If you think I was enjoying myself scrubbing the bathroom instead of playing with you outside on an improbably gorgeous autumn day in October in Pittsburgh, please reconsider.
It’s just that your dad tore up part of the disgusting rug in that bathroom (advice: never, ever, move into a house or apartment with a rug in the bathroom), but only part of it. And I decided to hire a babysitter so I could finish the job.
I’m grateful that you wanted to help me. But between the chemicals I was using to thoroughly disinfect the space and the clear detridus of I don’t know how many years accumulated under and on the edge of said rug, that room was not safe for you. It wasn’t really that safe for me, but my system is stronger.
Plus, “help” in the toddler lexicon is different from “help” in an adult lexicon. For example, on Saturday, you “helped” me clean the dishes by stirring a potful of water (“I’m making an apple cake!”) on one side of our divided sink while on the other I rinsed dishes and loaded them in the dishwasher. You often help me in the kitchen by doing arts and crafts while I put dishes away or cook. I can’t imagine how you were going to help me in the bathroom. Possibly by brushing your teeth and drinking a lot of dixie-cupfuls of water.
So for you to have come in after your walk with the babysitter, come see me covered in crap, and, when I told you to please go back downstairs, say, “You’re breaking my heart” was equal parts exasperating and amusing. I hope you will excuse my reaction.
First of all, where are you learning these things, these emotional words for heartbreak and love? Do Daddy and I say them to you? Are you picking them up from the four-year-olds at day school? Are you sneaking Hannah Montana at Bella’s house?
Secondly, given a choice, I would have left the bathroom exactly as it was for a couple more weeks, and gone outside, into the sunshine and air with you. But Nonna and Pap-pap are coming to visit, and my lack of effective housekeeping shames me. I had to do something.
Believe me, I want to spend my time on weekends with you and your sister. You are amazing and adorable and sweet and exasperating, and I love you so much it creates an ache sometimes from my throat to my stomach. But part of me loving you is going to work, and cleaning our dirty house, and taking you to the grocery store with me.
Please, don’t break my heart by telling me I’m breaking yours when I can’t come play with you. Time is precious and fleeting. But sometimes, I gotta clean the bathroom. Okay?
I understand that you are 14 years old. And texting to a 14 year old is like breathing. But your job, the job for which I am paying you, is to entertain and play with my child. Oh, and also to keep her out of my hair.
I am unsure of how to approach this with you. My kids like you a lot; my husband and I like that you literally live across the street so we can watch you go home at the end of your shift. If I tell you to leave your phone at home, it is likely that you will decline to work for us any longer. I hesitate to tell your parents to ask you to keep the phone at home — you could be texting with your mother for all I know. I would feel like I was tattling on you.
But, honey, it is not acceptable to me that you sit texting on the couch, while my broken-hearted three-year-old plays lackadaisically with her toys. It was nice of you to do arts and crafts with her — at my suggestion. And also to take her for a walk — also at my suggestion. But you’re going to have to do a little bit more if you decide to pursue babysitting as a means of earning cash. At this point, I would hesitate to recommend you for another job. Your two weaknesses are your inability to straighten up when you are done with the kids, and this whole non-stop texting thing while letting my kids entertain themselves. You need to be a teensy bit more engaged with them. I am hoping that when I talk to my husband about this, he will guide me to an effective way of communicating with you. (He’s good like that.)
Or maybe I will just buy you one of these, although such a step seems a tad heavy-handed.
In the meantime, I remain, your sole employer,
red pen mama