Saturday, December 16, 2006

Channeling Oscar Madison...

My son is having an issue at school. It is one that I fear comes from a secret I've hidden away about my family and my upbringing. And, it is driving me absolutely bananas because I have absolutely no control over it either.

My son is an Oscar Madison. That's right, he's unkempt. He's disheveled. And, God love him, he's even...well, slobby. The name Messy Marvin comes up a lot in our house.

I recently met with his teachers to discuss his performance. One teacher discussed how his messy nature with his papers and school belongings is not improving. But, when she said it, she added, "You know, in a way, it really is quite cute." She went on to tell how she will look over and see my son, all smiles talking with his friends at his desk--not a care in the world. Then, she will look down and see that he's standing on all of his school work that has fallen out of his book bag, which is overflowing with wadded up old papers, books, and past school newsletters that he should have brought home to me weeks ago. "Honey, did you know you're standing on your work?" She'll ask him. His response will just be a shrug of his shoulders and a quick smile, and he'll bend down and obediently pick them up--more to appease her than to get himself in order. You see, he doesn't care one bit that he's standing on all his papers.

And, that fact drives me really crazy. But, in order for you to understand why this is, I must write about something from my past that I have avoided talking about for the more than a year and a half that I have been blogging. I need to just come right out and say it--I grew up in a horribly messy home. There! I've said it. It is really out there now for all to read.

As I've grown older, I have come to appreciate most everything about my upbringing. I lived in very small town where everyone new my name and I was quite welcome everywhere. I was never mistreated as a child. I did not have parents with severe addictions or abusive tendencies. I never went without things I needed. I was never treated unfairly, in fact I was quite spoiled. sure, there was some dysfunction, but in the grand scheme of things my my childhood was pretty ideal, really.

Except for one thing--the house was too messy. This sounds silly to some I am sure, but for me it was traumatic. I have told my mother and sister this before, but honestly I used to not let my friends come into my house, choosing instead to sit on our front porch to talk. I know that my friends wondered what I was hiding inside. I could never tell them it was mountainous piles of 5-year-old magazines that my mother refused to throw away, ashtrays filled to the rim, and a strange mix of cat hair and dust that coated every surface. Musty odors, toothpaste left stuck on bathroom sinks, and I won't even talk about the toilets here. (I drew my line at that when I got older and became the official bowl fairy, because I just could not handle it at all.)

There were times during my adolescent years that I seriously wondered if I was adopted. The house did not seem to bother anyone else in my family, aside from my Grandmother who lived a few miles away. I still remember whenever we would take a family vacation, I would feel that growing excitement for when we came home. That's because I knew my Grandmother, who was in charge of feeding our cats while we were away, would come in and completely clean our house from top to bottom. She never threw things away, but it would be dusted, the counters were completely cleaned of all dirty dishes and food stains. And the floor--oh the floor! It would be mopped and the carpets vacuumed somehow magically because all traces of cat hair would be gone. Her hard labor usually only lasted a few days until it was right back to its normal state of disaster, but those few days were happy ones for me. Of course, my mother would be angry with her for weeks afterward, and probably rightfully so. (I mean, that really is insulting when you think about it.) But, secretly, I loved that she did it.

And, this was how I lived. I love my family dearly and I had the best parents any child could every wish for. If they ever find my blog and read this, I hope they know I mean no disrespect by it. But, seeing my son have these same tendencies is hard for me to accept. I spoke to my mother on the phone about what his teacher said and she confessed she was just like that as a child. We talked a little about it and why it bothers me.

But, then I realized something--is it really so bad to be an Oscar Madison? Oscar was the fun-loving, laid-back, life-of-the-party man's man on the Odd Couple. Felix Unger was so tightly wound and unable to enjoy life unless things were the proper order. Oscar was the guy who was everyone's pal. Yes, he often had food stains on his clothing that closely resembled the syrup stains my son creates during breakfast before he hops on the bus. But, he loved life and didn't fret over the small stuff. Felix freaked out at the smallest things.

So, would I rather my son be a neat-nut? A tidy, compulsive organizer? And now that I'm reflecting, I'm I A FELIX? Does my family roll their eyes at me when I jump to clean up the dinner dishes or wipe down their tables? Do they get irritated when I wait until they leave to run errands and I quickly sweep the kitchen hoping they will not notice? Because, GAWD! I must be SOOOO annoying!

In truth, I do not think I am as far gone as Felix was living there with Oscar, but I have something inside of me that desperately wishes I really was that anal-retentive. In actuality, I would definte myself as a compulsive cleaning slob. Let me explain. You see, I was never really taught how to organize or keep things orderly. So, instead, I find myself stressed out and cleaning the messes I make constantly. And, I am always unhappy because I can't keep things tidy. I always wonder about my neighbors who have no problem with pop-in visitors because their house is always tidy.

At night, I pray to the FlyLady to swoop down with her control journal, brainwash me, and take away my stress and my clutter. During the day, I have been known to watch organizing shows on HGTV and take mental notes. I fantasize about being a part of TLC's Clean Sweep team, or about turning into a fantastic new super heroine whose main magical gift is ridding the world of their messy homes, one stinky cat-haired sofa at a time.

But, I think what I should REALLY wish for more than the answer to keeping life's messes clean, is the ability to not care if it isn't--just like my son. So, maybe instead of praying to FlyLady, I should try channeling my inner Oscar Madison. Only then can I look forward to the day when I just don't give a damn that the dishes from last night aren't washed and there is dust on my blinds and cat hair on my carpet. Because, really, aren't there more important things to worry about in this life?

Now, excuse me while I go work on my FlyLady Control Journal...


Blogger Masked Mom said...

This is one of those striking a balance things that is sooooo hard. I have friends at both extremes and I tend more toward the untidy side myself. I feel like it's a constant battle in my own little head. And don't even get me started on the kids! They're split evenly between Felixes and Oscars which makes for some interesting arguments.

9:54 AM, December 17, 2006  
Blogger Nicole said...

I swear, I think we are long lost sisters. My home was messy growing up, too and I hated it. I used to get up early on Saturday mornings and clean for hours only to have my mom wake up and not even notice. It just didn't matter to her. And I, too, feel guilty as I pull out the vacuum and the kids scatter...but I can't help myself!!!!

10:34 AM, December 17, 2006  
Blogger Thumper said...

If it's true that opposites attract, when your son grows up he'll find his Felix, and they'll balance each other out ;)

11:31 PM, December 17, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yea, I'm a Felix who gave birth to an Oscar. Drives me crazy but I'm trying to learn to cope. . .

9:53 AM, December 18, 2006  
Anonymous Two Sirius said...

You are what you are, and so is he. Celebrate it...don't sweat it!

6:12 PM, December 18, 2006  
Anonymous Angela said...

Okay, I totally have that theme song in my head now...

Anyway, my parents always used to call me and my sister Oscar and Felix. But then Oscar moved out of the house and my sister's inner Oscar came to the surface ;) My mom is a total Felix has no clue where our Oscar genetics came from!

Ah well, I always liked Oscar better anyway!

10:12 AM, December 20, 2006  

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