3 Reasons My Kids Break The Rules

Featured Image 3 Reasons My Kids Break The Rules

On days I leave my cave (yes, that means some days I don’t, which is completely fine with me), when I drive through my neighborhood, I always, as in always, always, think wistfully about our neighbors as I pass their house.

They’re the ones that don’t have kids, who are about our age and have a few cats and a bunch of little dogs.

When I say wistfully, I mean it as defined…in a vague, longing sort of way. Not to be confused with wishful, which although is only one letter different, is like the difference between us and the apes.

[Slaby Kids, (in case they’re reading this), you can rest assured I don’t regret any of ya’lls.]

When I drive by their picture-perfect house with their squeaky clean yard, poshy cars and calm sense of everything, I wonder and marvel about what it would really be like to walk in those shoes that I have conjured up, full of peace and balance.

I actually get a little excited at the thought in an incredulous sort of way.

Relax. I’m not a creeper, obsessed with my neighbors. It’s just one of those consistent, fleeting feelings that wafts through me in the split second I drive by their house. Weird I know. But you and I are friends, so I thought I could share that.

Ok wow. I totally lost track of where I was going with this…

In my last post, I kinda boasted about how I was settling into a nice new routine with the new school year. I was kinda floating in the buzz of the moment when you feel like you are completely solid in your plan.

It’s been a couple weeks since then and I bet you know what’s coming now . . .

Yep. Plans foiled. Schedules disrupted. And if I could etcha-sketch last week over . . .

. . . I probably wouldn’t anyway.

I needed last week foiled because I actually needed to deal with all that stuff and I’m ok with that.

I just feel a little guilty ’cause I didn’t check off much on my to-do list.

And I feel a little raw facing some bitter truth . . .

What last week looked like and why it matters.

I’ll save you the run down of all the unscheduled, forgotten and unanticipated things that totally knocked me off my schway and spun me into the land of unproductive frustration caused by that pesky desire to finish something that’s been hanging over my head for so long it’s stressing me out to the point of panic.

You know the feeling, right?

I bet right now you’re remembering something undone that’s hanging over your head.

You’re probably feeling a little sweaty about it too.

Anyway, I meet (almost) every day with a fearless and energetic feeling of optimism. Sickeningly to some, I really do jump out of bed so excited and inspired by what I plan to accomplish that I make deals with myself to stay away from the computer until I get at least A, B and C done.

I am an entrepreneurial addict, spawned from a lineage of fishermen / fisherwomen. I see business as no different than fishing. But, that’s for another post.

Shame the days I defy the Good Maria and hook myself up immediately to my happy little bestie, MacBookPro, without properly getting ready for the day. (Shower, dressed, yoga, etc.)

On those days, when I finally come-to, usually a good 8-hours later, I’m a crusty, rumpled beast, whining hang-over-like promises such as, “I’ll never do that again,” to which I’m sure a chorus of eye-rolls echo throughout our house from the cherubs among us.

They know better.

Ok so that’s a problem, but controllable. With personal discipline I don’t have to choose that crusty path.

But these random, forgotten, unscheduled things that Mess Me Up are a whole ‘nother nightmare.

And just to be clear, these are the random things specific to Kids & Family. Alas, my fascination with the childless couple down the road. Not that they don’t have their own random and unscheduled, but it’s my fantasy and in it they have a perfectly peaceful and calm life that I love to imagine. Can’t argue with that.

None of these distractions that rolled over us last week had anything to do with me either. Well maybe getting me a new car did, but that’s beside the point.

[And btw, it was a USED car, just to be even clearer. Mark would appreciate a clarification. Up until a recent loud conversation explaining to him (again) my use of the term new when talking about my need for a new car really means new to me and he should know that by now how long has he known me I’m going to start hyperventilating just thinking about it … no commas needed.)

Oxygen please.

So as our life of order and calm gradually began to unravel yet again, I blasted this text out to the family in a random fit of all caps, bold-faced, annoyance at our on-going mismanaged kitchen situation that has only gotten worse as our kids have gotten older.

3 Reasons My Kids Break The Rules

I was determined to get a grip on this nearly two-decades old challenge in our household. And this text was just the answer.

New rules in search of even just a smidgen of peace and calm.

It’s not like I haven’t tried this before.

Since the beginning of time as parents, well at least since our little cherubs could use the bathroom on their own, Mark and I have indoctrinated our kids into the concept of Dishes Are Like Breathing. 

Because they are, aren’t they?

Someone’s gotta make the donuts and someone’s gotta clean the pans. And we eat everyday, so I think it pretty much falls into the breathing category. You just gotta do them.

I chalked that doctrine up over the kitchen sink by the time Margo (our oldest) was four and it’s been there ever since.

As the years have gone by, the systems I’ve created to manage this chore have been anywhere from amazing to horrible. Amazing gradually would turn horrible as the kids grew more clever and I grew more busy with ETC. (Ugh. Too much to explain there but I feel like you understand.)

[Flashback: OMG I just remembered way back in the day (2004) I was even featured in the Orlando Sentinel for one of my “amazing” systems to get kids on board with chores. Just googled it and there it was. Whoa. I’m having a moment right now . . . things haven’t changed much.]

Back to my story.

I have done my best to lower standards around our house for years, but the non-stop daily dishes drama was really getting to me on that fateful day. If I heard one more, “I did them yesterday,” or “That’s not my dish,” or “I didn’t make that pizza,”  . . . .

[Insert any non-calm, irrational, unsustainable threat you can imagine.]

Therein lies what inspired my heartfelt text.

