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Suburban Island

Tidy House Doubts
Saturday, Sept. 11, 2004, 11:52 a.m.

QUESTION: Where's my umbrella?

WHAT I LEARNED: A wind is a wind.

What a week. Fridays are like heaven to me. Just knowing the weekend is here is enough to put the wind beneath my weary wings. By Friday, it doesn’t even matter if it’s a sorry tiresome wind full of chores to be done – a wind indicative of a weekend not nearly shot through with enough free time for mom. I dont care. As long as it's a wind - and it has weekend stamped on it - I'll take it chores and all.

Speaking of wind under wings – where did Mary Poppins get that great umbrella? Now that would be a handy tool for the average citizen. Having a bad day? Just yank out your handy-dandy umbrella and float away for a few minutes – above the problems and daily travails that dot the landscape of life - and get a few minutes peace and perspective. I bet there’d be a veritable traffic jam in the clouds. I’d definitely like to have one of those – a standard issue Mary Poppins oversized black umbrella with flight capabilities.

Mary Poppins came to mind today because I think she is part of the reason for my lack of understanding about the real household assistance one might reasonable expect from other household members under the age of 18. When I had little kids, I used to look forward to the day they could help a bit around the house. I think I was deluded by one to my many viewings of Mary Poppins, particularly that segment in which those cute kids, Jane and Michael Banks, helped clean up the nursery while everybody ran around singing about how a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down. It was heartwarming and I thought – someday maybe I won’t have to do all of this myself and other people will pick up their own messes and life will be like a dream. Obviously the dream was that idea ever coming to fruition.

I’d like to know how Jane and Michael turned out after Mary Poppins cut them lose and floated away under her trusty umbrella. I think Mary P. left just in time – before the teen years. I bet those kids never sang about spoonfuls of sugar or put the dishes in the dishwasher or made their beds again. I bet their mom is giving a speech about helping around the house in some unwritten sequel right now.

That story is playing out in my house on a regular basis. For instance, Friday afternoon I arrived home in the late afternoon to find my son camped out in the living room. All the shades were down; the flicker and noise of the TV consumed the attention of my son whose head barely swiveled in my direction as I entered. Cups and food wrappers were scattered across the coffee table. Stuff he considered interesting at the moment (like all his paintball equipment) littered the area around the sofa creating a sort of makeshift obstacle course. There is not a schoolbook in sight. He says he is tired.

I moved to the kitchen to find a sink of dishes and counters littered with trays and other items used and not put away. It was time for one of my favorite speeches – Mom’s not your servant. You need to help around here. This is not acceptable. Breathless from all that nagging, I paused. I was waiting with foolish expectancy for some sound or word that signified acceptance or at least acknowledgement of my fine speech. Only silence ensued.

Eventually a commercial came on and my son was finally able to response to my pleas for help. He said - I’m hungry, can you make me something to eat. I felt an urge to make the mom-is-not-your-servant speech with the food preparation clause inserted for clarification but I just don’t have the energy.

Here’s your peanut butter sandwich, I say as I deliver the sandwhich TV-side. Mom’s going downstairs to finish up some work. Don’t shout to me down the stairs because I might be on the phone with a client. I know I shouldn't bother with the reminder. I’ll soon being hearing the plaintive impatient call of one of my kids in spit of this admonition - Mom, mom, mom... I know I will be on the phone with a client when it happens.

Mommy is stressing. What would Mary Poppins do?

She’d probably be digging out her umbrella about now.

DETAILS: Coffee: iced caramel macchiato + Listening to: West Coast Jazz + Observing: a media cabinet to set up + Thinking: I'll finally be able to find the movies currently scattered around the house + Weather: it's still summer, baby.

Today’s Suburban Strategy: Comic Crazy?

Today’s Scenic Cam: Take a stroll on the boardwalk.

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