Now that my son can read, his listening skills have deteriorated to the point that verbal instructions are almost useless. I’d like to write this off as a typical male inability to multitask. Or I could give it a positive spin, and claim that he must have so much testosterone running through his veins that he’s developed the ability to focus so completely on the television set that the rest of world disappears. Whatever the cause, I would bet a bag of M & M’s that he gets this genetic mutation from my husband’s side of the family.
No matter what the reason is, I’m sick and tired of repeating the same simple instructions 957 times each morning (brush your teeth, grab your backpack, take your underwear off your head) and having him feign deafness. I’ve already had his hearing tested, and the pediatrician said he’s fine. Though, there may be some latent inner ear damage if I have to keep yelling in his ear every morning till he’s 20.
Rather than turning immediately to my usual parental dilemma solutions of wine and chocolate, I decided to try a method honed by centuries of office workers who needed to get their colleagues’ ears. I decided to write the kid a memo.
Subject: Your Room
A recent inspection revealed that all of the floor space in your room was completely obstructed by a variety of dirty clothes, small plastic Legos, coins (mostly pennies), birthday party goodie-bag detritus, art projects, Pokemon Cards, comic books, and other reading materials. You are directed to remove these materials from your room immediately. Please acknowledge your understanding of these instructions via inter-office memo.
Subject: Reply-Your Room
Subject: I don’t want to have to ask you again
Clean up your room immediately. Not only is this a violation of your employment agreement, wherein you are required to keep your work space clean, it is also a potential worker’s compensation violation, as I tripped on one of those stupid Legos this morning when I came in to wake you up and may have permanently damaged my right heel.
Subject: Ask me WHAT again?
Are you talking to me?
Subject: You’ve got to be kidding me
Yes, I am addressing you. Please turn off the television and proceed to your room immediately to clean it up.
I’m actually not watching television. It’s a DVD and there’s only five more minutes to the end.
Subject: TV/DVD who cares
I don’t care what you’re watching. Turn it off and get to work.
Subject: It’s not fair
I already took out the recycling yesterday and you didn’t ever give me my allowance yet.
Subject: Who do you think works to get your allowance money
Get to work. In case you’re blind in addition to deaf, I’m losing my patience. And honey, I put out the recycling yesterday, not you.
Subject: So what?
Yeah, but you TOLD me to put away my clean laundry, and that’s not my job.
To: Mr. Debate Team
From: The Logic Queen
Subject: This is not open to debate
I need to get to the door to go to the grocery store. You must clean up your room in order for me to do so.
Subject: Yeah, to buy WINE
Don’t be weak, Mom. Just step over all of that stuff. That’s what I do.
From: Your Mother, who deserves some respect
Subject: It doesn’t matter why I am going to the store
Stop stalling and clean up your room.
To: Mommy Dearest
From: Your Baby Boy
Can you pick me up some Pringles and another DVD while you’re out?
To: The boy whose room will be clean soon
From: Don’t forget who’s in charge here
Clean up your room.
Okay, I’ll clean my room. But I’m hungry and thirsty. I think now would be a good time to drink some milk and eat some broccoli.
To: All Employees
Effective immediately, Leslie Dinaberg will be using her 37 weeks of accumulated vacation. She’ll be spending her time in a nice, quiet, clean room.
Send a memo to Leslie at email
Originally published in the Santa Barbara Daily Sound on July 28, 2006.