I am not a magician.
I know, this news comes as a surprise to my children as well.
They live in a super-excellent world where the knife and cutting board they used to make a sandwich or sticky bowl and spoon leftover from a late-night ice cream snack magically disappear from the sink or counter and then reappear in the dishwasher.
In the past month, and just in time for my summer malaise, my kids have become increasingly comfortable with letting dirty dishes pile up in the sink, tucking plastic Nestle Quick bottles between the couch cushions and just last week, leaving a pair of sneakers on the granite counter.
I shit you not.
My 19-year-old daughter is particularly miffed at my suggestion that everyone in the house clean up after themselves.
“You’re one to talk,” she told me tonight, repeating a sentiment she’s offered before.
It made me crazy.
“The difference between me leaving a coffee cup in the sink and you leaving your smoothie fixin’s all over the counter is that NO ONE CLEANS UP AFTER ME,” I not-so-calmly explained. Because the kids might sometimes clean up after themselves but heaven forbid they put an extra cup or spoon in the dishwasher.
There are no super-powers required to tidy up around the house.
Last week, I walked into our laundry/mudroom area to find a pile of my just-cleaned clothing on the floor and my 20-year-old’s clothes tumbling quietly in the dryer.
“This is not college,” I texted him at work. “Do not put my clean laundry on the floor. Think beyond yourself.”
But he knew enough to quickly respond, “Sorry.”
When the older kids were small and things were more controlled, everyone had a good sense of what was expected of them. We only ate in the kitchen. You put your dirty laundry in the dirty clothesbasket in your room. You hung towels back up in the bathroom.
But the rules seem to have gotten a little slippery as everyone’s gotten older, with my youngest becoming one of the worst offenders. It’s like he never got the memo about how things work around here.
For one thing, he’s going to be one of those husbands a wife complains can never connect his boxer shorts the two feet from where he’s left them on the floor and into the hamper. He just can’t seem to make that jump.
He’s also the worst dirty towel offender. If all of a sudden we seem to have no clean towels, I know I can go into his room and find three left scattered across his tiny bedroom floor as he rushed from the shower to quickly change into pajamas and pick up wherever his last YouTube video left off.
But he’s cute and always sorry for his shortcomings, so he’s easy to forgive.
The others are usually not so sorry and annoyed with my nagging. They legit tell me so.
They don’t want to hear about how if you stack everything on top of everything else in the dishwasher, nothing gets cleaned (read: then I’m the one hand-washing everything in the morning). There’s always a rubber spatula with dried Greek yogurt clinging to its ridges or a dinner knife streaked with peanut butter to contend with.
They could care less that their endless pairs of sneakers, cleats and flip-flops scattered across the mudroom floor belong in their own closets and not tangled up beneath my feet as I try to navigate my way to the washing machine.
And the cozy throws I keep tucked away in an ottoman for them to snuggle up in to watch the umpteenth episode of Arrested Development or partake in the mass carnage of Call of Duty never seem to make it back inside, much less folded up neatly on the couch. I usually find the blankets crumpled amongst the XBOX controllers, remotes and batteries. And why are there always batteries everywhere? At least throw the old ones away.
A LA PEANUT BUTTER SANDWICHES!
Two of the kids head off to camp for the week tomorrow and I wonder if I’ll see a slowdown in debris left around the house. I wonder if I’ll miss my 16-year-old’s half-finished projects piled on the wicker chair in the TV room or my little guy’s endless collection of YuGiOh! cards scattered across our kitchen counters.
One thing’s for sure, as fast as you can say ABRACADABRA, they’ll be back and littering again.
There’s no magic to that.