I'l set the scene by telling you about my middle son. He is twelve years old and a delight. But he also has a few "issues" that are causing our family grief. Some are to do with encroaching puberty, but others he was born with and I have battled long and unsuccessfully to straighten him out.
For example, I cannot stop his propensity to eat food outside the kitchen - most often in his bedroom. One of the main reasons he does this is because the food is often illicit - taken without permission from the pantry or fridge and eaten away from the long arm of the law. He's not starving, he just loves food. Particularly treat-type food like chocolates, crisps, sweet biscuits and ice-cream. And because he's not supposed to have this stuff, he has to hide the evidence - packaging and leftovers.
The results of this habit are found in his bedroom every weekend clean-out. Grey-green blobs morph in cupboard drawers. Brownish stains ooze under the bed. Stickiness everywhere catches the innocent out.
We once found a weeks worth of lunch pushed behind his cupboard, detectable only by smell. ("I'm sorry Mum. I thought you'd be mad because I didn't eat it". Has the child never heard of a school bin - like regular children?). Week-old yoghurt cups stuffed in bookshelves, chip packets pushed under bedside tables. Nowhere is safe, just follow the ant trail to housekeeping despair.
I have had innumerable discussions on the need for household hygiene and the connection of food with pests. There have been consequences upon consequences and I now keep all treat-type edibles padlocked in a plastic tool box. My husband and I are dull with exhaustion from trying to track the waste this child stashes away.
So, last night, the twelve year old comes up to me and quietly asks "Mum, can I sleep in the spare room?". I ask why and his voice drops a pitch or two and quivers with fear "Well, I opened my drawer to get some undies and a big cockroach came out". I paused and thought. "Would that be the same drawer I removed an empty pineapple can from yesterday?" He gave a small shudder and nodded "I can't go back in there to sleep ...what if it comes back in the dark?"
Yes, Yes!!...YES!!!. The perfect teachable moment is so rare and I was not going to let this one get away lightly.
I made him go back in. How could I not? I suggested "How about we clear everything out of this room. If it's clean, then it's less likely it will return. So he began moving his chair back to clean under it while I turned on his airconditioning to make the task less sweaty.
Magic is made of moments like these. As the air began to flow, we found out where that giant sucker of a roach went to. It flew straight out of the vents towards the twelve year old. He screamed and leapt onto the bed "MUM ....PLEASE ...GET THAT THING OFFA ME...GET IT AWAY!! PLEEAASSE !!!...." And he stayed up there, too scared to continue.
This may cost me dearly in therapy for him later in life. But I gotta tell you, it was worth it. The sheer thrill of lecturing a child who is shakily agreeing with every word. "I can tell you now Mum, I'm NEVER NEVER going to bring any food EVER in this room again..." I nearly swooned myself.
Eventually, I got him to move the chair back and clean every last piece of rubbish. He was a gibbering wreck. We changed his sheets and removed everything from his room. Clothes, books and papers. We moved his furniture and cleared out behind desk and cupboard. Then he climbed into bed and it was lights out. Later, when I went to check him, I found him sleeping upside down - just in case that sucker got the urge to paraglide again.
Today I washed his whole room - walls, furniture and floor. The pest man was booked to come this Thursday anyway, so it's all been rather fortuitous. This afternoon, he ate his snack at the kitchen bench, giving me a sheepish grin when I caught his eye.
When Mr Flick comes, it will be good-bye Pest Paradise. But, maybe I should hunt down that super-Roach beforehand and keep him in luxury somewhere. He did me such a mighty favour. I hope I never need his services again, but you never know....
Thus ends my first dirty story. Are you properly disgusted? Or secretly envious, wishing that such a perfect parenting moment could fall from the sky for you too.