As a mom to a 9-year-old boy and an 11-year-old girl, I've rejoiced that my kids are finally old enough to give Mom a bit of a break; they can dress themselves, take on chores around the house, even cook dinner, if need be. Compared to the infant and toddler years, the physical aspect of parenting has certainly downgraded from a frantic rush to a leisurely stroll.
But if my body has finally gotten a break, my mouth certainly hasn't. That's because at this age, while the kids are more self-sufficient in many areas, they still need verbal guidance. Lots of it. And if you're like me, 99 percent of that 'guidance' comes in the form of a few select sentences repeated over, and over, and over.
If I had to narrow it down, I'd say the following are my most most-uttered mandates throughout any given day. Are they yours?
1. 'Get off the computer/TV/Kindle/video game system' -- We're really not a techie family, but the kids do have a few gadgets they love probably more than they should. Last year, my daughter bought a Kindle Fire with her own money. I was under the impression it was for reading books; it was only later I discovered she actually uses it more to play games and surf the Internet while holed up in her room. My son, meanwhile, loves his second-hand PS2, which he can only use on weekends. TV is for nighttime, and the kids are on an alternate-day schedule for the laptop. But even with all those limits in place, I'm finding the kids are plugged in too much. The result? Me constantly nagging them to find something else to do. Constantly.
2. 'Go outside and play' -- Closely tied to the above is the mandate to get outdoors. Why is it that some kids can waste a perfectly gorgeous day by being inside? It makes me crazy. While the weather is nice, they need to be out. Of course, the 11 year old claims there is 'nothing to do' outside, which means providing her some ideas, like throwing a tennis ball at the garage door, playing street tennis in our cul-de-sac, or even reading a book outside. It doesn't matter to me -- just get out of your room, socialize, and get some sun.
3. 'Brush your teeth' -- Do not ask me why, but my tween son absolutely refuses to brush his teeth unless I remind him. He will gladly dash out the door in the morning, or fall into bed at night, with unbrushed teeth. My dentist says this will likely change once girls come in the picture, but for now, the threat of cavities or halitosis hold no meaning for the boy. Ergo, I am constantly on Tooth Patrol. If I don't remind him to brush his teeth, it won't get done, and I'll end up paying the dentist bill.
4. 'Pick up your room' -- Have you ever walked into an 11-year-old girl's room? If so, you probably didn't get very far. That's because your path was likely blocked by clean clothes, dirty laundry, wet towels, books, and an assortment of half-finished projects. My daughter doesn't seem to see any of it, ever, and subsequently, is frequently told to pick up her room.
5. 'You can't wear that to school' -- We live in Colorado, where temperatures can shoot up 40 degrees between breakfast and lunch. To my son, that means it's shorts season well into the fall. Many a morning I have seen him nearly leave for school wearing shorts, a T-shirt, and maybe, a jacket. Sorry, but when it's 40 degrees at 8 a.m., you're not wearing shorts to school. And you're also not wearing those jeans with the holes in the knees. Or that favorite shirt you've clearly outgrown. So no, you can't wear that to school.
Being a parent means lots of things -- and saying lots of things, over and over. Just remember: One of these days, your nagging will finally, and hopefully, sink in. A mom can dream, can't she?
Other articles by Karen Kinsey:5 ways kids can learn from your failures 5 things I'm telling my daughter as she heads to middle school