September 04, 2008

Ask Cranky Fitness: Soccer Moms & Annoying Teenagers

[By Merry]

Dear Cranky Fitness,

Now that I've finally gotten the little rug rats back in school, I thought I'd have time to exercise. (For some reason, chasing after them all summer didn't do anything for my aerobic conditioning.) But somehow in addition to working all day, I've gotten locked into the job of unpaid chauffeuse: to school, from school, soccer practice for Becky and football training for Ezekiel, everyone's going to different schools at different times, and there's no time for me to get some exercise. Would my kids disown me if I joined in their after-school programs? At this rate I'm going to need something larger than just a mini-van.

Ever-Expanding Mom

Dear E-E M,

We hear your pain. Don't have to deal with rug rats ourselves, but it sure does sound problematic.

However, having gone through a few biology classes, it is possible to deduce that there might be another parent around who could help ferry the little ones to their after-school activities. Can you trade off? Failing that, are there other expanding moms who would be willing to create a carpool? Yes, of course you want to be there to watch the practice, but is it so very selfish to also want a little time for your own workout? I think not. If it takes a village to raise a child, why shouldn't it take a carpool to deal with soccer practice?

Dear Cranky Fitness,

Help! I'm at my wits' end. I know this question doesn't have much to do with fitness, but mental health is important too, and I'm about ready to lose it. My eldest boy is just hitting the teenage years, and he's a slob. His bedroom could be certified as a danger to public health by any sane health inspector. Nothing I do seems to make an impression, short of going in there and cleaning it myself. I'm not sure I can survive until he leaves for college. What can I do?

Mom in Chaos

Dear M.i.C.,

Invite girls over. - Merry
Oh right, like that's not going to cause other problems. - Crabby.
What? She isn't asking about other problems. Maybe having to chase girls away from the house will make her appreciate a son who has questionable home decorating skills. - Merry
Are you trying to get us sued? - Crabby

Dear M.i.C., our advice is that you try bribery bartering. For every square foot of floor that you can see in his room, he gets to spend one hour using his computer. Put a basketball hoop above the laundry basket and encourage him to dunk his laundry. Any science projects (strange fungi growing in coffee cups, etc.) must have written authorization by a biology teacher or he can't borrow the car on Saturday night.

Does anyone have any questions to which we might be able to give helpful insightful um... original answers? Or is there someone out there who's had to deal with problems like these and has good, helpful, or at least more plausible answers to give?


  1. Weelllll...single mom here. I take my son to football, hugh and kiss him, make contact with the coach briefly, and head for the gym. I can usually be back there in an hour to watch the rest of practice. I have someone arranged to corral Hugh if need be and I"m not there yet.

    As for the room - I fight the same battle. One thing I know works is to give him a choice. You can clean it or he can clean it. If you have to clean it, everything you pick up becomes yours - everything! If he wants it back, he has to earn it back by doing chores. Put it all in boxes or bags and put it where he can't or won't look for it. Toilets need cleaning, showers scrubbed, floors mopped, garbage out, etc. It might get his attention. If he refuses to do anything to earn stuff back take it too Goodwill or sell it on ebay. I've never gone so far as to sell or give away, but I've reposessed stuff, and it gets my boy's attention.

    Good luck.

  2. loved the questions and answers :) We have already started with an allowance for our son who is 7 this month. If his room is pretty clean and he helps us when we ask for help, he gets his allowance. This is motivation and we haven't had a problem yet. Taking away a freedom worked for me as a kid. Fear can be a motivator but I tend to work with praise for the good things. I know, not near crabby enough;P

  3. Wow, expert Mom responses, Thank you!

    Raising a lazy cat is far easier than having human offspring--cats are much neater and rarely want to go to football practice. I don't know how busy moms do it!

    (And thanks Merry, for psychically knowing exactly what a Crab would say, since I was exactly NO HELP AT ALL on this edition of Ask CF.)

  4. Love the questions and answers! I also only have to deal with a lazy Bad Cat who insists on following me around when I vacuum for the SOLE PURPOSE of shedding on my nice clean carpet!!
    Any advice, oh wise ones???

  5. you think the teenager advice would help for a sloppy husband? Just

  6. scream at your child IF MAMA AINT HAPPY AINT NOBODY HAPPY and then storm off as he practices and sulk.


    ok. Im with linda (points vigorously above). do whatcha gotta. haul arse to the gym. sneak a jumprope and hide behind the school and jump to some ipod music. GREAT CREATIVE so yer not bitter.


