IT’S MY LIFE

Irish Examiner - Feelgood - - Parenting - TRIC KEAR­NEY

LAST Satur­day I woke in a good mood. Not hav­ing to leap out of bed for any early morn­ing rea­son meant I could lie there a lit­tle while longer. Some may call this lazi­ness, I pre­fer to look at it as a mind­ful­ness mo­ment. By the time I got up, I was smil­ing, look­ing for­ward to the day ahead.

That smile soon slipped when I caught sight in the nearby full-length mir­ror of the ap­pari­tion who ex­ited from be­neath my du­vet. What made me think that was a good place to hang a mir­ror?

Stum­bling out of the bed­room the mir­ror had bro­ken my good mood spell. I shook my head in dis­gust as I passed al­most ev­ery towel we pos­sess draped over the ban­nis­ters, sup­pos­edly dry­ing. Some had been there for as long as I can re­mem­ber as I’ve re­fused to move them.

Walk­ing down the stairs I sidestepped a large num­ber of items of cloth­ing lit­ter­ing each step. It struck me that I shared a house with chil­dren who seem to have adopted the ‘Hansel and Gre­tel’ ap­proach to life, sig­nalling the way to their rooms by drop­ping cloth­ing at in­ter­vals along the floor.

I poured my­self a cup of tea and tried to rekin­dle the happy bed­room thoughts of a few short mo­ments ear­lier. I re­mem­bered read­ing on a card once that pick­ing up af­ter chil­dren is

It struck me that I shared a house with chil­dren who seem to have adopted the ‘Hansel and Gre­tel’ ap­proach to life

like shov­el­ling snow in a snow­storm. When I first read it, my chil­dren were young, and I was in­no­cent enough to think that once they got a lit­tle older they’d learn to tidy up af­ter them­selves. So how did that work out for me? Well, I’m not sure if they’ve reached that age yet, de­spite at least three of them be­com­ing adult in the eyes of the law.

I’ve tried ev­ery par­ent­ing tech­nique known to man and woman over the years to fos­ter a tidy streak. As young chil­dren, we heaped praise and re­wards on them if they did any­thing at all, with limited suc­cess. As they grew up, we were ad­vised they would do bet­ter if of­fered fi­nan­cial re­wards like their friends, for do­ing chores, so we dumped pos­i­tive par­ent­ing and moved to­wards par­ent­ing which in­volved roar­ing and the threat­en­ing of all man­ner of con­se­quences. This too failed. Fi­nally, one af­ter­noon, I dis­cov­ered a new tech­nique, which I now think of as, the two ‘Rs of par­ent­ing … rage and re­venge. I don’t think it’s po­lit­i­cally cor­rect, but I’ll ad­mit it was my favourite and the most suc­cess­ful.

I hap­pened upon this par­ent­ing tech­nique quite by ac­ci­dent. My teenage chil­dren’s bed­rooms were health haz­ards and de­mand­ing or beg­ging them to hang their clothes up and make their beds was hav­ing no ef­fect.

“Some­day, I’ll tidy your clothes and you’ll never see them again,” was my favourite threat. Fi­nally, one day, as I dis­cov­ered freshly laun­dered cloth­ing among a sea of dirty clothes on the floor, I snapped.

I tried deep breaths and count­ing to 10, 20, 100 but it didn’t work and within sec­onds I was in a mag­nif­i­cent rage.

“I’ll clean it for you,” I roared to my­self, open­ing the bed­room win­dow. Clothes, shoes, books, bags were all hurled out. Un­for­tu­nately, I was never the best at throw­ing and it be­ing a dormer meant some items scat­tered about the roof. Min­utes later as I sur­veyed the clean floor I felt my blood pres­sure re­turn­ing to nor­mal. Later that af­ter­noon I heard screech­ing. “You’re a psy­cho, Mum.” How I smiled. Did it work? Like a dream. For a long time af­ter I’d only to say,

“I might tidy your bed­room later if you haven’t time?”

Al­though look­ing at my youngest child’s bed­room floor, I think she was miss­ing that day.

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