Took my older dog for a run in the still, damp air to see if I could shake off what shook me up the other day. The dog is always happy to hear the leash jingle, but the whole journey away from the house, I have to tug every few seconds to keep him from being a literal drag. And there’s the problem of unpredictability. He’s bit several people without warning, several times puncturing the skin. Upsetting, not okay, even scary, but we can’t see our way to putting him down, only redoubling our efforts to keep him from hurting anyone. I cinch his leash toward me and ready myself each time a jogger approaches, and try not to release any stress pheromones he might interpret as a call to protect me. Meanwhile I wish good morning to the passers by. There are no incidents, no lunge attempts. On the way back he heels nicely from a forward position, eager to return to familiar territory. And I feel like dragging, because I don’t really want to go home right now. Wondering why things were so fine for weeks, and suddenly tense and hurtful so I’m responding from my reptilian brain, also known as bitch. I hate being grumpy, makes me grumpier still.
The main thing is I’ve been tense about for days is housekeeping and chores. Four kids, and I thought I’d put a lot of effort into teaching and training them to pick up after themselves and pitch in on general household tasks, but not one of them ever (it seems) does any chore without being asked, and even when they are asked (or told), I often end doing it myself, fuming. Busy, too tired, feel sick, “just a second” that turns into an half hour, didn’t make the mess, already did a chore, etc.
Part of it is that I take very little satisfaction and virtually no enjoyment from housework, laundry being the exception (especially using a clothesline). I’d rather be gardening, installing trim, sewing, painting, baking, doing finances, mowing the lawn, almost anything. So I think it’s only fair that the burden be shared, and when it isn’t, I take it personally. I too want my share in recreation, personal scholarship time, creative pursuits, and so on.
The other part is that I see a pattern of irresponsibility and insensitivity that could affect other areas of their life and relationships. Truth is there is no just escape from housework, and the sooner they get used to, and skilled at it, and learn to balance it with everything else, the more successful they will be at those mundane foundations of modern living. It’s for their own good that they should do chores. Why can’t they see that? I have explained it.
Finally, I feel guilty, and inadequate, because in this aspect of parenting, I feel a failure. I have neither been an effective teacher/motivator, nor dictator/disciplinarian, nor organizer/delegator, nor loving, merciful self-sacrificing person who people just want to help out.
Run, sweat, shower, breakfast, coffee, writing time. I feel a bit better. Now it’s time for me to re-read my housekeeping resolutions post, and pull myself together, with God being my helper.