Saturday, October 15, 2011

Parenting Partnership?

My husband has an ongoing feud with our daughters about keeping their room clean. It is a battle that I decided to withdraw from some months ago realizing that it was not going to be a situation that would be resolved in a day, week, or even a month. As it turns out I was not being pessimistic. In fact, the battle has raged on to the point that some days I would love to close myself into a sound proof room and refuse to come out. But, alas, that is not an option.
In all his wisdom, dear husband, decided to take away privileges for their lack of attention to the cleanliness of their space. His specifically removed the television from their room and informed them that they would not be able to watch or have computer time until they established order. The television sat in front of my closet door for more than a week. Not only was I reminded constantly of the situation by having to maneuver around their television as it blocked access to my closet, but my husband is also working an extended period of annual overtime. So while he may have issued the restriction of privileges he is at work during the peak enforcement hours. This leaves me with two very unhappy children who are doing their best to win the power struggle that has ever increasing stakes. Well meaning friends have suggested a variety of alternatives. I can only smile and nod as I check off the list. We have tried it, done it, punished, threatened, rewarded, restricted, and done it ourselves. This is a battle that the children are obviously winning. I am becoming more and more frustrated but managing, so far, to keep the frustration to myself. The battle wages on.....
This past Thursday arrived. I had big plans. The children would be out of school for both Thursday and Friday. We would have four days to clean clutter, get that bedroom under control, and do some work on a couple of quick household projects. The end was near and I was excited! My plans came to a screeching halt when I remembered that I had promised to drive my sister to the hospital for an outpatient procedure that was scheduled for Thursday. No big deal, I thought, we will get the procedure done and have plenty of time to get to that room. Boy, was I ever wrong. My sister and I didn't return to her house until 4 pm. By that time my family was starving and time was ticking. My husband had to leave for work at 6pm to work until 7am. We decided to grab a bite to eat at a restaurant and relax together. I wasn't at all concerned. I had left instructions for the day. The kids knew what they had to get done. Besides, I had also sweetened the pot by promising the girls that if they would get the room clean I would make sure we went to get those long promised bikes this weekend. Mom was taking no prisoners.
We arrived home in time for my husband to get ready for work. I walked into the house happy and relaxed from a nice dinner with my family. I was in for a surprise. The kitchen was a disaster. All of the snacks that had been purchased the evening before had been consumed and the empty boxes were on the counter. The dogs had not been fed or let out. The living room was a mess. Worst of all, since my husband had to sleep in preparation for work that night, he had simply told the children they could watch tv and play on the computer and they had.....for the entire day.
The red heat that went over me was no hot flash. Towanda (ref movie  Fried Green Tomatoes) was ready to put that man into a headlock. The nerve! Not only that but he insisted upon stirring up strife with them before leaving by stressing the importance of cleaning the room and the consequences. (Are you kidding me?) He also emphatically stated that they should do the cleaning and not me.

He left for the night and I sat fuming. That man has a lot of nerve. Finally I stopped fuming and started thinking. A smile formed in my mind that was reminiscent of the one on that crazy Grinch in the Christmas story. I would take matters into my own hands for my own sanity and the sanity of my family. It was time.
I activated my children. First I made sure that I just started cleaning and zipped my lip. I knew I certainly had enough residual anger and frustration that I could quickly just end up yelling at them and I truly wanted to avoid that. I was working to end the battle not start a new one. They were grateful for an intervention and caught on quickly. They started helping and realized I was in no mood for chit chat. We got that room significantly cleaner in record time. Early the next morning my husband came home to find them finishing the sweeping and mopping. The job was complete.
The stubborn man and I had a discussion. I agreed not to put him in a headlock i.e. not to release all the wrath of my menopausal alter ego on him and he agreed to handle things better next time. In his words "I am waving the white flag like Robert E. Lee at the Appomattox Courthouse. I surrender." Smart man. The girls got their bikes today and I will be going to my Schutzhund training with my dogs. He and I have honed our partnership to a little sharper performance. After all, not everybody can be the star player.