Tuesday, March 28, 2023

My kids are bored. I know this because as I sit here, writing this article, they’re telling me this. They have toys, they have games, they have each other, yet they want me to come up with something to entertain them. And it has to be something more exciting than all the toys and games they have. Why did I get them so many toys and games? Yet they never grow bored of telling me they’re bored. They can do that all day.

So generally, when they tell me they’re bored, I give them a chore. That usually gets them to back down and say, “Never mind,” and find something to do on their own, and then whenever they come near me for the rest of the day, I can hound them about that chore.

But sometimes they’ll actually do that chore and then come back to me, telling me that they’re bored again, which is annoying because that’s entirely not what I wanted. I guess that also means the chore is done, but most of what I ask them to do, I can do myself in less time. Unless it involves bending down.

It’s also not easy to keep constantly coming up with chores for them that I don’t have to supervise or get up afterward to check on. This requires serious thought and creativity, and the whole reason I give them a chore in the first place is that it’s hard to be creative when they’re standing right there telling me that they’re bored.

Usually, I tell them to clean their room. This is a no-brainer. I don’t have to first go upstairs and see if their room needs to be cleaned; their room always needs to be cleaned. That’s its default state. I have a room that is shared by all my boys, and the floor is covered, wall to wall, by things that belong to nobody. I know this because everyone comes down, one at a time, and tells me that everything that’s theirs is cleaned up. And then I go upstairs and the room is still covered. Are people breaking into the house with their laundry, scattering it on the floors and sneaking out? To what end? So my kids should wash them and scatter them on the floor again? How come they never break in to get the clothes back?

So I send the kids back up, and they stay upstairs and fight about whose stuff is whose. During playtime, they’re always fighting that everything is theirs, but now everything belongs to the other person. This would actually be a great way to break up fights, in general. Whenever your kids are fighting that something belongs to them, just say that whoever’s it is has to clean it up immediately. Suddenly it will be no one’s. It’ll be yours. And you’ll clean it up and put it in the garbage, because you have no use for it, and suddenly it will be everyone’s again.

They even fight over whose dirty laundry is whose. None of them have ever thought about the consequences of insisting that absolutely no clothing is theirs.

You’d think this wouldn’t be possible. Each of my kids has his own laundry basket, because half the difficulty of laundry is sorting three different sizes of the same exact socks that my wife bought so our kids should match each other. And since each child has his own laundry basket, the policy is that when a child’s laundry basket is full, he has to bring it down to be washed. So the kids try to circumvent this by never putting anything in their baskets.

Ideally, they’re each in charge of bringing their laundry basket down for my wife to wash, and then they bring it up to the living room where my wife helps them fold it, and then she sends them upstairs with it, where they put it in their room without actually entering the room or turning on the lights. I have one kid who keeps stuffing clean laundry behind his bed. I have another kid who can’t do that because he sleeps on the top bunk. So he leaves it in the far corner of his bed, under his blanket.

Then, on Friday (or sooner, if they’re bored) we say, “Clean your room!” and they take all their floor clothing—clean and dirty—put it all in their basket so it’s overflowing, and bring the basket down, because we’re suddenly going to do their laundry late on a Friday afternoon. So it sits in the basement until Sunday, while the kids spend Shabbos throwing their laundry on the floor, because they have no laundry baskets.

I’m not even sure how they live like this. They have dirty clothes on the floor, and they have clean clothes on the floor. How do they tell which is which? And does it matter? If it’s on the floor, it’s not clean. Even if it was. Have you seen the floor? I haven’t. I’m not even sure my kid’s room has a floor. I haven’t seen it in years. I assume it has a floor because it was there when we moved in, and my kids have never picked up anything in their lives.

By Mordechai Schmutter

 Mordechai Schmutter is a freelance writer and a humor columnist for Hamodia, The Jewish Press and Aish.com, among others. He also has five books out and does stand-up comedy. You can contact him at [email protected]


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