Not too long ago, my 17 year-old son realized that he had forgotten to keep up with his laundry, and with the day drawing to a close, started rushing to get it done (especially as he needed a clean soccer uniform). So there he was, slightly agitated/freaked, when I walked up to him and offered to continue it for him, to give him a chance to catch some shut-eye by babysitting his wash. Grateful, he thanked me, and wandered back to his room to wrap up his other school-night chores.
Some time later, he meandered back to the common room/den/TV room, and noticed that I was sitting on my butt while the dryer was sitting idle. He immediately turned on me, urgently verbalizing his displeasure with more than a bit of harshness. (In other words, I was doing him a favor and was now getting yelled at for it.)
I get that they are kids, that their brains aren’t fully developed, and there will be some biting of the hand that feeds. So I was able to gather myself and calmly address him, telling him that the dryer had just finished its cycle and that I was on top of everything. My calm manner just seemed to add fuel to his fire, and he continued to upbraid me.
Now came the decision: Do I yell back? Do I tell him to do it himself? Do I cry or run away? Do I panic and rush to finish his laundry?
After counting to ten, I decided that all of those might be fine options, but that they weren’t in the best interest of my child. This was a parenting opportunity I was facing, and I was not going to let it pass me by.
So instead of any of those previously mentioned options, I went another way. I sat there and smiled at him. And I waited, not moving at all. He flailed around a bit, huffed and puffed, and eventually settled down enough to walk himself back to his room in frustration. I then waited a full two minutes, before calmly walking over to our laundry area and moving the stuff in the dryer into a basket and moving the stuff in the washer into the dryer. Then I took a final step: I printed up the following sign and stuck it on the fridge:
Poor Planning On Your Part
Does Not Constitute
An Emergency On My Part
Fifteen minutes later, my son came out of his cave, walked past the washer/dryer, saw that things were moving along, then stopped by the fridge for a drink. He seemed to have read the sign I posted, because he was sweet as pecan pie the rest of the night, and ever since.
Now, I’m not a hundred percent certain that the sign did its job, or whether his outburst was just a lone moment of frustration and weariness. But I am hopeful that I did the right thing, and that he learned what he needed to learn.
by Stu Mark
Photo graciously provided by cisc1970, through a Creative Commons license, some rights reserved