Ordinary Kingdoms

I know I’m not the only one. Descending into mom martyrdom is inevitable. What am I talking about? Those moments when I take out the trash, because no one else has or will. Of course, then it breaks open all over the floor that I just mopped, spilling litter box contents and all manner of disgusting filth. Then, the baby walks over and tries to eat said cat litter. Suddenly, everything goes into slow motion as I visualize the child being admitted to the hospital for some rare form of sepsis caused by cat feces. In the span of only seconds, I am irate at all of the people in my little “kingdom”.

Suddenly, every moment in which I have been patient, held space for small people’s emotions and cooked meals when it was the last thing I wanted to do…they are unappreciated, desecrated and wasted. I recall every complaint from the small people about chores, the menace building internally. How many hours a day – no, minutes actually – have they spent cleaning? Three? Five? Ten?Compared to the hours I spend?

Yes, I am a full martyr now, dying for this little “kingdom” called family daily.

When it comes to cleaning and upkeep, I like to think of it that way – as a kingdom. When things are going well, the kingdom is Arthurian and epic. There are knights in shining armor washing dishes and princes and princesses not afraid to get dirty in the knitty gritty. Sifting a litter box, taking out trash, scrubbing a toilet? They become paramount tasks on par with dragon slaying.

On the bad days, the kingdom has descended into chaos. Every member of the court is riding off into a delusional sunset, thinking the dragon is slain. Meanwhile, I am actually fighting the dragon on spindly fumes of energy, giving my life for the great chivalrous art of domesticity. The worst part? Domesticity is the last art I would waste my life on – given the choice.

I mean, what would happen if I dropped the sword and followed the court into the delusional sunset that is domestic bliss without effort? When will it be my turn to complain and throw a fit about scrubbing the dried cereal off the bowl?

Thus, the martyrdom begins. Perhaps a temporary boycott is in order, a silent manifestation of my angst, a cleaning hunger strike of massive proportions. I refuse to pursue the art of domesticity and abdicate my throne to the princes and princesses. Let them partner with the king and see how well things go!

Of course, then they return home from school. One of them actually hugs me and says something about love. Another hands me a picture from art, in which I am stick figure (hallelujah!) with a giant glowing heart encircling me. Suddenly, I’m so glad this is my kingdom.

Instead of the rant, I simply remind them of their teeny-tiny chores. When the complaining starts, I offer to hold their little crowns while they scrub the toilet, wash the dishes and slay the dragons. After all, they’ll be kings and queens someday too.

Perhaps chivalry and domesticity are not dying arts after all – even if they will always be second rate to jousting, bard singing and dragon slaying. Before I set my heart on martyrdom again, I’ll try to remember this.

Provided no one is admitted to the hospital for a cat feces infection…





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.