Entry 2: Chores
Growing up, I was never given chores. People say it’s part of being an only child. I didn’t use a broom for the first time until I was forced to sweep up a mess in art class. The teacher thought I was trying to be funny. It took two friends telling her I honestly didn’t know how to hold a broom before she would show me.
I didn’t wash my first dish until I had to take Culinary for a semester. I hated it. The soap made my hands feel weird so I rinsed the food off plates and set them to the side. The teacher told me this didn’t clean them.
The analogy she used: “If you rinse a cat turd with water, is it clean?” I didn’t think a cat turd could ever be considered clean regardless what techniques were implored.
When other kids had chores, I told them they weren’t slaves and should stop doing them. No matter how many looked at me crazy, I thought they were wrong.
Part of it can be blamed on my parents, but only part. More so Mom than Dad. Mom didn’t care what I did as long as I wasn’t in her way. If I was in my room and she couldn’t hear me, that was a pretty good day.
Dad got sick of the situation when I became a hostile teenager instead of Daddy’s girl. He decided it would be good for me to have responsibility. He said I treated them like a maid service. I disagreed because I wasn’t the one trying to change how life worked.
My first task was washing dishes. I said, “I could wash them, if you’re sure that’s how you wanna play this.”
He sounded really sure.
“If you make me do dishes, I’ll rinse the food off and put them on the drying rack.” The trick is, maintain eye contact, never blink.
I have since been told by others, if their children had done such a thing, they would have stood right there while the kid washed every dish. That’s probably what he should have done. Instead, he lost patience with me and walked away.
I held strong opinions about chores. The way I saw it, I didn’t want to be born. They forced me into this world with no choice in the matter. Now I’m stuck here for a lifetime. It wasn’t my house, or my disgusting food in the sink. My room was my only domain.
That doesn’t mean my room was kept clean, but I kept it in a way that was comfortable to me. It was a tiny room. I knew kids with closets bigger than my room. I had lots of stuff that had to be kept there. It takes a complex understanding of spatial reasoning to utilize that room to its full potential. No one understood that.
Growing up, if I wanted something I couldn’t have, I bargained for it. Everything has a price. Before I had a job, the only currency I had was whatever my brain could think to trade. I always opened bidding with offering to clean my room. I truly had every intention of keeping my word. When I made the promises, I genuinely believed I would hold up my end of the deal.
What messed me up, was getting my pay up front. Once I had what I wanted, I didn’t see a rush to fulfill my duties. I actually believed my parents forgot.
They didn’t say, “It’s time to clean your room now.”
To me, that meant they forgot and I was off the hook. This scenario would play out thousands of times. I also thought people forgot I owed them money.
Every now and then, Dad would become particularly irritated with me. In these moments he would make another go at trying to give me chores.
I enjoyed cutting the grass. We had a lawnmower painted with tiger stripes and I loved it. Dad should have realized something was off when I was excited at the prospect of learning to use it.
He showed me how everything worked, and told me to keep the wheel where I wanted to cut. He watched long enough to make sure I could drive it, then went back inside.
I had such a time! I wanted to cut grass every time from now on! I was trucking it along all over the place. I was only suppose to cut the front yard and field, but I was having so much fun I wanted to surprise Dad and do the back fields as well.
By time he was able to stop me, I had torn everything apart. The grass was cut, but apparently spinning donuts on a lawn mower creates huge ruts. There were long patches of grass I missed all over the yard. It was like a diseased leopard. I was never allowed to cut the grass again.
Things went a little easier when it came to laundry. Dad had a smarter strategy for this one. One year, he decided we would do all the cleaning for Mother’s Day. I didn’t like his plan. When he wanted to show me how to do laundry, I felt obligated to try since this was supposedly a one day only type of deal.
I didn’t mind the look of it. It seemed there was nothing to it aside from dumping dirty clothes in, pour a cap of cleaner, and push a button. Even less work for the dryer. I also enjoyed the downtime while the machines did the real work. I volunteered to take on all the laundry. By my calculations, that would leave several hours of game time between loads.
I should have realized it was too easy. Dad cleaned the whole house while I played Xbox. I got up once an hour to switch out the clothes, then back to Elder Scrolls. When my first load came out of the dryer, I had a moment of panic. Was I suppose to fold all this stuff?
Apparently yes, when one does laundry, one is often expected to put the clothes away when finished. Luckily, I found a solution.
I dumped the clothes onto my parents bed, separated them into two piles: mine and theirs. I took mine to my room and threw them in the closet. No use folding them when I was just about to wear them again.
I went back to my parents room and placed their clothes back in the basket. I put the basket in their closet and carried the rest of the loads by hand. When I separated the clothes, mine went back to my closet, theirs stacked in the basket. Even so, I was still asked to do laundry often after that day. Once I knew how to work the machines, they saw no reason not to let me keep doing it. It was just easy enough for me to do it without too much fuss.
You know how kids write all over each other’s car windows with those special markers? My car had writing all over it senior year. Dad said it was obstructing my view and to wash it off. Weeks went by, and I did nothing. Finally, one Saturday Dad comes to tell me I can’t go anywhere or play Xbox until I get out there and wash it off.
I was exasperated with him at that point. I told him I would pay him $20 to leave me alone. He told me I couldn’t go through life thinking money would solve my problems. Again, I disagreed.
I offered him $40 to clean it for me. He told me I couldn’t afford to pay him to scrape off that paint. He said he already checked and it won’t rinse off anymore. It was dried on, I would have to use a paint scrapper to get it off.
Turns out, he was telling the truth. If you leave that stuff on, it becomes a bitch to get off. I approached Mom and told her I would give her $50 if she cleaned my car and made Dad leave me alone. She instantly agreed. I went back to my Xbox.
I could hear them arguing. Dad thought it was a bad idea to teach me I can get out of punishments. Mom thought it better to teach me it was stupid to throw money away. They were probably both right to an extent, but I barely noticed the $50 was gone.
I think what damaged me most was learning I could make more money than my parents by working in a restaurant. In a world without bills, I walked around with a few grand cash in my purse like it was nothing. I was too lazy to go to a bank more than once every few weeks. I couldn’t understand why anyone had trouble with money. It was so easy to get.
It makes me sick to my stomach to remember all the times I threw money away, or when I turned into a smartass for Dad trying to warn me. I made peanuts in the real world. Peanuts.
I watched Little House on the Prairie all day yesterday. I’m watching season 3 today and Nellie Olsen disgusts me. This morning, I realized I hate her so much because she reminds me of myself as a child. Not the pretty hair and dresses. In looks, I was more like Laura in the sense of being a tomboy. Though I didn’t pull the look off like she did.
Nellie Olsen has my attitude. My snotty, spoiled attitude that I pushed onto others because I was the smartest person in the world and knew better than everyone else. If someone didn’t like how I did things, something was wrong with them. It was disgusting, and I need to own that.
Well thanks guys, you really are the best imaginary friends a girl could ask for. I don’t know how you guys stay so supportive.