If you have been to my house recently, you can stop snickering about the title and bear with me. I’m going somewhere with this train of thought.
I have never been a stellar housekeeper. My place is sanitary, but Mt. Laundry grows unreasonably from time to time. I have a million things on the go and something has to give. I will never be featured in Better Homes and Gardens unless it’s an article about why cream rugs and black cats are a TERRIBLE idea. I mention Better Homes and Gardens, because my mother used to tell us whenever we cleaned our rooms growing up “It better be Better Homes and Gardens when I go in and check when you are done!”. I have still never read that particular publication, and if you ever pop by, you will totally have a first hand understanding of what this means. I did not inherit her thorough and compulsive need to ensure the cleanliness of every square inch. I also wish I got her legs (my mom has naturally, nauseatingly gorgeous calves, but I digress). Liam and my relationship with cleaning as parent and child is a little bit different.
Once upon a time on a day like any other day, I was putting my son to bed. We did our nighttime snuggle ritual, I tucked him in and started to leave the room.
“Mommy….” he said. I expected what followed to be “I have to go pee!” or “I’m thirsty”.
But this time it was, “Can you do your chores now?”. It was actually a pretty good idea. It’s nice not to wake up to a sink full of dishes, or rush around to make his lunch. I took his advice and spent fifteen minutes unloading and reloading the dishwasher, wiping up the counters, cleaning the sink, wiping down the stove and assembling his lunch with care. I looked over at him and saw he had drifted off to sleep and followed suit promptly.
This pattern continued each subsequent night, after kissing him goodnight he would ask me to complete my chores. One night, I was just tired and honestly didn’t feel like it. What does my six year old care if the dishes are done tonight or this morning? What did it really matter? And who was he to tell me what to do, after all, I am the mom? One night wasn’t going to hurt anybody.
“Liam,” I said, “I will do it in the morning”. I watched his face screw up and tears roll down his face. This seemed to be an inexplicably unreasonable emotional investment in dish washing habits. I returned to his bedroom to investigate further.
“What’s wrong, buddy? Why are you crying?” I asked him softly. He cuddled into me and looked into my eyes shyly.
“I just like to watch you, mommy”. That seemed kind of weird and I’m not one to enable voyeurism.
“Why do you like to watch me, Liam?” I inquired.
He explained reluctantly,”Because when you do your chores at night, I get to lay in my bed and watch you and think about all the ways that you take care of me. You cook for me, you clean for me, you take good care of me, mommy.”
Sniffle sob. Melt.
Now he asks me to do my chores at night and I oblige. I putter in the kitchen and look over at him from time to time, to see if he’s still watching and bask in the glow of his beautiful smile. I’m savouring the time that he still wants to watch his boring old mom clean up in the kitchen and while he still accepts this as sufficient evidence that I’m doing an okay job.