes telling this particular young lady that she wouldn't be getting dinner until she finished vacuuming the stairs). It was all I could do to NOT laugh during the following exchange.
M: "You're just so mean because Heavenly Father created us to love, and you're not letting us love! You won't let us eat dinner until we're finished with chores, and that's JUST NOT LETTING US LOVE!"
Me: "You're right. Heavenly Father DID create us to love, and I DO love you. How Heavenly Father created us has NOTHING to do with the fact that you have been asked to vacuum the stairs, and you're not getting dinner until you are finished with your chores. Please go vacuum the stairs.
M: "Do you know why we can't eat?!"
Me: "Because you haven't finished your chores?"
M: "No. We can't eat because you're just so mean. You won't let us eat until we do our chores!"
I thought so.
She just didn't want to vacuum. Our conversation ended with a lot of weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth. M was doing all the weeping and wailing. She retreated to the top of the stairs for continued weeping... Until I told her that I wasn't going to listen to the crying any longer, and her two choices were now to either do her chores without crying, or go to bed. Crying wasn't an option.
Miss M. did her very best to negotiate a different consequence. "Can I help make dinner as one of my chores?" "Nope. Please go vacuum the stairs." "Can I just eat and vacuum later?" "What do YOU think?" Until finally, in defeat, she hung her head and said, "Fine. I'll just go vacuum the stairs."
While it may seem a bit depressing to have a FOUR year old nominate you as Meanest Mom in the World, I'm actually quite proud of the nomination. It means that I'm doing my job. I'm NOT giving in.
Four days ago, S and I had a conversation wherein she placed HER nomination. It was over piano practice and school and me sitting NEXT. TO. HER. while she did her assigned work. I wasn't going to sit there the entire time. Let it be said that if I were able to sit undisturbed and help her the entire time, I would. Unfortunately for S, I am the mother of FOUR children, with the youngest demanding the majority of my time.
The following lecture was an eye opener for her.
"Just because I don't sit and focus my entire world around you and only you, doesn't mean that I don't love you. YOU are important to me. Unfortunately for your EGO (try explaining what an ego is to an 8 year old in words that you understand too...), you are also the oldest of four children who ALL demand my attention. This means that you are expected to do more things on your own and to stretch and grow accordingly. Just as I did for you when you were a baby, and just as I did for M and for L, I HAVE to respond when C starts to cry. It's how she learns that I will do ANYTHING to make sure she's happy. If I had always put your pants on you when you were younger, would you do it for yourself? (The answer was a loud, NO!)
After a few more questions establishing that the reasons I don't do everything for her is so that she can learn and grow - and reminding her that Heavenly Father works the same way... in addition to telling her - again - how much I loved her, piano practice continued. Without me.
All of these things I learned from my OWN Mom - who was ALSO the Meanest Mom in the World. Not only did I have chores, I HAD to eat all my dinner. I HAD to do my homework. I HAD to eat OATMEAL. I HAD to keep curfew. I HAD to learn responsibility. I HAD to get a J.O.B. and I had to do all of that while going to school and taking violin lessons (which I paid for) and being in the Anchorage Youth Symphony and playing volleyball and maintaining my active social life and whatever else was going on in my life at that time.
Consequences, like those I give my own children, were real and stated. Break curfew? Come home 1 hour earlier the next time I went out. I missed curfew once. Not do homework? Fail my classes. (And my parent's weren't afraid that I'd have a poor self esteem if I failed.) Not eat my oatmeal? Eat it cold. Not get a J.O.B.? No driving (can't pay for fuel without money!), no movies or other fun things (again... the money issue.) and no higher education. I am the second oldest of seven. My parents didn't have money! Now that I'm a parent, my children are learning the same things.
I'm in good company in the Meanest Mom in the World club, and I won't withdraw my membership. Not if it means that I raise my children to be good, law abiding, hard working, religious, responsible adults.
The hard thing for my children? ALL of my friends (and consequently my children's friends moms) are also members of the Meanest Mom in the World club.
I'm in good company.