It hasn't been the best of days around the old homestead. Yesterday evening we attempted to have a family meeting. Before we even started I heard this:
- Are we moving?
- Did one of you get fired?
- Is this going to ruin my day? Because I've had a really good day so far.......
- Is this going to end up with everyone mad? (side note: yes, it did. Sadly.)
Then, I launched into a carefully planned diatribe about chores, responsibilities, rules and budgets, with a little monetary incentive/reward program thrown in that was really a win-win for everyone. Here's the deal. Kids get paid a small amount each day they complete chores correctly and without being reminded. At the end of the week, if all went well, they are eligible for a bonus. Violations mean you pay us back. We can't afford a lot, but this would garner each kid roughly $30-35 a month if they just do what's expected of them in the first place. After the unveiling of the plan here is what I heard:
- So, you're basically going to just take all our money? (Talk about planning for failure!)
- This won't work because we don't have any money! (Duh, you have to earn it first!)
- Arlie's going to get all the money. (Well, hard work DOES equal good pay. And Arlie works hard).
Then, as always happens, there was the barrage of "well, she..." and "it's not my...." and "you always..." and "I never...". And things went downhill from there. And this is what I heard:
- You think she's SO perfect and she's not even your kid. Why don't you just adopt her? (Ouch.)
- This is bullshit. (If I swore at my mother, she'd have smacked my mouth. So sad that's no longer socially acceptable.)
- Shut up! (Excuse me?)
And I got mad. Because, personally, I don't think kids should swear at their parents and tell them to shut up. Call me conservative. And also? It's human nature to get defensive and angry when your weaknesses are pointed out. Things like laziness and lack of motivation. Generally when we get mad and defensive it's because of someone other than the person talking to us. It's the one in the mirror.
It's not like we're asking for hard labor. No one is digging ditches or sweating in a coal mine. I mean, really, check this out - we have the audacity, in this house, to expect our kids to do their own laundry. And to NOT throw their clothes on the floor. And occasionally scrub a toilet. And rinse their dishes. And pick up their socks. And not eat in the family room. And not take things that do not belong to them. These, my friends, these are the horrors I subject my children to. And I offered to PAY them. What was I thinking?
So, I exited the flaring tempers and retreated to my room. And had a nice, hot bath and was in bed by 9 p.m. But before that, I saw this:
All I wanted was one good day. Just one. I guess I don't even deserve that much. Why am I even alive if I can't do anything right? I'm done feeling like a worthless piece of nothing. So done.
That was my daughter's actual Facebook post after the fiasco. The drama.
And now? I just don't feel like doing much for them. The self-centered attitudes and inability to see beyond their feet that are propped up in front of the TV just astound me. I wish they knew how hard life would get. How doing chores is insignificant compared to all the trials they will face in life. I don't want them to have a hard life, but if you never feel pain, how can you know what feels good? If you never fall, you won't know the joy of getting back up. If you never fail, you can't revel in your success.
We give our kids chores because it helps prepare them for "real life". But what about kids who just don't get it? Real life will smack them in the face with a force so astounding it will take their breath away. And maybe knowing how to wash a load of clothes or dust a shelf won't make or break them. But if they can't even sit for a half hour with an ounce of respect and listen to solid guidance, if they can't see how doing their small part makes the whole so much better, then what will they learn? When will they learn it?
They say if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. So, maybe starting today, I will just do whatever I want. For example, I never feel like making dinner. Perhaps I'll stop doing that. I NEVER feel like making their lunches. I could skip that too. I rarely feel like driving them anywhere or picking up after them or letting them have their friends over. Think of the time that will save me! All that delicious, beautiful time to just do what I want and never worry about the consequences. I could stop cleaning my bathroom, and never wash my clothes, but that would make me uncomfortable, so I guess I'll have to exert a teensy bit of effort. But doing for others? Not so much. I'm afraid I only have enough energy to be kind to me right now. I've taught them well. They'll figure it out. And if not? Then, maybe that lesson will finally be learned.