Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Perspective Grows Over Time

Today, I have a rant for you. 

What follows is an example of a conversation that drives me crazy.

Child:  Please bring me a spiral notebook with a red cover.
Me:  Sorry, I don’t have a spiral notebook with a red cover. 
Child (with intensity):  But I NEEEEEEEEEED one!!

Here’s where I have to resist the urge to say, “Oh!  I didn’t realize you NEEEEEDED one.  That changes everything.  Let me get my magic wand and conjure one for you.”  But instead I follow a  strategy of offering alternatives (a blue cover anyone?) or of suggesting a trip to the store the next day.  These are rejected as the child insists that the particular item is the only acceptable one and must be presented immediately. 

I’m not sure why this bugs me so much.  I guess I want them to accept the disappointment without falling apart, but maybe this is too much to expect of a child.  They are immature and don’t have the perspective that comes from forty-plus years of making do with what we’ve got. 

I think it also irritates me because it illustrates the entitlement that children often exhibit.  It’s as if Mom and Dad are here to satisfy all their demands; parents must pony up whenever they want. 

These situations do drive me crazy.  They happen often in our house, and I want those kids to accept that I am not able to give them everything they want.  It’s not just that I don’t want to—I am not ABLE to. 

Sometimes, though, the above conversation is followed by the child finding her own solution to the problem.  Maybe she’ll take the dreaded blue notebook and glue a sheet of red craft paper to the cover.  Voila!  A red notebook!  Every time this happens, she will install in her memory these truths: Mom doesn’t give me everything I want, and it turns out okay. Over time, she will develop perspective. 

I hope.

Have a good rest of the week, everyone.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Happy Halloween, part 2

I just had to share this with you, dear readers.

Recall from my last post that I tend to resist the gorier aspects of Halloween, but as you can see, my sweet daughters take a different view.  Juliet is setting up a haunted house in the basement. This poor little baby is on display at the foot of the stairs. I'm not sure what she has suffered.  


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Happy Halloween

Halloween is next week.

I don’t love Halloween.  I could probably live without it altogether.  I hate the grisly decorations that some of my neighbors set up in their yards.  I don’t like the gory Halloween shops that pop up in abandoned storefronts every year. I blush at the slutty costumes that women and even girls are expected to wear.  I am concerned about how tolerant we become of depictions of evil and of the occult.

Still, our family celebrates Halloween.  Despite my objections, I don’t see anything wrong with dressing up in a costume and collecting candy from the neighbors.  I can put up with some decorations, too, as long as they fall within certain guidelines.  I want my children to have fun with their friends even while I put limits on how we will celebrate.

Here is a list of what I consider acceptable decorations:

·        Spiders

·        Cats

·        Bats

·        Spider webs

·        Full moons with dark clouds in front

These decorations are spooky without being evil.  I do not allow witches, ghosts (with the exception of one very cute candleholder), or dead bodies emerging from the yard. Obviously, I have no problem with harvest-time d├ęcor such as leaves, Indian corn, pumpkins, and scarecrows.

I have similar rules regarding costumes.  I will not allow anything wicked, gruesome, or too scary.  We generally limit ourselves to pretty or funny costumes.  This year, Laura plans to be a detective, and Caroline wants to be a purple fairy.  Juliet intends to dress Goth—she’s hovering on the edge of what we will permit.  I will never, ever allow my daughters to dress as prostitutes on any occasion—certainly not for walking the streets collecting candy.
Just another week.  Then we can move on to move on to more wholesome holidays. 


Friday, October 4, 2013

Hired Help

I’m glad my last post reflected my deep and abiding love for my daughter, because today I’m going to tell you about how mean I am to her. First, let me offer a bit of context.

I am not a great housekeeper.  I do not like to clean house, and I am not naturally good at it.  Those of you who are good at housekeeping will not understand what I’m talking about.  “Naturally good?” you’ll wonder, “you just clean up and keep it clean.  What’s to be good at?”  But those of you who work hard at it and still have a messy house will relate.  Some people really are naturally good housekeepers and some of us are not. 

Where I live, many families, if not most families, hire help cleaning their homes.  The frequency varies, but almost everyone I know has a cleaning service to tend their homes at least twice a month.  This is a luxury my family cannot afford.  We are getting by in an affluent community on a college professor’s salary.  I have to clean my own home. 

A few months ago, I decided to hire help in spite of our limited budget.  I persuaded Juliet to clean the downstairs bathroom every Saturday for a paltry sum.  She was eager to line her wallet, and I was eager to unload one task.  The arrangement worked well for us.  The bathroom sparkles!  I especially appreciated her desire to maintain the work during the week, and I was amused by her exasperation with family members who spoil her work.  She spoke the very words I so often have said myself.

I have one complaint about her work.  She does it too late in the day.  I have asked her to complete the task before lunch.  I don’t want her to put it off and find that the day is gone before she gets to it. 

Here’s where I turn into a meanie.  This past Saturday, I reminded her that I wanted the bathroom cleaned before 11:30.  I explained that we had plans all afternoon, and that all our household chores had to be finished in the morning.  This was especially important, because it was Caroline’s birthday and we had company coming for dinner.  She insisted that she would get to it.  I didn’t want to nag her, but I wanted to let her know what was at stake.  “Juliet, if you do not perform a task according to your employer’s instructions, you get fired.  You lose future opportunities to earn money.”  She again said she would get to it. 

When 11:30 rolled around, I sighed and began cleaning the bathroom myself.  I was on the floor cleaning the tile when Juliet passed by.  “I would have done that for you.  You don’t have to do it.” 
I reminded her of my earlier warnings.  “It’s too late.  You’re fired, honey.”  She began to cry and hurled excuses at me:
  •      I didn’t think you were serious.
  •      I was busy.
  •      I couldn’t see the clock from where I was sitting.
  •      You didn’t remind me.

“I don’t want to be fired forever,” she cried, “I like cleaning the bathroom!  I like earning money!”

“And I like having your help, but I need reliable help, Juliet.  I need someone who will do the job the way I ask her to do it.”

So I lost my cleaning lady. 

Over the coming weeks, I will give Juliet opportunities to show me that I can count on her to be responsible and to live up to her obligations.  I really hope that I can re-hire her on a permanent basis. 

My house needs her.