Unfortunately, like many teenage boys, No 1 Son simply cannot see mess. It is as though empty cans, bottles, wrappers, boxes, carrier bags, boxes from Amazon and other assorted tut are completely invisible. Which is why his bedroom and the spare room, where he has his computer, look as though they’re on the set of World War Z.
I’ve been putting up with it during the summer holidays, mostly because I’ve been at work and we’ve been on two holidays and when I’m at home, the last thing I want to do is spend my whole time nagging. Plus I figure I only have a few more years to look after him, it really doesn’t hurt me to do his laundry.
But on Saturday, when I discovered that there was so much rubbish on the floor I couldn’t open the door, let alone strip the bed to wash his sheets, I had enough.
‘You MUST tidy your room tomorrow for half an hour,’ I said. ‘Otherwise there will be BIG trouble.’
‘Half an hour?’ he said. ‘Five minutes, maybe.’
‘Just DO it,’ I said. ‘Otherwise there will be TROUBLE.’
This was quite restrained of me, but it had the desired effect, because I heard him talking to one of his friends on XBox Live, saying, ‘My mum said I have to tidy my room tomorrow for HALF AN HOUR.’ And then falling about laughing.
So yesterday, when he finally deigned to make an appearance at about 1.30pm, I made him brunch – scrambled eggs, bacon, pastries. And then when he’d finished I said, ‘don’t forget to tidy your room.’
‘I WON’T,’ he said. ‘I’ll do it in a BIT.’
‘Make sure you do it before the Chelsea game,’ I said. The Chelsea game started at 4pm. I went upstairs for a nap and got up at about 4.30pm. The room still looked as though it had been hit by a plane and a rampaging herd of bulls.
‘RIGHT, THAT’S IT,’ I said when the game had finished. ‘You need to tidy your room and strip the bed NOW.’
‘NO,’ he said defiantly. ‘I’m NOT DOING IT.’
And that’s when I saw red. Proper, scarlet red.
‘That’s IT,’ I said. ‘I’m going on strike. There will be no more clean clothes. There will be no clean sheets. There will be NO DINNER.’
Two hours later, nothing had changed, and I was starting to get hungry. As, I was sure, No 1 Son. ‘I MEANT WHAT I SAID,’ I repeated.
And then, suddenly, a miracle happened. I could hear clattering about in his room. Boxes of rubbish and recycling started to emerge in the hall. No 1 Son came downstairs with his sheets and wordlessly PUT THEM IN THE WASH. Laundry filled the basket.
And then, after I cooked his dinner, he said – I’m not making this up – ‘thank you.’
So finally, I think I’ve found a solution to teenage domestic laziness. The Mum Strike. Quick, painless, and no negotiation necessary. Try it. It worked for me 🙂