A Family Motto for the New Year

The little people can be so absent-minded. In a house full of them, I am constantly amazed at how constantly things shift. It’s as if objects have legs, and wheels, and wings, and propellers. I thought it would get better with age. So far, it hasn’t.
Kids are like tornadoes. They pick up random objects, spin around a bunch of times, and spit out what they sucked up wherever they happen to touch down.
I once found a half eaten granola bar in my car’s glove box. Preservatives aren’t all bad, by the way.
“Everything has a place,” I explain to eyes that look straight through me to the next spot their owner can put something down that doesn’t belong. As soon as a child’s mind moves on to its next thought, his hand muscles atrophy and release whatever was in their grasp.
I used to say, “Wash your hands.” Now I’m forced to include, “and put the hand towel back on the rack when you’re done!” Otherwise it ends up on the floor, or in the bathtub, or tied around the cat’s neck.
So I’ve established a new household motto for the New Year. With respects to the state parks department, here it is: “Leave no trace.”
It took a while to explain to the kids how our new motto can co-exist with an old one, “Make your mark.” I’m hopeful their critical thinking skills will hold both in appropriate tension.
So far, the new motto has worked one time:
A child entered the powder room, closed the door, did his business and then exited.
The paternal park ranger then entered the powder room. He found the soap dispenser upright on the sink top, not hanging from a curtain rod.
He found all toilet paper enrolled on the spool, not spread in seventeen separate sheets across the floor. He found the hand towel hanging on a hook, not submerged in six inches of bubbles within the wash basin.
Save the odor, the child had left no trace. I was ecstatic. I just knew the maternal calls for housekeeping help would soon dissipate into the air like a fresh squeeze of Febreze!
Like a good state park police fine for littering, I know there needs to be some teeth in the new domestic policy.
Unfortunately, executing consequences has long been my parenting downfall. I would deduct from their allowances if I gave them out with any regularity. I would make them miss the big game if I didn’t want to watch it myself.
If I had gotten an allowance for every chore chart I’ve made in the last thirteen years, I could get maid service for the next thirteen.
Years ago, I downloaded a smartphone app called ChoreMonster. It keeps emailing me that my kids are behind on their chores.
Oh! Is that what this mess means? I had no idea!
Kevin Thompson writes weekly for The Boerne Star in the Texas hill country. Follow him at http://www.kwt.info.
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