Yeah. I know. Inspired. Divine Intervention. And really thought out. I’m sure it will work. Because, you know. I said so. The Supreme Ruler of Chez Slaby.

[BTW, that eviction part . . .  yes I mean it and I don’t feel badly about it. I got some push back from Margo who brought up the technicality that I can’t actually evict her for not taking care of her own food messes as it’s not in the lease, but thankfully, Mark backed me up and reminded her of the Yes We Can ‘Cause It’s Our House clause.]

[Backstory: House rule. If you have a college degree and want to live at home, you need to pay rent. In her defense, I felt it fair enough to add a 30-day warning addendum.]

All this went down somewhere mid-week, in the heat of I don’t even remember what I was doing.

Yep. Mom snapped.

Immediately after I dropped the bomb, an 80-foot long group text ensued blowing up all our phones for an inordinate amount of time.

By Sunday, the New Rule Angst had died down and was nicely starting to solve all our Slaby World Problems as I passionately nurtured it to life.

But I couldn’t just let it go at that. I could do so much better.

Sunday Night Dinner

Sunday night is our only night when we force our schedules to collide for an evening of loving family merriment. I say that in jest because I know you know what that means.

Even the Bradys had some less-than-perfect family dinners.

But really, for me, our Sunday night dinner is the most look-forward to event of the week. I just love love love having my people all gathered around the table, sharing a meal, along with our little traditions, even if that means some tears and jears along the way.

Back to The New Rule

I decided we needed a little clarification on the new Kitchen Rules and felt, in order to avoid any future negotiations and misunderstandings, I should announce some of the details and nuances in person rather than just relying on my frenetic Ruling By Text.

Annoyed by a moan from one of them, I forged ahead.

Rule explained, I closed the deal.

The next couple days went pretty smoothly. Ok well, not perfectly.

Ok maybe I lowered the bar a little. Made some tiny excuses for this one and that one. . . . 

After all it wasn’t a normal week.

So many Must Do’s & Must Gets were randomly defying my predefined and tidy schedule.

Dirty Dishes
By this morning, staring into a sink full of dishes covered in a menagerie of bloated noodles, pizza bones and peanut butter knives, all teaming with sugar ants, I realized my new Kitchen Rules had been made in vain.

Defeated in less than 7 days

This is where I learned something about myself. And our fitful cherubs. And why they break the rules.

[That was a lot of words to go through to get to my 3 Reasons…thanks for sticking around.]

Rules unwatched go unfollowed. 

Cat’s away the mice will play. Even if I’m in the house, if I’m working with my bestie, MacBookPro, it’s like I’m not even there.

Rules unwatched are not that important to us after all.

Self explanatory. I can really only choose a handful of things a day to keep my eye on. Like it or not, I default at Triage Management. I’m a minimalist that way. Kitchen management obviously isn’t making the cut.

Their bodies deceive us.

Just because our full-grown kids have adult-like bodies doesn’t mean they have adult-like reasoning and awareness and whole ‘lotta other things. They need management just as much as their toddler counterparts.

I think this is where I’ve missed the mark big time; believing that these full grown humans who are so independent and capable in a multitude of ways, get it.

That they logically understand that the pain they feel when rinsing a dish and putting it in the dishwasher is far less agonizing than the drama that ensues when they don’t.

And I’ve been especially wrong to believe that I have the power to get them to CARE about cleanliness.

Except strangely, when we’re planning to have company, they’re all on board cleaning. They wouldn’t want to shame the family. And they do a really good job. Especially if I’m circling the den.

Even more strange is when it comes to their own stuff that matters to them, they take pride and create their own systems of organization.

Crazier still is that one of them even had a business for years cleaning bathrooms and yet another is our go-to kitchen detailer. He’s that good.

And all this is ok. I know they’re good kids who I can even take out in public with pride. And I do really believe someday when they have their own places, and their frontal lobes are fully developed, they will actually do their own dishes without me screaming telling them.

[Flashback: The first day after the honeymoon, when Mark and I woke up in our own apartment, I can still vividly remember the deep-reaching joy of NOT having to do the dishes. It was like some lightbulb went on welcoming me to a world of unbridled freedom.]

But back to reality. While the kids are amongst us, they’re messy to live with. (Putting it nicely.)

This all goes back to my first point.

There’s No Set It and Forget It Parenting

I’m convinced all this friction is nature’s way of wearing us down as parents so we’re WAY cool with the idea of an empty nest.

So I lived through last week’s unplanned. Watched my solid new edict be tested and crumble before my eyes. Covered-up in all the unscheduled and spontaneous, I still jumped outta bed each day, optimistic that I’d do a better day than the day before.

And each day resulted miles away from the ideal I imagined.

Now today, here at Starbucks, miles away from the chaos within, this story is already becoming a distant memory. It’s easy for me to feel grateful and accept that which I vainly attempt, but cannot change.

But that wistful, calm sense of everything feeling that teases me every time I drive by Those Neighbors still inspires me.

We’re nothing without our ideals.

Is my house much different than yours? Is kitchen duty a drama in your house? What rules in your home go unwatched? What rules are must-watched?  Share your story in the comments.


Keep sPaRkLing!


About The Author

Maria Slaby

I'm a lot of labels, not the least of which is a mom / wife with four awesome kids and an amazing husband. My lifelong love of making cool stuff with an eye on our humanness has also turned me into a branding and publishing specialist. I love helping others bring voice to their passions in this wild and tangled digital world. Catch up with me on social media. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram @mariaslaby.