I parked in the garage last week and got out of my car. I spotted a kitchen spoon with traces of peanut butter lying next to one garbage can and a sweatshirt sitting on top of the other can.
I sighed and scooped up these items to bring into the house.
I entered the laundry room to find a backpack and a pair of shoes in my path. I stopped and picked up the backpack to hang on the hook. I helped my daughter hang up her coat, then I shuffled the sweatshirt and spoon into one arm so I could put the tennis shoes away in the closet.
I put the dirty spoon in the sink. The sweatshirt in the laundry basket. And spent the next 20 minutes cleaning up the art supplies, toys and stray socks that littered my kitchen and family room.
Finally, I took my coat off and hung up my purse.
I took out Play-doh for my 3-year-old daughter and sat down with a cup of coffee and a good book.
Then my boys came home from school.
Like mini tornadoes, in five minutes flat they had book bags and textbooks, after-school snack crumbs, pencil sharpening shavings and bits of pink eraser all over. When the homework was finished, the bags, shavings and crumbs remained while they pulled plastic swords and belts and daggers from the basement playroom, only to abandon them in the backyard grass less than 20 minutes later.
Their energy, I imagine, is funneled out of their 7- and 9-year-old bodies through the flinging of toys and demolition of our house.
“I don’t understand why boys are so destructive,” I told my neighbor the other day.
They play roller-blade hockey in the unfinished portion of the basement and break stored Christmas decorations. They’ve drawn smiley faces with pencil on painted walls. They leave basketballs in the driveway to be run over by my husband’s truck. And they rub holes in the knees of their school pants faster than I can buy them.
Can nothing be preserved in a household with little boys?
My mother says I am too much of a neat freak. But in our throw-away society I feel compelled to keep things in as good of shape as I can for as long as I can. I don’t want to replace toys, appliances and furniture every few years.
Besides, who can afford it?
So my husband and I had a family meeting with the kids Monday night. We laid out the house rules, talked to them about obedience, respect and what we expect from them. We also offered a weekly allowance in exchange for making their beds each morning and a weekly cleaning of the basement playroom.
Week one has gone pretty smoothly.
Nothing has been broken yet.
But I’m not planning on replacing the stained carpet anytime soon.
• Journal-Times reporter Mike Moore writes Daddy Talk. Mommy Talk is written by reporter Marci Laehr Tenuta.