  7. Oh yes -- I should be clear that Crabby disavowed all knowledge of my actions, or something like that. (She was pretty nice about someone putting words in her mouth!)

  8. My parents tried the carpool thing. Unfortunately, one of the parents would always "forget" their day (and there were a total of 3 parents in the carpool).

    My mom currently wakes up at 5 a.m. to ensure that she gets her 3.5 mile walk in before making breakfast. She doesn't have any kids to drive anywhere, either.

    Also, could a bus be taken, or could the kids walk? If you feel guilty about it, you could drive them on days when the weather's bad.

  9. Shut his door for the next seven years. No, really it's a losing battle once they hit that age. It's their space and as long as laundry makes it out of there occasionally (and food of any kind never makes it in), you're doing ok. My older son is the biggest slob ever. My poetic justice is that he is in a military university where his space usually needs to be spotless for inspection. He had it SO good at home. :)

  10. To the soccer mom: run laps around the park/playing fields while your kids are doing their thing. You feel weird at first but there actually quite a few of us that do it and maybe you'll even get a little running/walking group going! Or do bodyweight exercises on the playground equipment.

    To the mom of the messy teen: you are my future and I am scared. Although the Crankky/Merry dialog was hilarious!!!

  11. To Mom in Chaos,

    Well, you have a couple of options, really.

    The first, and easiest, is SHUT THE DOOR. Don't go in and try not to look in there as much as possible. If the laundry doesn't come out, he goes to school in dirty clothes.

    The second, arrange some sort of chore list. You might look into Flylady's Riley Challenge for a way to get him to do one cleaning task per day that takes less than 15 minutes. His room didn't get into that state overnight, and it won't get clean very fast either. But this might be a good way to get him started. Keep in mind that I've been a housewife for over 10 years now, and I only just recently LEARNED how to keep a house/room clean. It is a skill. If you just yell CLEAN UP YOUR ROOM it's such a huge task that he might not have any idea where to start!

    The third option is what I've done with my husband. Get a step-ladder and get over yourself. You're the one who has the problem with the messy room. It obviously doesn't bother your son. So, clean the room, and then go in every day and clean it again. All you're accomplishing by yelling and being mad is yelling, and being mad. On the other hand, having you in his room and personal things every day (it really is much easier to clean if you spend a little time cleaning every day than 1 big day once a week or month) may get him more motivated to get it clean, so as to get you OUT.

    I had to do the same thing with my husband, who, much as I love him, cannot put his own dang clothes in the hamper even tho it's 2 feet from his side of the bed. Asking didn't help. Telling didn't help. Being mad didn't help. So, I got over myself and did it myself, because then at least it's DONE.

    Good luck, whatever you decide to do.

  12. Having no children of my own won't stop me from commenting!! :)
    Love Linda's suggestions. But also know that Hilary is probably right, too. A closed door sounds like a good solution.

  13. Lynn, my mother had a similar situation with me - I'd always leave my clothes in the bathroom in the morning after my shower, and it irritated her. But she wasn't about to pick up after me. So she threatened to put my clothes in the trash the next time I did it. And she followed through. I didn't need to be told more than once.

    My parents never really got on my case about having my room really clean (though I generally did because I liked being about to walk around), though my mother did want me to always make my bed. On the one hand, you want to teach your kids good habits (like cleanliness). But on the other hand, what does it really matter, they obviously don't mind if it's messy. Honestly, I don't know what side of this I'll take when I have kids. We'll have to wait and see.

  14. Hmm. I usually get up early to exercise before everyone else gets up (works best for me as long as I haven't been up all night with sick kids are, ahem, blogging and reading blogs). My husband wants to start going together as soon as we drop the kids at school -- we'll see how that works.

    As for messes? I give them fair warning (depends on age how long, less for little ones) and then I come in and anything I find out of place is mine -- and I usually throw it away or they have to earn it back. Throwing stuff away makes an impression and they won't ever do that again, trust me. But you can't just make a threat... you actually have to follow through! I use it for all the kids, 3 to preteen.

  15. As for the first question...there are easy solutions unless you feel the need to watch practice every night. As they get older you will not be so inclined to watch. I made a vow long ago 'If my kid is moving, I will be moving" Here's some ideas:

    1) You can walk or jog during practice, see if any other moms want to join you...good gossip opportunity.

    2) Set up a Carpool so you can go to the gym (or run or do an exercise video or whatever) on the days you don't drive.

