When I was a little girl, I didn’t play much with dolls, although I did have one that is long gone now that I cherished. And I didn’t spend much time imagining what it would be like to have my own children or to get married or have a house some day. I don’t think it ever crossed my mind to want those things. I mean, the message I got as a child somewhere along the way was that women have better things to do with their time than spending them on domestic chores. What captured my imagination then and still does was adventure, not domesticity. So cooking and cleaning were a real effort for me and a big drag (ask my ex-husband) when my boys were younger, and they are still not high on my priority list. I would rather tromp through the woods or play with legos or go dancing or throw paint on a canvas (who wouldn't?) than sweep a floor or wash a dish or cook a fancy meal.
Admittedly I have not made a big deal about passing on these skills to my boys (although they know how) because, well…I sweep when I can't stand the dirt anymore. I vacuum when I notice that it needs to be done and have Matthew do some of it. I shop when we are starving (OK, it’s not that bad, but some days it’s pretty close). Some women do this kind of thing on a schedule. They have a routine and a rhythm about it all. I don't. I have tried to impose one on myself. I have tried to shop on the same days of the week, to plan menus, do my laundry every Tuesday or whatever, cook dinner a certain number of predictable nights a week, but it never sticks. I can't do it. It feels pointless to put that much effort in to getting it "right." Some day I will stop bothering myself with this and accept it, or maybe some day when my life is less full it will just happen. My sons have had to get used to it (and I think they talk about me behind my back), because they’ve had to. Ask them how many times they have had to say, “Hey Mom, you going shopping soon?” Or, even better they say, “Want me to go?”
Because I am not domestically inclined, as soon as my boys could reach the washing machine, I taught them how to use it. In their teenage years, the two youngest boys have learned to cook, mostly as a matter of survival and partly in self -defense. I mean, I was once asked by a lover as we were beginning to cook a meal together in my kitchen why I was suddenly so nervous. I told him I am not at my best in the kitchen. On some level of my interior being, the fact that I am not a consistent housekeeper is one of those things I point to when I think, "I must be a bad mother." I know this is a lie, but I think it sometimes anyway.
So I was never the kind of mother, thankfully, who thought a clean house and a gourmet dinner represented love. I would have failed miserably if I had. Instead, I have taught my boys (I hope) that what really matters in the end is not how clean your house is or how you look from the outside, but how deep your level of integrity is and who you are as a person, a friend, a son, a brother, a father, a customer in a restaurant, even. What matters is how you treat other people and how you treat yourself. I hope I help them ask the right questions, like these: Are you honest in all your dealings with everyone? Are you lying to yourself about your motives? Are you trying to get away with something you shouldn’t be? How does it feel when you act like that? Forget other people’s opinions, how does it feel? Are you proud when you behave like that, or ashamed and embarrassed? Can you forgive me? Can you forgive them? Can you forgive yourself? Can you live with yourself if you make that choice? In what way are you contributing to the world? How are you making a difference to other people? What do you think about God? How should we treat the planet? How do we actually treat the planet? Are you using your resources wisely? What’s your passion in life? What really excites you? And the most important one of all: Dude, who left these smelly socks in the living room?
To be continued....