Dr. Jekyl and Madam Spud

by Janie Jones

So this morning I’m in the laundry room sorting clothes for the weekly wash.  It’s a chore I’ve come to hate, not so much because I hate doing laundry, because I don’t really.  I just hate the engineering fiasco which is the overpriced, high-efficiency, front-loading washing machine my landlady insisted on replacing the good old fashioned and reliable 1990’s era model washer with.  So every week when I do the wash it’s a crap shoot whether or not my clothes will actually get clean and spun.  Some times, for no apparent reason, the stupid washer will simply not complete the spin cycle.

Anyway, the need to contact a serviceman is not the real issue, it’s the spud.  And without further ado, back to my tale.

The spud apparently wakes up and still wrapped in her blanket stumbles down stairs and into the laundry room where she proceeds to stand and stare at me while I am sorting the clothes.

Me:  Hola

Spud:  Gmrning.

Me:  Como estas?

Spud:  Uh.  Uh.  *long pause*  Uh.

Me:  Como estas means how are you.

Spud:  I know.  I just don’t know how to answer I’m fine.

Me:  You would say, bien, then you could say e tu?  Which is I’m good, how are you.

Spud:  Oh.

Me:  I see somebody never put their clean clothes away last week like they were told to do.

I pick up a basket of clean, folded spud clothes to hand it to her.  She continues to stand there staring at me from under the blanket.  After a second I set the basket down in front of her.

Me:  Please go put your clothes away.

She kicks the basket over, spilling the neatly folded clothes onto the basement floor.

Me:  Now that was rude!  What is your problem?

Spud:  I hate doing chores.

Me:  Well, now you’ve just made yourself more chores because you have to pick up your clean clothes and refold them.

Spud:  I don’t want to.

Me:  No one wants to do chores.  But do you think I should have to wash, fold and put away your clean clothes your whole life?

The spud glowers at me from beneath her blanket and gives a shrug.

Me:  Okay.  Fine.  From now on I’ll wash your clothes but I won’t fold them and as I need the basket, they will just sit down here in this box forever.

Spud:  Okay by me.

Me:  And, when you finally run out of clean clothes in your dresser and you have to finally come down and dig through the box to find clean undies, or socks or pajamas, then maybe you will see the value of doing your chores when you’re supposed to.  Now if you are going to be a poo-poo head and not be helpful get out of my way please.

Later, when I go back upstairs to put away some clean towels and napkins, the spud is sitting at the table eating some breakfast.  I set the towels down on the table and take the napkins to the buffet.

Spud:  Just what to you think I’m going to do with these?

Me, head spinning around faster than if I’d been possessed:  What did you say?!?

Spud:  What am I supposed to do with these towels you put here.

Me:  Nothing.  I just set them there while I put away the napkins.  Can’t I set something down on the table?

Spud:  Oh, I thought you expected me to put them away.

Me:  I wouldn’t dream of expecting you to help.  But I tell you one thing, young lady, you need to get a serious grip on your attitude.  Why are you being so rude today?

Spud:  *shrugs* I hate tomorrow.  Tomorrow is Monday.  I hate Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.  I hate having to do school work.  School is my arch nemesis.

Me:  I know.  School is a lot of work.  Most people would prefer to do whatever they want, but life doesn’t work that way.  We often have to do things that aren’t much fun, but are really important.

Spud:  *Sighs*  Can I have some fruit snacks now?  Can I have them in my room while I watch TV on my little DVD player?


She’s only 8.  What will life be like in 5 years?

3 Comments to “Dr. Jekyl and Madam Spud”

  1. She’s pushing you to see how far she can go. They all do it. It is a constant battle of wills. You have to win each battle or the war will be lost forever.

    And I say that as someone who adores her children. But I had to beat them at their own game.

  2. Leaving Himself at home as House-husband meant it came as no surprise that our kids were fast turning into spoilt indulged little beings who would go into a state of shock at the mere hint of having to lift a finger.
    Their sense of entitlement was growing almost by the minute and they would even yell the length of the house for their father to come and hand them that glass of water on the table rather than shift their lazy behinds from the couch “because I’m so comfortable”.
    Himself did nothing but constantly moan about their attitude, unwillingness and laziness to me, and explode every now and again in front of them.

    We sat in bed one night whilst he yet again poured out his frustrations at their list of demands and expectations him granting their every whim instantaneously, then I got sick of it and said: But all of this is YOUR fault because it’s YOUR behaviour that enables them to carry on this way. They demand and you fetch and carry… how about changing things: if they want something, they get off their own little precious behinds and go get it themselves.

