“I will grudgingly do this, Mom,” wrote Younger Son.
How can you be irritated at a kid who uses a great word like “grudgingly” and even spells it correctly?
This was in response to a gentle reminder I’d posted about doing math homework or something equally as attractive.
My subtle suggestions are always taped to the kitchen doorway early in the morning. They are written rather loudly, in dark magic marker. Underlining, emphatic weight, and aggressive punctuation are usually involved. They are securely taped at eye level right near the refrigerator, the idol that draws all worshipers. They are impossible to ignore.
The math homework note had been torn off the wall and crumpled into what must have been a rather small ball, judging from its wrinkles. It had then been smoothed out and taped up again, with Younger Son’s reply added neatly to the bottom. I saved it.
Husband hints to me on brave occasions that my tone in these proclamations is that of Charlton Heston as he delivers the stone tablets to the Israelites. I tell him that subtlety would have been lost on those folks, too. God did not expect Moses to be ambiguous. God does not expect mothers to be ambiguous, either.
Monday’s manifesto, two pages in length, had also been torn off and crumpled. It, too, was later re-hung – only because I’d added a postscript about leaving it up all day so that all the inhabitants of Israel could read it.
What set me off that morning was a large can of Dinty Moore Beef Stew. Now, I do not even buy Dinty Moore Beef Stew. I’ve not eaten it since Starving College Student Days, and even then it tasted like Alpo.
Do they even make Alpo anymore? I’ve never been reduced to eating dog food, even as a starving college student. I smoked cigarettes instead, which tasted even worse but kept the appetite in check and seemed very sexy and cool. I expect that lung cancer rates will go down now that everyone uses smart phones instead of cigarettes as social props. No need to feel self-conscious or awkward if you can stare into your little glowing personal screen. No smoke screen necessary.
I’ve not eaten horsemeat either, at least to my knowledge – no recent mystery burger from obscured sources abroad. But here’s the thing: Does it really matter, if I don’t know about it? Am I to be held responsible for my ignorance? Can I stretch this excuse from the beef adulteration crisis in Europe to my own multiple moral failings?
Not a chance. Stone tablets are more reliable than frozen lasagna product ingredient lists. Easier to read, too. Ignorance is no excuse.
Which is why I posted the manifesto. Let there be no doubt as to what is expected.
I padded sleepily out to the kitchen in my ratty red bathrobe to make coffee and found the beef stew can sitting on the counter, crusted with congealed gravy. Now, recycling is the 11th commandment at our house. Sons know that cans are rinsed and tossed into the bin in the garage. This can be accomplished in about four footsteps, from can opener to sink to back door. This is not something that needs to be left for the mother to find at 5:30 AM.
I then plodded down to the basement to rummage around for clean clothes. Every light down there was burning, and had likely been burning all night. The house computer was humming, as well, so I trudged over to turn it off. There on the desk was a dirty fork and the pull-top lid of the Dinty Moore Beef Stew can, with a carrot or two still adhering to it. I about lost my mind.
Things have been frosty at my house since the latest directive. I’ve found information from apartment rentals scattered around (dare I hope?). Older Son, Younger Son, and Girlfriend of Older Son are insulted. They are hurt. They say that I should have handled the situation differently, and had quiet private conversations with them to suggest that they are pigs living in filth.
Really? They avoid conversation with me like the plague, and have ever since they hit puberty. When I do get the chance to spend time with them (read, “force them to sit at the dinner table with me and Husband if they expect to eat the food”), I prefer not to waste it ranting and raving.
They say I should treat them like adults rather than children. To my credit, and by biting my tongue until it bled, I did not snort or guffaw or pee my pants with laughing. I did remind them that adulthood is something one earns. Why must I endlessly reiterate the basic things they already know?
Because that’s what moms – and manifestos — are for.