I do a lot around here. I won’t list all I do for the household in any given day or week, because you all already know. You know how early you have to get up every morning to get lunches packed, homework checked, and the kids up and ready if you also have to get yourself ready for work. You know how much time it takes to plan, shop for, and prepare three meals a day. You know how many loads of laundry must be done in any given week to keep a family of four or five looking (semi) decent. You know how many car pools you drive, how many errands you run, how many tiny details need attention every. blessed. day. You know how tired you can feel at the end of the week.
You know who doesn’t know? Your kids. At least mine don’t. Last Friday, I spent a weary half-hour after work picking up gift cards for the kids’ three (THREE!) birthday parties they were attending over the weekend. You know what I wanted to do? Go home. Take the dog for a walk in the April sunshine with Toby. Maybe watch Modern Family on the DVR. But I didn’t. We shagged around Target.
When Nate and Calvin got home from school, Nate took one look at the gift cards ($15 each to Coldstone Creamery, by the way) and said, “Eh, I wanted to get them the new Nerf daggers. And why didn’t you get funny cards?”
And in my head, I was thinking, Screw you, kid! But what came out of my mouth was, “I guess we have time to stop by Fred Meyer after dropping Calvin off at karate this afternoon.” Because just as it’s second-nature to Nate that I’ll fulfill all his needs (and most of his wants), it’s become second-nature to me to stretch myself thin for ridiculous requests.
And it gets better. When we get to Fred Meyer, he steps into the toy section and says, “Oh wait! It wasn’t Fred Meyer that has the Nerf daggers. It’s Walmart. Let’s go there.”
And then I did say screw you, kid! if only under my breath, because no, most definitely no, I was not going to now drive all the way across town to the crowded Walmart on Friday evening. This was it. End of the line. Pick something out. And we both proceeded to have a mini-breakdown in the toy isle.
He sulked. I felt myself get more and more angry. Where was the gratitude? Where was the appreciation that I’d gone out of my way to drive to a second store, forget a third, for his precious daggers? Finally, as he whined in front of the sporting goods, I told him I was counting to three and then either buying a basketball instead of a dagger or leaving the store. On three, he was saying, “I just don’t see why–”
And I left. I walked right out of Fred Meyer, got into the car, and waited. He was right behind me, shock masking his face. “You can’t just leave!” But oh yes, I could. And we did. What followed was a long lecture of the all I do around here variety. He listened, because he’s not a bad kid, just a kid used to having a servant for too long. When I told Charlie about the incident later, he pointed out the obvious: the kids were never going to realize how much I do for them unless I stopped doing it.
What’s that? Stop doing it? Just…stop? This is one thing I love about Charlie’s parenting style. He’s not afraid to mix it up. So here’s what’s going to happen in our household: this entire week, the kids are in charge. Not in charge of the fun stuff, as we’ve done in the past, but in charge in charge. It will be their responsibility to:
1. pack their lunches
2. make their dinners
3. do their laundry
4. keep the house clean
5. do all the dishes and empty the dishwasher daily
I’ve stocked the kitchen with enough ingredients for five basic meals they can make themselves (think hot dogs, burritos, and mac and cheese). I’ll drive them to all their practices and events, but they’ll have to keep track of when they are, figure out how to plan and cook dinner around the confusing matrix that is the multi-kid practice schedule, and ensure they have clean uniforms and school clothes. Someone can’t find their shin guards when we all need to be in the car? They’ll see how irritating it is. Hot dogs are getting cold because someone’s car pool is late? Welcome to my world. Someone remembers at 7:01 am that they needed to make a diorama of the night sky for school that day? Have fun with that. Dogs run in the house with muddy paw prints, then do it again within 15 seconds because someone left the door open? They’re see why I always yell like a maniac.
I’m convinced this is either the best idea ever or the worst idea ever. Will it work? I’ll let you know.