“I don’t know, you look pretty fulfilled,” said the Fred Meyer clerk. “I mean, I don’t have kids, but how old are yours?”
If this conversation wasn’t weird enough already, it takes a turn for the even weirder here. Yes, I talk to people in public all the time. When they ask how I am, I am usually too honest. If you are looking a fake “I’m great,” don’t look at the woman who uses a knit hat as her best hairdo option. I mean, I look fulfilled? This long-haired-perhaps-late 20-something guys had my full attention with that statement. I tell him I have a ten and thirteen year old.
“How are they helping you around the house?” he asks.
I sigh. I don’t need this man without kids to tell me I’m not parenting right. But I’m nothing if not a conversationalist, and I take his bait. I even lie as I grow my list. “They clear the dinner plates,” I said.
“Do they take out the trash?” he asked.
“Yes, yes they take out the trash, the recycling, the compost,” I said but don’t bother to add they only do this when I have the energy to nag them. “They clean the bathroom and put away the clean clothes.”
“Do they vacuum?” he asked.
I stop lying right here. “No, no they don’t vacuum,” I said.
“Well, you can’t get to Carnegie Hall without practicing,” he replied.
“What? Carnegie Hall?” I asked.
“Yup. I used to hate that line. If they don’t practice vacuuming, they can’t get to Carnegie Hall. It takes practice,” he said. Clearly, he is telling me he hated when his parents used this line. “Do they mow the lawn?”
“We hardly have any lawn. It takes 5 minutes with the push mower,” I said, using the evasive lie here. I could teach my kids how to use the push mower if I had the steely attitude needed to get them out the back door and into the yard and behind the push mower.
“Well, just remember it takes practice to get to Carnegie Hall,” he said as I finally sashayed off with my groceries paid for and bagged up and placed in my cart.
Truth is, my kids don’t help a ton around the house. My kids help more than they used to since I took a parenting class a few years ago and the teacher pointed out if we were feeling like we did too much, we probably were. So yes, they do more chores than they used to.
Am I annoyed with the childless cashier? Will I take advice from someone who hasn’t raised a human being yet? Well, I do know when it comes to parenting, I’ll take all the help I can get. I know I’m glad that my parents made me clean the toilet, that I love myself a clean bathroom now and I can clean it myself. Excellent.
But is this post about making my kids clean more? Nah, it’s more about how a conversation at the check-out line made my head spin. It made me think about where I get my parenting advice, and how thinking about Carnegie Hall is a good thing. How I want my kids to practice when they are passionate about and see where it takes them. How I really needed a nap yesterday and I took one and how my kids are actually old enough that I can take a nap when necessary.
And as I put this conversation to rest by writing it down, I am thinking about how often I practice the art of picking your battles when it comes to parenting. And my battle right now is with myself. How do I be a calm presence when my kids really need me? When one has a bothersome cold or two major assignments due within days of each other or one is sobbing while I’m trying to coach 14 other girls, that’s when I want to practice like Carnegie Hall wants me to be a parenting expert. That means I’m watching Gordon Neufeld talks and reading parenting books and taking a nap when I need one and scheduling walks with friends. Then I can summon the patience and love I need when it really counts.
Did the kids clear the dinner table last night after I talked with this talkative cashier? You bet they did. Did I push them to wash the dishes that didn’t fit in the dishwasher? Nah, I totally didn’t. But Fred Meyer clerk, thanks for the food for thought.