It has taken a little over 14 years for me to realize that Amanda is not my daughter. It doesn't matter that she had her big feet stuck in my ribs for most of the pregnancy, it doesn't matter that I was there on the day she arrived into this world, it doesn't matter that the hospital gave us matching wrist bracelets, it doesn't even matter that she has obviously inherited the sarcasm gene from my side of the family - none of that matters - for she is not my daughter.
If she were really my daughter then I wouldn't come home to a messy house every day; if she were really my daughter she'd know how to turn a light out every once in awhile; if she were really my daughter then she'd be able to open up her bedroom door and throw her dirty clothes into the hamper that sits right outside of it rather than toss them on the floor. Oh no - this child is definitely not my daughter!
Growing up with a father who was career Air Force, I learned at a very young age that you made your bed before you went to school in the morning, you shut things off when they weren't in use, and you never ever ever left your stuff laying around in the living room! Left your shoes out by the side of the couch? Have fun untying the massive amount of knots the laces now have! Left the door open? The place of your birth was in question ( i.e., perhaps it was a barn?)! Left a light on when you walked out of a room? Apparently you were paying the electric bill! My Dad wasn't horribly strict but he expected the four of us kids to take some responsibility for our actions and the lessons have stuck.
Today at work I walked by the radio room where the door had been left open and the light on. There wasn't anyone in the room so I asked if anyone knew who had left it in that manner. Renee, our Employee Scheduling Coordinator, told me that she thought Marvin, our Facility Manager, may have left it open but he was now out on a 911 call so it seemed pretty obvious to me he needed neither the door open nor the light on. With that, I turned off the light and shut the door. Helen, the Executive Assistant to the BIg Boss, was in dispatch at the time and told me that "Ron would be proud that you shut that light off" whereupon I explained to her that it was an automatic reaction drilled into me by my father. It was then that I realized that there was no way that Amanda was my daughter - I guess you could say that the light dawned!
Ever since she moved back in with me I have been telling that child to turn things off, pick things up, and clean up after herself but for all the good it has been doing I might as well be speaking to the cat. Who, I might add, also contributes to the walk-in mess that my once clean house has become. There was a time when I never fretted about people stopping by unexpectedly because I knew my house was clean and in order. You couldn't eat off the floors or anything ridiculous like that but there was no clutter, nothing was out of place, and you sure as heck never saw any dust bunnies hopping across the floor. Sadly, all of that seems to have changed.
When Paula came by the other day for our shopping trip she told me that for the first time ever since she's known me (and that's going on 9 years) she saw a dust bunny in my dining room - and not just a petite little bunny but a jackrabbit-sized piece of scuz that could have passed for a small tumbleweed if a good breeze had blown through! I could have slunk under the couch in my embarrassment except for the fact that there were too many pencils, old gum wrappers, dirty socks, and magazines already there!
My friends tell me to relax and not be so anal about it - that Amanda is no different than any other teenager out there. She's too busy living life to be worried about running up the electric bill, putting her dirty dishes away, or leaving open cereal boxes on the kitchen counter. She's only young once and I shouldn't be on her case about such things; I should relax and not sweat the small stuff but I just can't seem to accept that.
Yes, she's only young once - as are we all - but if we don't learn good habits when we're young then when are we supposed to learn them? I seem to remember some adage about not being able to teach an old dog new tricks; if Amanda isn't going to learn something as a young pup then what makes me think she'll do it as she gets older? It dismays me to no end but what can I do about it? One can only say "how many times have I told you ..." or "didn't I tell you..." a finite number of times before it's simply just white noise in the background that can be easily ignored. And yet like the white noise, I keep attempting to be heard.
For all I love my daughter, I also miss my clean house - does that make me a bad parent??