Mama said

 “If you’re gonna do it halfway, don’t do it at all.”

If I had a nickel for every time I heard this phrase growing up . . .  My mom had a penchant for jobs well done. She wasn’t a perfectionist; she just liked things done the right way.

As a single mother of 4 young girls, she figured out quickly that if she didn’t keep us all in line, she’d live in mayhem. She wasn’t abusive or even mean, but she did mean business. If she gave us “the look,” we knew we’d better shut up and get back to whatever task she’d told us to complete.

One of the ways she kept us in line, while also teaching us responsibility for ourselves and consequences of our actions, was by implementing a rotating chore list. Each week, she assigned each of us a room in the house. We all hated the kitchen. The kitchen was a constant source of chaos and clutter. There were always dishes to wash, crumbs to sweep up, splatters on the countertops, and trash to bag up. Also, when it was my turn to do the kitchen, I had to cook one meal that week. Cooking was not my thing. Gymnastics, swinging, pretending, and reading—those were my things. However, I learned how to boil noodles, open canned foods, and toast some pretty tasty garlic bread over the years. I also learned to clean up after myself as I cooked or worked on a project. There’s nothing like using your fingernails to remove solidified spaghetti sauce to help me remember that it’d be a lot easier to wipe it up immediately instead.

One week after recently implementing the “room rotation” chore list, I was assigned the bathroom. After repeatedly being told to try again, I felt frustrated and was tired of wiping the sink, scrubbing the toilet, and scouring the bathtub. The smell of bleach and Pine Sol were sending me into fits. I pulled a slight temper tantrum, and my mom spewed out that dreaded phrase.

“Bethany, if you’re just going to do it halfway, you might as well not do it at all.”

If only that were an option in our home. I would’ve gone the latter route!

Since I wanted to avoid being grounded, I decided I’d better learn how to do it the right way the first time. So I asked Mom to show me how she cleaned it so I could learn how to do it well. And show me she did. Prior to that day, I knew that squatting or resting on my knees to clean the bathtub got old fast. I had no idea that if I cleaned the bathroom properly and quickly, I worked up a full body sweat. I also had never seen every surface of our bathroom sparkle and shine so brightly. It might sound strange, but I found a sick sense of satisfaction from scraping off gunk from behind the spouts.

While there were certainly moments when I wondered if my mom was just torturing me by making me clean, weed the garden, or study, I figured out that there was more to it than that. The “halfway lesson” was something I’d later apply to my entire life. It made me want to keep attempting aerials until I learned how to execute one beautifully. It led me to make straight A’s in school when I could’ve easily done half as much work and made B’s. It spurned me to outwork most of my co-workers in my future employment ventures. Ultimately, I strive to go all out and do things well no matter what I do. This includes loving others, growing spiritually, exploring nature, and even having fun.

After all, if you’re going to do it halfway, what’s the point in doing it at all?

2 thoughts on “Mama said

  1. Sarah says:

    Ah yes the dreaded room rotation! I remember all too well! Lol – boy how your perspective on things really changes as adults… crazy huh? We thought we’d never relate….


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