My vacuum is always broken
I don’t care who you are. If you have children, you have those moments when you can only stare, bewildered, and wonder how on earth they will survive without you. After all, you can only afford to buy a new vacuum cleaner so many times before filing bankruptcy over bobby pins and die-cast cars because the costs start interfering with your ability to make the house payment. The vacuum cleaner has, without any intention at all, become a source for invaluable lessons in responsibility for the children in my household, and it’s definitely a “learn the hard way” tool for me.
For my son, it’s a chore that I assumed would be simple and painless enough to do no harm. Chores are necessary not only because I feel like I shouldn’t be the only one working, but also because I would like to think my children will not add to the entitled attitude of their generation (calm down, every generation is seen as entitled by the one before it). My kids aren’t allowed to play video games unless their rooms are clean, and my son is an avid gamer.
Frequently he trudges to his room with the vacuum, motivated by the next level on his game. This has been more frequent since overpreparation is my thing and I packed all his toys two weeks before we move. There’s nothing else to do, and yes, I planned it that way. My son, obviously is a boy. But in another sense, he is truly a boy. His attitude about cleaning his room subtly changed. So subtly I never noticed, that is until I prepped his room for paint. Most of the room was packed and I assumed I’d simply be moving the bed to the middle of the room and working my way around.
Wrong. And gross.
First, let me say that my initial error has to do with how I want my kitchen to “flow.” My fruit basket has sat on the edge of the counter near the dining room, which is where my son’s bedroom is located. There is no food allowed in the bedrooms, but it’s apparently too tempting for my son to have a basket of oranges and bananas in a location where he merely takes one step out of his room and reaches his hand around the corner to grab his snack. The problem is, oranges and bananas have peels.
Never mind that the garbage can is located in a similarly convenient location. That would be too easy.
Fortunately, God only allows me the urge to clean my children’s rooms when they are not present in the house. This may have something to do with the bedtime prayer of “protect us in our walk to glorify you, Lord.” As I pulled the bed away from the wall, it was stuck. One of my friends was here as a witness, and I wasn’t too embarrassed because she also has a horde of gross kids. Between the bed and the wall was four orange peels, a banana peel and some unidentifiable snacks that were likely being “saved for later.”
On further inspection, I discovered a tangerine, peeled and separated into segments, being dried in his pillowcase. What does this have to do with the vacuum cleaner and responsibility (because clearly this particular lesson is failing miserably)?
When I ask my son before he turns his video game on what his room looks like and follow up with a threat to go look myself, he usually says “Hold on,” and grabs the vacuum cleaner. For quite a while, I thought, “Wow! He really wants me to be impressed with how great a job he did!” Whatever.
As I was preparing to shampoo a carpet, which involves running a vacuum over it first, I discovered that my vacuum sucked, or didn’t suck, whatever semantic arrangement you prefer. I had just replaced the belt on it, an experience I used to try to teach the teenager some independence and responsibility, which resulted in a long string of text messages that ended with me asking her if the rapture had occurred and only Target employees were included because she said no one was there to help her read the package of the vacuum cleaner belts.
As per my normal routine, I checked the belt again. It was in tact. I moved on to the filter, which didn’t look clogged. Then I checked the hose. The light bulbs went off, and I discovered that my boy had found his favorite multitool.
I couldn’t see through the hose because there were too many orange peels, markers and die-cast cars in the way. My son had learned that all he needed to clean his room was a vacuum. He would never have to pick anything up. I always wondered why he would turn the vacuum on and off and run it for a half hour in his small bedroom. It was because it was fun to pick everything up with a hose. Heaven forbid he strain his 7-year-old back bending over to pick things up by hand. Call it lazy parenting if you want to, but I guarantee you that you have a similar experience.
Sometimes it’s as simple as knowing they lied about brushing their teeth before bed and not wanting to create drama because it will interfere with how soon you get to eat the ice cream you stashed in the back of the freezer so no one would ask you for it.
The vacuum works again, and the next time it doesn’t, I will check the hose first (which means that it will be a belt or filter issue). I have less than a week in the home I’ve lived in for more than eight years, and I plan to just not buy fruit until I move because it seems like the most effective way to avoid gagging over the peels and cores.
I realize that the actions of my son are disobedient and devious, and it does cause me to question the effectiveness of my parenting, but only for a moment. I know, deep down, that for my son to understand the purpose of obedience, he also must grasp at least the concept of disobedience and the futility of actions that are disobedience. I’m not saying that there isn’t more than one way to skin a cat (as my teenager says: “with a knife or a chainsaw or just by hand…”), but I do think that when he fulfills his duties the way he is supposed to according to directions from someone who knows better (me), complications are less and results are fast.
When he is grown and no longer has his mother to tell him how to clean his room, he still will have that voice in his head (hopefully it’s not always screechy like I imagine it). And despite his blind optimism (“When I’m a grown up, she’ll never be able to tell me how to clean my room again!”), he still will get lessons in obedience. He still will answer to an authority. “For just as you were at one time disobedient to God but now have received mercy because of their disobedience, so they too have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you they also may now receive mercy. For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all,” Paul wrote in Romans 11:30-32.
Talk about hope for the present and future generations. In this, God tells us, I think, that in order for us to fully grasp the irrevocable gift he gives us, we have to know that it’s good. I know that for me to know it’s good, I must have something to compare it to that isn’t good. I’m sure my kids are the same way. Until he gets it, I can’t promise I won’t be screechy, but I will promise that next time he commits similar infractions, he’ll be the one prying the banana off the wall with a screwdriver and pulling the moldy orange out of the vacuum with a kabob stick.