With great tenacity and perseverance I do my utmost to be a fantastic parent. Being the only adult in a household containing a teen-ager doesn't sound like it is difficult. And, it's not. Not thus far. Man-cub is just 2 weeks shy of being 14. He's a good kid whom I can trust implicitly. His only shortcoming in life is not performing the same three chores assigned daily: Put away the dishes; take out the trash; scoop the cat litter.
If I leave him a gentle reminder, such as a list, he'll typically execute the tasks immediately after receiving my call warning him that I'm coming home. I don't question whether or not he's accomplished the daily three when I speak with him. My hope is that he'll do it without prodding. I have lofty dreams.
On Thursday evening I arrived home some time after 9:00 p.m. Upon my departure earlier in the day I hadn't made a list, but I did give him a verbal reminder of what needed to be done.
When I came through the door, I found him lounging on the couch munching on a mini bag of Funyuns. The TV was on God knows what. Nothing questionable, I assure you. I gave him hugs, asked what was new and headed to the kitchen. Dishes were still sitting in the sink awaiting proper placement in the cupboards. deep breath
I made tracks to the bathroom. When one sits down in our bathroom there is a full view of the litter box. It's impossible to overlook. deep breath -- gag. Another chore tossed to the wayside by my darling and beloved Man-cub.
"Hey! Little dude! Did you forget something today that is supposed to be done daily?"
With that prompt I thought certain he'd make his way to the bathroom to take care of business. He didn't. Clearly the television gremlins had taken him hostage and letting him budge from the couch wasn't on their agenda. deep breath
I went about my nightly activities and insisted I couldn't keep my eyes open. In my exhausted and somewhat agitated state, I made the following irresponsible comment to my incredibly sensitive child:
"If you don't start taking care of your cats -- this includes feeding, watering and maintaining their litter box -- I am giving them away."
A heartless, empty threat fell from my lips. His happy demeanor faded and he declared he didn't want to watch TV in his room or in the living room. He just wanted to go to bed. He listlessly kissed me goodnight. I closed his bedroom door, changed my clothes and slipped into my bed. Minutes later he came to my door asking if he could come in. "I'm not able to fall asleep. Can I watch TV in here?" His tone was droning indicating something was wrong. So, I asked why he wasn't able to relax. With that question he burst into tears. His deepening voice echoed in the sobs. My teen-ager still has the sensitivity of a wee child. "you're not really going to give the cats away, are you?"
I felt nauseous that I had hurt him with such a careless threat. I assured him the cats would not be given away and although I try to never make empty promises or threats, I let my ignorant thoughts flow from my head and out my mouth. I apologized profusely and snuggled him as I had when he was small. Of course, this is a mighty task taking into account that he's bigger than I. All the same, he needed reassurance that I had not suddenly become monster mommy.
A list is posted where he'll see it. The reminder is there and an allowance is received weekly. From now on, he knows the cats will remain, but his payment will be cut if the duties assigned are not completed with regularity. That's a threat I can follow through on and remain the cat's meow.