Jeff has the annoying/misguided good-husband habit of letting me sleep in on days he knows I am not working, per se, and the kids have no place to be for the day, except with me. The result is that the kids tend to go straight to TV or the computer or video games, or all of the above, the second they get out of bed, and by the time I appear an hour or so later, they are over-stimulated, cranky, hungry, and, in Lance’s case, suffering from a headache that’s the direct result of neglecting to put on his eyeglasses before engaging in activities that require them.
And when I try to, say, feed them, they give me all sorts of grumpy push-back.
Emboldended by the cancelled camping trip, I shut them down one recent morning—after they’d grumped at me about stopping a video game for a breakfast that wasn’t to their liking, and then offered all sorts of attitude and eye-rolling in response to my announcement that they needed to help with the laundry.
Seth, fresh from being the center of the camping trip controversy, snapped to rather quickly, getting the plastic FlipFold gizmo I’d ordered from the Tee Vee, out of the closet. Lance explained that he is no good at folding, and will never be, so why bother? I rejoined with my “we wouldn’t expect more if you couldn’t do more,” speech, and suggested he ask me, nicely, for help learning how to fold well.
Here’s what he learned:
Laundry done, we set about making lunch. I explained that there were new rules.
In the morning, no games of any type, no TV, no computer, no nuthin’…until breakfast is made and eaten, beds are made, teeth are brushed, clothes are worn.
Each child has a checklist, which I figured I could download from another, more-organized-than-I-will-ever-be-mom’s blog. They have to complete the checklist, whether I’m awake or not, and then they are allowed access to TV, computers, gaming or whatever they want.
I asked the kids to help me make the charts (buy in!) and then made a big show of going to Staples to buy laminating sheets (no machine required) and some white boards. I created “command centers” in the kids’ rooms. You know, to make it official.
Here’s when I realized the drilling-in of consequences had taken hold. I hadn’t so much as web-searched “chores list” to get my game on, when I found myself waking in my bed—THE VERY NEXT DAY— to the sounds of my sons happily cooperating making their morning toaster waffles. I thought about getting up, but I knew—I knew it would wreck the moment. I lay there, while they negotiated who would pour the OJ, who would get the place mats, and which plates they would use. All I could think was, “It’s WORKING!!!” That, and “Don’t get up. It will ruin the WHOLE THING.”
I carefully, quietly, slid out of bed, tiptoeing the six or eight steps to my master bath. I showered. Dressed. Presented myself.
“Look mom!” They were a chorus of pride.
“We made our beds, we got dressed, we made breakfast—“
“Lance made breakfast, I helped!”
“When we finish, we will put the dishes in the dishwasher and go brush our teeth and wash our faces,” Lance announced.
“THEN, can we watch TV????” Seth’s voice formed a hopeful plea.
I didn’t have to consider my answer—I had a ton of work to do. Being able to allow them to watch TV was a gift. They had no idea what manna they had offered me.
“Yes. Absolutely. Yes.”
I gave nary a second thought to the fact that it was a gorgeous day outside (again) and I was letting them while it away indoors. I just enjoyed the fact that I could.