• Lijing Cobb

Do the right thing

Has Covid tampered with your life?

But first, I wanted to tell you that I think I finally cracked the code on the bath towel situation in my kids' bathroom, and the answer is Peachy, Scrubby, and Maggie.

For years, my kids have never cared about putting their bath towels back on the towel rack neatly. Daily gentle reminders did not work. Yelling did not work. Sending them to their rooms did not work.

Repetition without motivation did not work. By the time they finish toweling off, they are in the middle of play, conversation, or at the point of taking off for the next exciting thing. Why should they care about putting a towel back on the rack just because mom said so? It's not hurting anyone. They don't mind their towels on the floor. What's the big deal?

Once I realized that there was no good reason for them to care and do what I wanted them to do, I asked myself why I wanted them to do that. And here are my reasons:

  1. So that they air out and don't get moldy.

  2. So that the bathroom looks more orderly.

  3. It's a sign of respect for the towels. They dry us when we are wet. They are helpful and faithful. They deserve appreciation and respect in return. They are our friends.

I shared all these reasons with my kids, and asked them if they wanted to name their towels. Excitedly my 7yo named hers Peachy, my 8yo named his Scrubby, and even my 10yo, who is pretty consistent with hanging her towel back onto the rack, named hers Maggie. They took a shower last night, and this is how I found Peachy and Scrubby today. They are normally in a heap on the floor.

A name for a towel: that's all the kids needed to do the right thing. (And I just told my son that since he's a growing boy and has lots of wetness on his body after a shower, after he gives his wetness away, Scrubby might need to spread out as much as possible to dry out and stay fresh for him. Let's see what happens tomorrow!)

You might think that just one win like this is enough for the day, but I'm happy to share another to an willing ear. As a mother of young children I've been struggling to keep up with the orderliness and hygiene in my kids' rooms. Every time I asked them to clean their rooms it felt like dealing out a punishment to the innocent. They dragged about, sulked, did as hasty a job as possible, or became easily distracted in the process. Even when they finished, no one was happy, including me.

So I called my children to gather around their loving mother, me, yesterday morning, and asked them, "what would motivate you to clean your rooms happily?" They started thinking.

"Maybe if we get a prize?" One of them suggested squeamishly.

"Yes!" I replied, "a good one! How about if we made it into a competition and the winner would have a prize?"

"Yeah!" They clapped. Silence. "But what about the people who don't win? Do they get a prize too? Maybe a smaller one?"


"Yay!" They smiled and I could see their bodies becoming energized by the second. "What is the prize?" came the inevitable question.

"Well, whatever you think is suitable for your efforts!" Such a brave promise.

My 10yo came up with categories upon which their rooms are to be judged. I gave them a tentative time for the final "inspection" but told them not to worry, that they could have more time if needed (in what world would a mother be crazy enough to stop their kids from willingly cleaning their rooms???). The kids finished up their breakfast and dashed back to their rooms to start their quest. In their honest and sincere effort to better their own rooms, they had questions, requested help, asked for feedback, and 1 hour and 40 minutes later, the inspection began.

We went through each category, "the most improved," "the best overall," "is it clean," "is it organized," (my 10yo's suggestions, not mine) and I solicited scores from all the kids and talked about reasons for a certain deduction and possibilities for future improvements. By the time we were done, the girls had tied with a score of 30, the boy with 28, out of a total of 40 points.

And here comes the part that everyone wants to know: what was the prize?

My son said, "Mom, for my prize I want a great big hug and a kiss."

"Really?" I asked, trying not to leak the overabundance of surprise shooting through my veins at the moment (he reads this blog by the way). "Of course mom," he said, "it's the best thing I could think of."

My 7yo, my mini me, wanted the same thing of course, just a little bit bigger because she won.

My 10yo thought longer and harder about it, perhaps because she realizes that the hugs and kisses are always there (shhh, don't tell my other kids. My son, I'm casting a magic spell over this portion so you won't read it or remember it...). Then she ventured, "could I ask for ice cream?"

"Of course, anything you think is suitable for your efforts!"

She gave it some more thought, and finally decided. "Well, I'm not gonna be too bad. I'll just ask for Just Dance time." (Just Dance is a Nintendo game where you hold the game console and try to imitate the dancer on the screen and score points with accuracy. It's great exercise for kids and grownups! I tried it with my kids and they were super surprised that I beat them every time!)

So she got that. The rooms are clean and organized, and everyone is happy. Funny how a little bit of self-motivation can turn a chore into a fun adventure. Lesson learned for mommy: do the right thing by my kids. Ask them to lead me, and get ready to share hugs and kisses.

For the readers who keep track, yesterday was my big commitment to play board games with my kids. Well, Monopoly was the plan and I was fully committed to it, but it was changed into Pingpong with a twist and Twister in the end, and we had a fantastic time. What fun have I been missing? See what kind of blessing I'm showered with when I find the courage to do the right thing?

So what does any of this have to do with Covid tampering our lives?

My son was in quarantine before the holiday break because one of his classmates had covid. My son does not like zoom school at all.

My Chinese sister who was supposed to come over with her family to celebrate New Year's Eve with us got Covid and couldn't come.

My best friend who did bring her two sons over to spend some time with us over the holidays, gave her oldest a home test yesterday and it was positive.

So now my kids are home again, after the holiday is over. They most likely won't even have a zoom option. My 7yo just walked in sobbing with huge tears rolling down her cheeks. She woke up and thought she should have been on zoom and is missing school because I didn't wake her up.

Things could be messy. We could label it messy and leave it at that and continue to feel the mess messing with us. Or things could be just the way they should be, and we act just the way we should, taking one situation at a time, making one step at a time, trying with all our might to stay positive and creative, with love and kindness in our hearts.

Do the right thing.

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