The shrill cry came from the kitchen and was immediately followed by the speedy slapping of flip-flops moving hurriedly toward my office. I looked up to see The Diva holding a gnarly dishrag covered with wet, clingy muck.
“This is the grossest thing EVER,” she said, trying to sound angry but looking utterly precious. “Have these ever been cleaned?”
They had, in fact, though exactly when was hard to say. I tried to feel sorry for The Diva, but given that she’d slept until 11:30 that morning and was going to spend the rest of the day doing next to nothing, I was utterly without empathy. Still, I tried to toughen her up for the coming tasks.
“Just think, you could be in summer camp instead,” I said, returning to whatever I was writing at the time. “And you still can … there’s a few weeks of registration left.”
She stared at me like I was wearing a hat made of wriggling tongues, before a broad, knowing smile grew across her face. As those moments stretched out, I could see the mental movie playing through her mind: sleeping late, watching DVR-ed episodes of “Mob Wives,” hanging out at the skate park with her boyfriend and watching other guys play basketball — versus getting up early for theater camp, performing acting exercises with a bunch of wannabe teenage actors pretending to be trees swaying in the wind or reading monologues from “My Fair Lady.”
“Nope … I’m good,” she said, pivoting back toward the kitchen, dust rag in hand.
In about 20 more minutes, she was done and gone, not to be seen again until suppertime. The kitchen baseboards had been dusted, the floor had been swept and mopped. Talk about a win/win for the work-at-home stepdad.
Summers are tough for 15-year-olds. They can’t wait for the freedom from homework and tests, but that only lasts about two weeks. Then they’re bored, irritable and miserable — a condition that quickly poisons the entire house to the point where even the dogs are nipping at each other’s heels.
This is the issue ever year with The Diva. Her brain works at light-speed, and if forced to sit and stew for hours every day, she’s apt to use that powerful noggin for evil. Think Lex Luthor with better hair. Therefore, we aim to keep The Diva busy.
She’s attended the theater summer camp before and secretly enjoyed it. But The Diva, like her wicked-cool stepdad, isn’t what you’d call a “joiner.” She’d rather cling to what she knows. But summer camp makes for an awesome threat.
This year, The Diva was presented with two options — either find something, anything, constructive to do, or spend the summer working around the house. The caveat to the latter being that she couldn’t leave the house until all her chores were done.
Thus far, she’s come through with flying colors. Usually, when it comes to responsibilities, The Diva sticks to her own clothes, her own room and her own bug-eating frog. This summer she’s branching out: dusting the house, cleaning the bathrooms, sweeping, mopping, etc. It’s like Christmas for OCD me.
By August, she’ll be picking up dog poop and spackling the garden tub.
“E-E-E-E-W-W-W-W!” … how sweet it is.
Contact Brett Buckner at email@example.com