Me First, Then You

In college, I saw a band which had a white dude frontman featuring an Afro. He was hilarious and it was worth every penny spent to see them perform. One of his songs included a crowd sing-a-long on the album – so of course, this had to be done live. Except he assumed no one had even heard the song and made them repeat after him. Each time, he would say, “Me first, then you” about 8 times, just in case things were unclear. They weren’t. We all sounded “brilliant. Just fabulous. Really quite professional,” he said. “But just too quiet so let’s do that again. Me first, then you. Got that? Me first, then you.” And so on and so on. It was a great show.

Why is this important?

Well, for eleven years I have been trying to get my kids to put their clothes in the hamper. Yesterday, I walked into my bathroom and saw all of my clothes on the floor, because I did not have a hamper. Suddenly, it occurred to me that I had bought hampers for the girls last week, which were once again sitting empty while their clothes littered various rooms in the house.  Fuming, I began piling my clothes into the tub, no joke, so that I could clean the floor.

“This is ridiculous.” I grumbled. “I don’t even have a hamper and they do! But they don’t even use it. So unfair! Next time I’m buying myself a hamper first!”

Me first, damn it!

Que epiphany music.

Me first, then you.

They can’t learn the song if I don’t sing it first. Metaphorically speaking that is.

I ran up to Big Lots and purchased myself a $4 hamper of my choice. My bathroom has been pristine since.

And the girls’ bathroom?

Still a dump.

But I’m a lot less upset about that since my bathroom is clean.

Me first, then you.

On a Larger Scale

This had me thinking a great deal about my eleven years of parenting and feeling exceptionally guilty.

For years, I had my bedroom and bathroom under quarantine from my children. I reasoned this was simply because they were MINE. Yet, as I looked closer, I realized they were sectioned off almost entirely because I was ashamed, concerned for their safety (Hello, manicure scissors! I’m looking at you!) and because I didn’t want them to come in there when dad and I were doing the business.

The trouble with all of that is that they only saw things from a distance AND I stopped maintaining those spaces. Literally, I have spent 10 years of my life in a bedroom that resembles a storage facility more than an oasis.

And this is only the physical representation.

What other areas of my life had I stuffed away from my children, because they were embarrassing, unsafe or not age-appropriate?

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m a firm believer in not sharing your sexual escapades from college and tales of your father’s abuse with three-year-olds.

I’m also a fan of sharing with your children in simplified terms. When I went to the hospital for suicidal ideation, I told my children that mommy had a sickness that causes her to be sad a lot. My stay in the hospital helped me to feel those feelings and learn how to handle them better.

The truth is this was a step of freedom for my family, because we took my mess and made it approachable, understandable and even safe.

And this is just one area.

I guess I’m hoping that everyone reading this will go buy themselves a hamper so they can clean up their dirty laundry.

Me first, then you.


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