Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Trying to explain my goal as a parent

For the past 10 years, I have told anyone who asked that my dream for my kids is that they be contributing members of their community.

I'm not talking about being an eagle scout, or volunteering for non-profits, I'm really just saying "I don't want them to be self-centered assholes".

I don't care what they do for a living. I don't care if they go to college. I don't care if they are straight or gay or married or single or parents or childless by choice. I don't care if they donate money, or time, or a used car. I don't care if they are religious, or not. I don't care what religion they believe in, as long as they put it in perspective, and show respect for others who may or may not share their beliefs.

I want them to be strong, healthy, free-thinking, honest people, with love and kindness and compassion in their hearts. I want them to treat others as they would want to be treated. I want them to honor their commitments, respect other people's property, and clean up after themselves. I want them to work hard, and enjoy everything life has to offer in moderation, with a healthy set of priorities.

I want them to flush the toilet after they take a dump.

That, right there, is the one we are working on these days. I don't think it's too much to ask. The morning that I walked into the bathroom and found a pile of dirty clothes in front of the sink, an unflushed toilet, 4 wadded up tissues on the floor around the trash can, and a wet towel on the side of the tub, I sort of lost the will to live. It was as though all of my shortcomings as a parent were summed up in that one tableaux, spread out across the bright white bathroom in a stark, filthy contrast to the gleaming tiles.

I don't mind picking up after them a bit now, but I need to see them take some responsibility for themselves. Straightening their room is one thing - straightening up their life is another. So I try to remind them in a loving and encouraging way. But that morning, when I came face to face with a situation that was god. I wasn't just lazy. Or unthinking. Or forgetful. It was downright disrespectful. And the assumption that someone else would come along after them and pick it all up? Well. I cleared up that misconception pretty damn fast. The bathroom is a bit of a proving ground. The way you leave a bathroom when you are done using it says a lot about how you approach other aspects of your life.

Almost as much as what you do while you are in there.

For instance, do you need absolutely privacy, a good book, and some quiet time? Do you have to run the water while you go either for encouragement or as a buffer? Do you work in there? Talk on the phone? Listen to the radio? Sing? My brother brought a beer into the shower with him and I thought that was genius.

It was like the last frontier.

I remember a while ago, hearing one mother scolding her son as he went into the bathroom because he took his sandwich with him, and thinking to myself: "I better add that to the list. Don't bring food into the bathroom with you." Seems so obvious. What are you going to do - eat with one hand and wipe your butt with the other? At best?

But at this point, I wouldn't even care, just as long as they flushed the toilet.

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