Tuesday night, I made a reasonable request.

“Hugh, please clear the table and load the dishwasher.”  (bracing for objection, hoping it wouldn’t come)

“Why can’t Malcolm do it?” 

“Because Malcolm just finished emptying the dishwasher.”

“He was only finishing the job I had started!  I already did the top rack and the cutlery.  I mean, come on, I mow the lawn and Malcolm only has to take out the trash.  My work takes an hour, and his only takes a few minutes.”

“You’re bigger and older,”  I said, doing a slow burn.  “You’re supposed to have more responsbility.”  Then:  “Why can’t anyone in this house just agree to do a job when asked?” I was now fuming.  Hugh pointed out, correctly, that frequently when I make a request and he cheerfully complies, I say “Thank you for agreeing so nicely.”  

But my fuse had burned down completely and I wasn’t remembering those cooperative moments of his anymore. Chris was out at a meeting, and there was no double-teaming.  I was on my own.  At the moment, my only thoughts were of the scorn future daughters-in-law would heap upon me, for begetting lazy oafs who don’t know how to scrub a pot or iron a shirt or sweep a floor.

So, as Hugh and Malcolm went skulking off to study for finals, Malcolm shushing Hugh to keep him from continuing the argument and escalating my anger, I donned sackcloth and ashes and did a fabulous job of cleaning up the kitchen, before going off to finish MY client work.

This all reminded me of Erma Bombeck’s rant on this very subject.  Her kids were bickering over chores, with the excuses becoming more far-fetched and bizarre by the moment.  The kicker from one of them was: “I didn’t get a watch until I was 12!”  My brothers and I quoted this line for years as shorthand for “Not fair, don’t ask me, I’ve always gotten the short end of the stick!”  Substitute cell phone or iPod or laptop now, and it’s the same idea.

I once saw a photo of another blogger’s kitchen.  On the wall was a framed page from an old edition of The Little Red Hen.  She wears an apron, bustling around the kitchen, and the caption says “Fine!  I’ll do it myself.”  Every mom should have one.


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