Wednesday, December 14, 2005

NFTV: Take the Garbage Out

It was a Saturday. I was working in Chicago. I only got home every couple of weeks. Dad and son were still in Massachusetts. This weekend I was home. I was ready to enjoy my family. This would not be an easy thing to do. My son was 17.

This particular Saturday. our precious 17 asked his father would he please, please, please drive to the next down over—it's only one town over—to get McDonald’s for a luncheon treat. Always a pushover for his only child, my husband took the mile long list for our still growing boy and set off on his journey to get the grub for his pioneer family.

As often happens on a busy Saturday at the drive through where teenagers work, our order ended up wrong. And wouldn’t you know it, my part was fine. So was my husband’s. It was a factor of numbers. The missing burger was our son’s.

The pout that appeared belonged on the face of one 3 times shorter. The attitude was one I had no time or patience for.

“I would like to have a pleasant lunch with my husband and my son. Could you get over this please?”


“Could you at least pretend to have a little jubilance?”

He hovered over his happy meal like an ape who thought we’d steal it from him.

“Fine,” I said. “If you want to ruin your meal, go do it in your room. It’s not as if the universe conspired to get your order wrong.”

He left the kitchen with 17-year-old protestations, while his father reminded him that he needed to take the garbage out. He promised his father he would.

I was fine, except for the part of me that wanted to tell him to GROW UP. The rest of lunch was uneventful and life passed as it should that sunny, snowy February afternoon. Until one hour, two hours passed and the garbage hadn’t moved. It was starting to bother me. Besides cleaning his room, taking the garbage out was this child’s only real family chore. Take it out. Then once a week take the cans to the street, and later bring them back and put them under the porch. No dishes. His father prefered to do those himself.

I’m usually the laid-back one in the family, the Great Pacificator, the one who calms the others. But every now and then, I’m not. This was a now or a then, because I most certainly was not. I walked into the living room and told my husband please don’t interrupt me. I had to handle this thing. Then I went downstairs to my son’s room and quietly knocked on the door.

He invited me in. I asked if he could follow me please. I said I had something I’d like him to see. I asked him to please wait on the landing and I proceeded to get the garbage out of the can at the top of the stairs in the kitchen. I came back down to the back door. I opened it, and saw a stack of garbage cans one foot from where they belong under the porch—filled with a foot of snow. Two bags of garbage were on the ground next to them.

My son stood there watching with the practiced bored look of a 17-year-old.

Fury led me to measure my words, “This is . . . your mother . . . doing . . . your work.”

“And you’re doing it wrong.”

That is the point at which the snow and everything else in my vision turned red. The ticker tape behind my eyes went off the Richter scale.

“Go inside,” I said.

When I told my older, older brother I was never like that, he laughed and called it selective memory.

I keep hearing that old Frank Sinatra song, “When I was 17 it was a very good year. . .”

What was he thinking?
—me strauss Letting me be


Trée said...

Interesting post Liz. The seventeen year old in me wants to offer you advice and wisdom but the forty two year old knows better. Your writing is superb. Not too many words, not too few. Just right.

ME Strauss said...

Thanks Tree,
I would take advice from the 17 year old in you. Though I suspect the 17 year old in me wouldn't listen to it. :)

Oleg said...

I'm all smiles and giggle, and I see that 17 year old that in my case will be multiplied by 2, as J and S will actually be 17 at the same time. I have to admit, I find it hilarious, ok, we'll see..

The other morning, my beloved Susie and I were discussing precisely the "how do we make them willingly do more around here?" - issue. I guess it teases her more than me, I have been with the boys for soon 11 years now, and I am grateful for their creative, laughing, happy sides, I think I don't want them to be too compliant either - yet, it's a really Scandinavian thing: don't do it because I tell you to, do it because you want to, internalised ethics, we can't help it.
We came to the agreement that we would make a list, with names and days and chores/responsibilities (internalised..) - this will be opened next time they get here (oh yeah, that's another detail, they spend 2/3 of their time with their mom, with about as many chores as your son..), I will remember to let you know how it went.
If I could, I would show you the list that was on the wall when I was 17, it was precisely this: a schedule, one week at a time, with names and chores, and of course, we could swap - repeating the things my father did is one thing, but repeating what my mother did... we'll see.

ME Strauss said...

