Over the last few years, Joe has become a thousand times more competent in the home than he was when we started this whole crazy thing where sometimes I leave the house for a few days. When first he was left here with the girls, when I came back home the bunch of them would essentially be re-enacting scenes from The Lord of the Flies. We’re not just talking about things like cups in the cupboard the wrong way or him abandoning decent nutrition, no, no….we’re talking about big things. I almost dreaded coming home back then because I knew from experience that though I had been working my arse off out in the world to support this merry band, that when I walked through the door I would be walking into a completely disintegrated environment. The kids would be feral, the house trashed, laundry way behind, homework undone, no food in the house…everything sticky. We’re not talking about the family not keeping my standards going, we’re talking about them not keeping the minimum standards of the public health department going.
The only thing that kept me from killing Joe right where he stood each and every time I came back was my belief that he just needed practice, and because he said things like ” I’m trying Steph, but I don’t know how you do it. I can’t work and do the housework and the laundry and the kids. I’m trying…but I just can’t figure out how you’re doing it.” (I admit that there were times that I was secretly impressed and pleased that it took both Ken and Joe and the occasional pitch in of my sister and mother to replace me.) It also occurred to me that if he was a raving incompetent, that I had to be at least partly to blame. Spoiling him all these years somehow turned him into someone who couldn’t see dirt and waited for the laundry fairy to bring him clean clothes.
Clearly, he needed opportunities, so I kept leaving…I kept expecting things to be better when I came back, I kept talking about how entirely crappy I thought trashing the house while I was gone was, and slowly, both Joe and the girls started getting it together. Don’t get me wrong….this has taken years. YEARS, and I know for a fact that they were cleaning madly yesterday when I was on my way home… but who cares? The point is, it was done when I got here. I’ve been so proud of all of them for becoming so much more independent and capable. They are a very clever lot and I knew they had it in them. Especially Joe.
That’s why I’m not very surprised that now that he has the household somewhat under control, that he has moved on to other challenges. His plan? Now that he feels a sense of ownership for the house, he has a plan to take over every inch of it for his own purposes. I thought maybe I was just being overly suspicious, but there’s no denying it now. Joe is trying to convert our home into a recording studio, he’s just doing it bit by bit. Every time I come back, Joe has taken something else over. First it was the whole basement. I didn’t say much about that. Then a few months ago upon my return I discovered that we are now storing “patch bays” in the kitchen.
The next time, boxes turned up stacked neatly in a corner of my office. I went away another time and when I came back I discovered that four filing boxes of paperwork are permanently stacked by the family computer. Every time I leave, he claims some space that I have to work at reclaiming for the family. For example –
each time I come back these boxes are in the living room and I flip out. After loose my cool, he says he will move them and then it takes weeks to move them, and by the time they are finally moved I am so freakin’ thrilled about the boxes being out of the living room that suddenly it doesn’t seem so insane that we have patch bays in the kitchen. (Still.) I am so dim that it took me months to figure out that the boxes in the living room are all a ruse. Part of a complicated dance to distract me. He doesn’t care about those boxes. I bet they are empty. They are there to distract me from the fact that he’s installed a third computer, and this one is on the dining room table. I thought that he had played his ultimate card when I came home from SOAR to discover the computer set up in the living room next to the coffee table (so he could engineer tracks while sitting on the chesterfield watching James Bond movies.) I wigged out and he moved it back to the dining room. (See? Clever man. The dining room table was unacceptable until I had it in the living room. Now the dining room doesn’t seem so bad. It is a delicate game we are playing over here.) I have known for some time that since Joe was gaining ground every time I left home that I needed a new strategy, but I didn’t know how far he was willing to go until I came back last night and discovered his latest incursion.
This is our dining room….or at least…it used to be. It appears to be an office now…an office almost identical to the one he has in the basement. I am stunned. Obviously I need a counter-plan for some sort of retaliation. This is war, and I’m losing a lot of ground. This time he has got a whole room. I am both concerned and sort of impressed.
Bold move. Bold move indeed.