    3) if the practice is long enough, you can drop your kid off, then drive to the gym that is closest to practice (i have 2 gym memberships b/c my daughters soccer practice is an hour from home, it's expensive but health is a high priority for us--our clothes come from Goodwill)

    4) bring your dog to practice, you will have to get at least some movement, you could even just walk him around the field so you can keep on eye on the soccer practice.

    5) if it's not a big homework night, offer to play soccer with the kid right after practice, that's when he's most motivated and hyped up about soccer and you will both get extra exercise.

    6) politically incorrect, and will cause families to immediately splinter, but we don't do dinners on practice or nights, we eat something quick/healthy in the car (we do homework and change clothes in the car, too) that saves at least an hour for later exercise. I think Family walks are just as good as Family dinners for talking, etc.

    (oh, and I do have a friend who joined her daughters Jump Rope team for exercise, 6 hours a week, so your idea about joining your kids actities is not that Off the Wall.

    Good Luck!!

  16. I have a 14 year old daughter. Did I mention she knows everything and is always correct. She also limits her clothes shopping to 3 stores...of course the 3 most expensive stores. Chores?? That would require effort. Okay I am a bit sarcastic....comes with the territory I guess :).

  17. Re: slobby teenage boys. I closed his bedroom door. I know, I know, bad mom.

    My son is turning 24 tomorrow and I'm pretty sure he's still a slob at heart, but his girlfriend seems to be whipping him into shape better than I ever could, but then she has something she can cut him off from that he probably cares more about than anything I could have ever threatened him with.

  18. For the 2nd question, I'd try valium or xanax to lessen your stress over it, because that's pretty natural for a teen boy. There are a few hints to keep it from being infectious and stinky. Tell him you will not bug him about his room if he follows these simple rules

    1) absolutely no food or drink (including water) can enter his room
    2) all dirty laundry must be taken to the laundry area each night before bed. If not you will take away those clothes, wash them and give them to goodwill.
    3) no wet towels in his bedroom ever

    In my experience, if you can get a teens room emptied of those 3 categories (food/drink, dirty clothes, wet cloths/towels) it's much more habitable. It's still a huge mess, but it doesn't stink and there's nothing growing in there. I think it's a good compromise.

  19. soccer's perfect because its sually on an outside feild- so you can walk laps while they practice. saves gas, too since it will make it one round trip instead of two.

    assuming she has time to hang out all practice ;)

  20. Try to network with the other parents. I'm sure you aren't the only one finding it difficult to fit in exercise-- maybe start a walking/jogging group while the kids are kicking the ball about?

    As for teenage boys... one thing that works for me is having the dog sleep in the room with him. Taught him the following:

    (a) Responsibility. If he don't let her out at night, she'll have an accident.

    (b) Picking up after himself (to a degree). He started to gripe about how Rosie "ruined *whatever it was*" and I just looked at him and said, "well, if you cleaned your room, how would she have gotten to it?"

    (c) Cause and effect. He picks up after himself and lets her out, he has less to throw away/clean.

    We've also instituted rewards programs for both he and his almost-teen sister should they keep their rooms clean. When certain times pass, we rent movies they've wanted to see/do a family activity/whatever we've bargained. It's honestly been met with mixed results.

    It's hard. Sometimes it's hard enough to know what battles to fight over and which issues to let go... all I can say is that there will eventually be a motivation strong enough for him to learn that fuzzy dishes and stinky socks are not winning ideas for Top Design.

  21. I think Linda and Lynn might both be my mom in disguise!

    Really, the Riley challenge would be great - FlyLady is pretty awesome.

    My mom split the difference, though: as long as there was nothing gross in our rooms (no dirty dishes molding or anything like that), and as long as we could find stuff on a moment's notice, she shut the door. If we took forever to find something (usually something we needed to get out the door rightthatminutenownownownow) or if she saw a dirty dish, we had the option of cleaning ourselves, or letting her clean it. But if she cleaned it . . . it all went to the Goodwill. My sister only needed it to happen ONCE. (And my mom made sis pay out of her own money to buy new school clothes.)

    Fortunately, my mom never cleaned my room - there was nothing gross in there, so I escaped with a closed door, LOL.

  22. My vote is Merry. On the girl thing. THAT, will work. Lawyers be damned. (Just a little joke there, my nice and kind good lawyer patriotic amicable friends.)

  23. Wow, Moms are so ingenious!

    I love all these suggestions--just hope I never in my life have occasion to use them myself. But I bet lots of time-strapped moms will really appreciate them.


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