Hi Oleg,
What nice surprise to see you. I knew that there were twins, but I hadn't thought of twins at 17 ooh ouch. Good luck.

mergrl said...

good morning Liz, just wanted to stop by here and thank you for my beautiful gift this morning you left at my place

You have touched my heart once again and it was just what I needed, you are amazing my friend

things are better this morning, not perfect, but better (hugs)

ME Strauss said...

Hi mergrl,
Just wanted you to know I was thinking of you.

Betty said...

Actually, Liz, I'm going to follow your lead. I'm always looking for ways to get through to my child, and I'll give this method a try. Also, after all that I've heard about 17-year-olds, I'd say you must have had an amazing relation ship with yours if he actually allowed you into his bedroom. He "invited" you in! I'm impressed. And boy, don't you with McDonald's had some kind of deal where if they screwed up your order, you'd get your money back? Huh!

Betty said...

That word should be "wish", not "with"- should've previewed!

ME Strauss said...

Hi Betty,
Tell my husband about checking the order before he leaves McDonald's it will never happen. As far as being invited in--I never let him know he had a right not to invite. That's how that one worked. :)


Cheryl said...

I like your son. Totally on his side for getting the wrong order - that really, really sucks. I'd have taken it all back, or phoned up and complained until he got another burger on credit for next time. Whats the point of sweet-talking an adult into driving, queuing and more driving, to get the wrong flaming stuff? Teenagers are always hungry, I bet he could almost taste it from the moment the car first left home, right up until he (never) got it.

As for being a bit cheeky to you about the garbage - for a furious, rebellious teenager that was very very mild!

Mind you, I left home carrying my life in binbags at about that age. In the middle of Sunday dinner. Because it was rabbit and they ordered me to eat it. I wont eat a Thumper!

ME Strauss said...

Hey Cheryl,
Not to worry, this kid got most of what he order. It was his third hamburger that was missing and his was cranky just because. Still, I think the story's fun.

I don't blame you for not eating Thumper. In my opinion, there's no reason to make a kid eat . . . I've never seen one let him- or herself start on purpose.

Doug said...

Maybe he was writing poetry. It's hard to be distracted when you're writing poetry.

ME Strauss said...

That's IT! Doug, I'm sure of it!
He was writing apoem about the kindness and beautify of his mother.
Oh God, why didn't I realize that?
Woe is me. Alas, and alask.


Ned said...

Why not just take the bag of garbage and leave it in his room? The importance of taking it outside might become more clear to him that way, if not with the first bag, then most certainly by the second or third day a bag was deposited in his room.

Of course, I have The Boy, who at six will clean out the refrigerator, wash the floor or vacuum the house but can't seem to pick up that empty juice box and throw it in the trash.

I think kids are just weird.

Don't even get me started on McDonald's...

ME Strauss said...

Hi Ned,
The sanity wasn't present at that moment. Only the "get it done" part was.

I sure am with you with the "Kids are weird." People are weird too.


Cheryl said...

The words 'third burger' change the whole colour of the story for me.

(THREE burgers? Who needs three burgers?)

Good grief.
Slap him!


ME Strauss said...

Oh Cheryl,
That' answer's so good. I went and go coffee and i'm still laughing.

I think that's what I'll do. When he come for Christmas, the minute he waslk in the door, I just slap him. hahahaha

zilla said...

17 is so good, and at the same time so bad, especially for the boys, I think.

Was all that red really over the garbage, Liz?

Jennifer said...

I think EVERYONE does this in some form (someway or another.) Though in my household...I think I remember the trash or the item that I had been asked to put my room. Which made me very mad...but somehow the item then ended up in the trash or where ever it belonged :) Of course there was much ranting on my part hehehe...

Sorry I've not been around. Had a great weekend...but I've spent the entire week trying to catch up on life now! And I'm still not caught up! Story of my life. Of course as my friends say: I wouldn't want it any other way than crazy busy!

ME Strauss said...

Hi Zilla,
Welcome back,
Yeah 17 is good and back. Was is over the garbage? Nah, probably over the attitude and the constant need to be asked.

He's a sweet kid.

ME Strauss said...

Hi Jennifer,
How are you? How's that new computer?

Yeah, we've all been there. I just think it's so funny that when I was at the end of my rope. He so calmly said, "And you're doing it wrong."

I'm delighted you've been having fun!