Hey Kids: A Trained Monkey Can Throw Away A Wrapper, So Why Can’t You?

Dear darling offspring o’ mine:

I need to talk to you about something of vital importance. We’ve been together on this planet for many years now, and I’ve spent most those years trying to teach you the myriad lessons you’ll need to learn to be a functioning member of society. I know that some of these lessons take time to learn. No problem. That’s why it takes a good 18 years or so to produce an adult.

But there’s one lesson that I was 100% sure you could learn fairly quickly. Perhaps I was naïve. Perhaps I was overly optimistic. It just didn’t seem that hard, yet all evidence points to the fact that this must be one of the most difficult things there is to learn. I pride myself on being a good teacher. It was even my trained profession pre-kids. I have all of the philosophies and tricks down pat.

And yet… And yet…I cannot for the life of me get you to throw away a freaking wrapper.

And I don’t just mean every once in a while. I find wrappers everywhere in our house, all the time. I find them in the car. I find them between the couch cushions. I find them under your bed. I find them in your bed.

I find them in the kitchen on the counter, not 2 feet from the garbage can. I mean, come on, people — the garbage can is RIGHT. THERE. We even have one of those flip-top trash bins with the fun foot pedal that opens it. A foot pedal that flips a lid, kids! What could be more fun?

Apparently, it’s more fun watching mommy flip her lid at your baffling ineptitude at completing the simplest of tasks. That’s the only explanation I can come up with. You must be getting some enjoyment out of me having you come back into the kitchen daily to throw away your trash. Am I not giving you enough positive attention? Is this your passive-aggressive attempt at punishing me for not letting you put on your own shoes when we were late during your toddler years?

Or is it truly that you are untrainable? I mean, a monkey can be taught to throw away a wrapper after opening a cheese stick, kids. Why is this so hard? I’m seriously asking because I feel like I’ve tried everything.

It’s not like we didn’t start teaching you this from the time you could walk. “Trash goes in the garbage” was our mantra for years. We did the whole Montessori life-skills thing with the little broom and dustpan. We didn’t slack on this front.

And it’s not like I always clean up after you. Can you count how many times I’ve made you come and throw away your own trash? I can’t. Because I do it practically every time, which means practically every day. For years. Years, people. It’s amazing that I still have any sanity left at all.

My concerns about this issue go far beyond my own mental state though. As I said, we’re living on this planet together, and I’m beginning to question how we’re all going to survive if my dear children can’t even put their trash in a bin. I mean, I’m hoping to raise environmentally conscious humans who do their best to reduce their footprint and keep our earth as healthy as possible. Right now, all I can see when I look into the future is you wading through 2 feet of garbage in your own home.

The funniest thing is that you occasionally try to quell my fears with claims that trash isn’t trash. “I’m saving that for something!” you say, in the service of a future art project that has not even been conceptualized yet. Or “I’m collecting [fill in specific garbage item]!” No, dear, we do not collect garbage. In fact, I’m tempted to make that into a family motto and hang it on our living room wall: “In this house, we love deeply, live fully, share willingly, forgive quickly, and don’t collect garbage.”

I haven’t given up hope though. I’m totally confident that you can learn to unwrap a food item, walk to a garbage receptacle, and place the wrapper in it. We still have some years left to get this down. Come on, family, I know you have it in you. Let’s do this.

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