When my wife and I started living together more than 26 years ago, we came to an unspoken agreement about divisions of labor that has worked well for us. Quite simply, the person who cares the most gets to choose, or the person who is most picky has to do it. There are occasions when we can’t agree on who cares the most because we each care differently, and there are times when we’re picky in different ways too, but this rule has kept us from a lot of fights that we’ve seen our friends get into.
I’ve been having lots of fights with my youngest son. He has great trouble with authority figures, and that’s what we parents are. Last night, I had the house all to myself. I went looking for something that I couldn’t find in its usual place so I went to check his room. When I opened the door my body went tense. His room is beyond the pit that many teenager’s rooms are. It made me so mad that he won’t keep it picked up like we ask him to. Then it hit me. I should approach this in the same way that Susie and I have done things. Keeping his room clean isn’t something he cares about. It’s important to me. So I cleaned his room.
It took almost two hours. I hauled out two large trash bags of crap. For the first time in a long time, I wasn’t mad at him or stressed by him. Each article of clothing I picked up (four laundry baskets full) made me feel better. I cleaned and organized his room. Today I washed and folded his laundry.
I realize that sometimes we have to keep our bearing and look for a solution that doesn’t involve confrontation, especially when dealing with those we love.