    I convinced him we needed a family meeting, and when it came our kids were told (not asked) that as members of the family they are expected to help out.
    I had a list. Yes, They went pale, were enraged and in shock at the idea and had tears and tantrums… but once they actually completed a decent sized task Little Mr even told me he felt really proud of himself.
    I removed privileges and said no to play dates and sleepovers and removed toys for tasks not completed or undue attitude / tantrums / kids squabbles etc. They started to realise I was very serious in no time at all. Himself became more relaxed but they still push for him to be at their beck and all.

    I’ve become the tough Mama who comes home from work, turns the TV off and shoves them a task to do before dinner. Setting the table for dinner doesn’t kill them, nor does laying out their school clothes ready for the next day, finding their discarded shoes and coats and homework books. But it does make Himself less stressed when they are running late for school next morning and at least they are not searching for school books and items of clothing.

    Yes, of course they complain but even Kiwi Daughter, after sorting a massive pile of laundry, helping dry dishes I’d washed and hauling the vacuum cleaner back to the cupboard after Little Mr had used it admitted “this is hard work!

    I asked her if she though it was any less hard for me? AND I’ve been doing this on crutches too for the last 2 years whereas she has two perfectly good legs. The penny at least started to drop, they don;t love chores of course but now it inbuilt so that kids helping a bit (they could do waaaaay more) at least takes some pressure off two working parents.

    I was absolutely horrified to read that your daughter is only 8 years of age, until the last sentence of your post I imagined her as a 14 or 15 year old. Seriously, if you think you have an entitled lazy child with attitude NOW, just wait a few years, I very greatly fear this IS coming back to bite you!

    I’d start her with some regular chores… have her actually wash her own clothes, giver her some responsibility. Nothing washed, nothing clean, she will find it out either the easy or the hard way.

    The question Himself and I asked each other was: if we don’t start teaching them how to be considerate hard working, responsible human beings from this point in time then WHEN ARE they going to learn? Magic potion at 18 years of age? They have to grow up and start acting like big kids and not like babies. You run around and do everything for toddlers, or children with mental or physical disabilities who really can’t manage on their own. If your kids (and mine) are not in these categories then they need to start learning a few life skills from an early age.

    My kids were fast on track to being like your daughter, or maybe already were like her, but believe me they believe more in themselves now that they are expected to do things in the house and take responsibility, and they say that they feel more like family members too.
    We have seen a slow change take place… they have gained a bit more respect for their parents, and a little more understanding that “work” is hard for everyone, not just them. Our family is certainly happier for the changes we have made. Even the kids are happier and horror of horrors I even caught Kiwi Daughter praising Little Mr. for a task he did recently. She looked critically and then said “good Job, well done!” and both their smiles told me that no matter how many tantrums we had to get here, this is the way we NEED to go on.

    Good luck with your daughter. I think you are going to need it.

    • Kiwidutch,

      Thanks for your comment. The spud, I assure you, has a fine list of age appropriate regular chores she’s expected to do at Momma’s house. She puts away her own clean clothes (when she’s not being insolent and rude), she carries her dirty laundry and mine down to the laundry room every Friday. She takes out the trash every Monday. She empties the dishwasher and puts away the other clean dishes too big for the dishwasher every other day. She has to scrape her own dirty dishes and load into the dishwasher. She takes a turn scrubbing the sink and toilet in the bathroom every other week. And, on grocery shopping day, she helps carry in all the groceries and put them away. For doing a good job and having a good attitude about her chores she earns a quarter for each chore. For having a bad attitude or doing a poor job she does the chore anyway over again if necessary, and loses privileges &/or is punished depending on the nature of the infraction. Regarding this particular incident, her punishment was she had to do all her own laundry from start to finish for two weeks and then she wrote lines 50 times of such phrases as “I will not be rude to my mother,” “I will do as I’m told and not argue,” etc.

      The problem is, the spud has a really bad case of Peter Pan I-don’t-want-to-grow-up-itis. This is compounded by the fact that Daddy is unemployed and so when she visits Daddy it’s mostly all fun and games. Chores at Daddy’s house are minimal because Daddy lives in a house with 4 other people and he doesn’t have many “household” chores. And, when Daddy and the spud are with Daddy’s fiance, who’s a pediatrician, the soon-to-be step mom has a maid. So no matter what I do, it’s “I’d rather be at Daddy’s.” Or “Daddy and Stepmom don’t make me do this.” Everyone but Momma treats her like a porcelain princess who is perfect and should be waited on hand and foot. So, I’m the evil Momma.

      But, still I try, for as you say, they need to learn to be responsible, and it doesn’t happen by magic or accident when they turn 18.

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