R-E-S-P-E-C-T: What Raising a Child is All About

Regina Stevenson is my heroine.
Ms. Stevenson is the Frankfort, Ind., mom who went on strike
last week. And I feel her pain. Oh, sure, I don’t have three kids,
a daughter-in-law, a grandson and a husband living with me.
Regina Stevenson is my heroine.

Ms. Stevenson is the Frankfort, Ind., mom who went on strike last week. And I feel her pain. Oh, sure, I don’t have three kids, a daughter-in-law, a grandson and a husband living with me. And frankly, after reading about the amount of laundry, cleaning and cooking Regina does daily for all of them, I’m doing the happy dance in the living room because I only have a husband, son, dog and a couple of Tamagotchies to clean up after.

But what mom – stay at home or not – hasn’t felt Regina’s pain? Anyone who has ever tried to get a child to do a chore knows what Regina’s strike is all about. It’s about putting dinner on the table and having your child say “thank you,” not “yuck, I hate squash.” It’s about not having an argument when you ask that the garbage be taken out. And it’s about having a child vacuum the house or pull weeds without being asked, begged or threatened.

In short, Regina Stevenson’s strike is all about respect.

Many moms don’t get any of that. Or we get very little. Look, it’s not just the military that’s the toughest job you’ll ever love. It’s parenthood, too.

It’s not fun to have a huge argument every time we request that a bedroom gets cleaned up and – GASP – stays clean for at least a day. Who wants to have the job as chief nag? I don’t. And yet it’s a job that most mothers get the minute they become mommies.

And it’s not just cleaning, either. For some reason, children assume that the minute a woman becomes a mother, the doctors implant a special “mommy chip” in her brain, which enables us to do all the stuff our families expect of us.

For example, the mythical mommy chip makes moms in every house in America able to find anything. Lost a sock? Ask mom. Only she can find it hidden under the bed, way over in the corner in a lonely place populated only by dust bunnies, lint, the occasional lost sock and a Harry Potter trading card.

Stained your favorite shirt? Hey, you don’t have to tell mom before she washes and dries your clothes. After all, her mommy chip can immediately sniff it out, identify the type of stain it is and have instant access to hundreds of stain-removal methods she stores in parts of her brain that most children don’t ever even use. The minute your shirt comes out of the wash and magically is dried, folded and placed into your drawer, that stain will be history.

Yes, that mommy chip sure comes in handy. Too bad it’s not real.

And for most moms, that’s the problem. We have children. We spend their early years analyzing diaper contents, feeding every few hours and getting no sleep at all, only to move on to watching “Barney.” No mother can get through the Barney years without some brain damage. It’s just not possible to spend a half-hour each day watching a giant purple dinosaur sing and dance and not have your brain waste away.

We spend the next years as prisoners of “Sponge Bob Square Pants” and video games that we don’t understand and don’t have the thumb power to play anyway.

And then we move on to moody teenagers, inappropriate pals and prom dates. And in between all of this, we help with homework, do laundry, clean bathrooms, make meals, mow lawns, have careers and offer counseling in all aspects of human behavior from bullying to first love.

Is it so much to ask that our children actually do the dishes once in a while in return?

Regina doesn’t think so – and neither do I. On the other hand, I am deeply ashamed to admit that I was just like Regina’s kids, and my own child. My mom raised three children, a husband, numerous dogs, a few cats, tanks full of fish, several hamsters and had a full-time career.

And I never realized how hard she worked. Or how many times I complained and protested when Mom asked me to vacuum. And I never, ever said “thank you.”

But I think I will today. And I hope Regina’s kids say it, too.

And maybe empty the trash without being nagged. That’s not too much to hope for, is it?

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