We started up a chores rota in our house this week. It didn't go down well. Especially with The Colonel.
My eldest, The Captain, despite having Aspergers and all the challenges that come with that; has an incredible, natural work ethic. He might not always do things the easy way, often seeking out what could be described as an 'alternative method' to get from A to B. And I might have to spend two days clearing up and fixing afterwards, but he actively seeks out tasks and gets a sense of achievement from completing them.
The Colonel is a different story. A natural comedian and charmer, he is also the creative one with a fabulous imagination ... an imagination that has somehow (despite my best efforts to demonstrate otherwise) drawn the conclusion that at night time, our house is visited by the Housework Pixies. So this week he got a promotion. After he, yet again, used every mug in the house in a single morning, left the toilet fit only to be cordoned off by Environmental Health, and abandoned a 4 pint container of milk on the side, overnight to sour, I awarded him the title of Head Pixie.
He wasn't impressed.
Parliament is now in session.
His first act of Pixie Parliament, on discovery that he now has two days per week when he is responsible for all the washing up, was to order by decree that all the people of the kingdom shall only be allowed to use one set of cutlery and crockery per day. Re-use through multiple meals was also deemed acceptable and the consumption of salad (leaves), with no dressings, should be encouraged.
He was even less impressed when I talked him through the tick-list involved when completing a full bathroom clean. In fact, he was so unimpressed that he burst into tears. I offered to stand on the sidelines,for moral support but it was declined. I handed him his rubber gloves and told him to crack on. Cruel mother that I am.
The world is divided into those who know what that is, and those who do not.
At half time, he crawled out and came for a hug. Really sobbing by this point into my shoulder he choked, "It's just awful Mum, it actually made me sick when I had to clean up that off the loo!"
Don't get me wrong, I adore my kids. They are my world. But even I had to stifle the laughter. Anyone out there who parents boys knows exactly what 'that' is.
He is also a bit (lot) of a Drama Queen. Lord knows where he gets it from?! (Memo to family and friends - that was a rhetorical question.)
I sent him back in after fifteen minutes (apparently bathroom cleaning really is that traumatic) with the promise of a can of pop (which they aren't usually allowed ... because the pop is mine!) once it was all done. Later on that day, we all sat and discussed the pro's and con's of growing up. Bathroom cleaning definitely went into the con's column as far as they were concerned. Not so much for me. I've been sobbing over their bathroom mess for well over a decade.
I'm slipping in those talks when and as I can. Stealth Sex Education.
I casually mentioned to the pair of them, whilst gently and discreetly veering the conversation towards the more specific subject of puberty, that there was very little they would be able to do that I hadn't already tried myself at some point as a youngster. And they should always feel that they could come and talk to me about anything and everything.
I knew my reassurance had worked when The Colonel walked into my bedroom that evening, arm held high up in the air, pointing out the two hairs that he'd discovered growing there. " ... And I think I've got them coming down there too!" It was at this point he yelled his brother to join in. Apparently The Captain has also been blessed with some recent follicular additions.
I would love to say that I handled it in a 'super cool mom' manner, but I'm not sure I did. For all the preparation I put in to ensure they were comfortable in talking to me about such stuff, I hadn't really considered how I was going to handle it when it happened. My arrogant belief that my rebel years would act as an adequate buffer didn't quite pan out. How embarrassingly naïve I'd been!
If I didn't know any better, I could have sworn that they knew exactly what they were doing and I was being punished for Chores-Gate. As I blushed profusely, their conversation grew increasingly graphic until I told them to 'shuddup'.
They were still giggling half an hour later when the credits rolled on Bake Off. The thought of the lovely Mr Paul Hollywood, covered in macaroons did soothe my ragged nerves somewhat at least.
Game and set (but not the match) to The Captain and The Colonel
Being a single parent is many things. Exhausting. Worrisome. Thankless, on the whole (and if you are of the 'but it's sooooo rewarding' tribe, I already hate you) plus many other descriptive words that go some way to explain my generally grey pallor and the bags under my eyes. I've been trying for many years to find some make-up that compliments these skin tones and have so far to date failed. My search continues. Despite all that, the one thing it rarely is, is boring. And for every time the boys have made me cry, or scream silently into a pillow through pure frustration, they have always levelled the score by making me laugh. Playing the part of Mum and Dad to two boys who are now embarking on their journey through The Valley of Hormones, is making for an equally curious experience on my part too. At best, they will survive, and I'm going to get some fabulous stories to share at their 21st birthday bash. At worst, I'll have to nominate myself for the Worst Mum In The World award. Something which I think most single parents often believe they are a prime candidate for, no matter how hard we try. And we do try. Constantly. Relentlessly. No matter how tough, shit gets at times.
I haven't broken it to him yet that this 'bathroom cleaning thing' is ongoing, and he's going to have to do it all over again next week. Guess I better get some more cans of pop in!