I Believe in Slave Labor.

Okay.  Okay.  Don’t get your panties in a twist.  I am not an advocate of slave labor, in the true sense of the term.  I do not believe that any human being should be bought or sold to any other human being.  Nor do I believe that “the boss” should make the working conditions so horrible that it is impossible for a human to live in any other way than in squalor.

What I am referring to is a much more humane practice: Childhood Slave Labor in my household alone.

You see, I have three very entitled daughters.  They basically want-for-not and worry very little.  When they express interest in an activity, I find a way to enroll them in a class, sign them up for a club team, or get them into a camp.  Their curiosities are often satisfied, and in many ways, I am proud that I have this ability to offer my children life-experiences.

However, what I am not proud of, and what I have not been strong about insisting upon is enlisting their help in the day-to-day activities of running a household.  They are very neglectful of chores., and I am somewhat of a lenient mom who allows for this behavior.

Some mothers believe that children will not neglect responsibility around the home if they are given an allowance.  These mothers boast that it gives their children a sense of empowerment: a $5.00 payment every Saturday morning, a pat on the head, and a “Job well done.”

I tried giving an allowance to my girls at a few different points in the last five years; however, for me, it turned into the handing over of money for mediocre help that I still felt I was nagging to get.  In addition, I struggle with the idea that I should pay the kids for helping around the house.  We are a family, and as a family, we should all want to pitch in to make our house, our world, clean and manageable.

So, what happens if I do not give allowance and I get insufficient help?

I do the lion’s share of the work.

I pick up.  I wash.  I fold.  I hang.  I vacuum.  I dust.

However, certain weeks when I have extra work at the job that I do get paid for, I come home exhausted, and I find the house…. well, trashed.

I think to myself, I did not sign up for this.  I cannot do it all.  And whether I am actually doing it all or not, I feel like I am, and this feeling makes me lose it.

Literally.  I freak out.

I find that I am standing in the kitchen barking orders like a drill sergeant.  I am not your slave!   I work hard, for what?  Ungrateful kids who cannot lift their princess fingers to help!

Magically, things start happening, and they happen fast.  Laundry not only makes it into hampers and baskets, it makes it to the laundry room.  The living room carpet and the basement floor get vacuumed.  The Tupperware cupboard gets organized, and the sink gets cleaned.  In the matter of an hour, the bedlam that was my home has been tidied.  The nervous sensation in my stomach has been quelled.

So how does any of this relate to slave labor in my home?

Well, this past Friday, I came home from work and Carson was on-line looking at a Fault in Our Stars sweater that she was coveting.  She explained how her friend told her about this website, and how cool it would be to own this particular sweater.   She said it with a bit of resign in her voice.  For whatever reason, she hasn’t landed many babysitting jobs lately, and her coffers have dwindled.  She is very aware of how much money I spend on her dance classes, costumes, shoes, and competition fees, so she does not like to ask for a luxury item for the sake of said item.

However, while listening, I thought of a plan that could work to my advantage.

“Carson,” I said.  “I can buy that for you, but then, you will be my slave.  You will have to do whatever I ask without complaint.”

“Really?”  Without hesitation, she clicked the order button and started to enter her name, our address, etc.

Since Friday, she has dusted and vacuumed the rec room, put away two baskets of laundry, and shoveled the driveway.  We did not discuss a timeline.  At some point, we will come to an agreement that her services rendered is equivalent to the cost of the sweater.  However, when that happens, there will be something else to order.

I cannot wait for Maggie and Lizzie to catch on.  I may never have to lift a finger again!

 

Advertisements

I Am Not a Child Psychologist, Nor Do I Play One on T.V.

I am a little rattled by the responses I received about yesterday’s post, Sometimes, It Stings.  I have received a couple Facebook inboxes, a few text messages, an email, and a couple of comments from friends about how I handled the situation.  The general consensus is that I was probably insensitive when speaking with Carson.

I appreciate the advice and the general concern people are feeling for Carson’s well-being.  However, I do want to let you in on a little secret.  She and I talked for fifteen or more minutes, and although what I expressed in my blog was the overall sentiment of our exchange, I did not just bark at her about crying and life’s obstacles.  I did spend time consoling her as well.

I usually do not defend my parenting style, but because so many people offered advice, I feel the need to explain my philosophy.  I parent with common sense.  I do not read how-to manuals or books.   I listen to other people and I observe their parenting.  I think about my own parents and my experiences as a child.  I take away from all of it what I believe can and will work for my family.  In addition, I parent each of my daughters according to her needs.  I try to always show them that I love them, but I am not afraid to be stern.

With that being said, I have said many times that I do not think every child should get a trophy.  Likewise, I think it is good for a child to learn that she does not always get everything she wants, that not everything will always go her way, and that sometimes, life is difficult.  It is true that Carson was disappointed because she was not invited to a friend’s birthday party.  As a parent, I chose to be pragmatic and discuss the sobering reality that sometimes life kind of sucks.  She felt real disappointment and besides for rubbing her back and kissing her forehead, I could do nothing to take the pain away.  However, by talking through the situation, I know that what she is learning are valuable techniques in developing an emotionally, healthy self; she is learning to endure, to  cope, and to survive setbacks.

I want Carson to feel strong and independent.  I do not want her to crumble when she strikes out or worse, life throws a 103 mile fast ball and she gets smacked in the face.  Oh, it will sting, I know from personal experience that it stings.  However, time has the ability to assuage any hurt, and eventually, she will have the strength to pick herself up and stand in the batter’s box of life again.   Life is about swinging, and eventually she will experience the glory of the homerun, and when she does, I will be (because I always am) her number one fan cheering in the stands!

Sometimes, It Stings.

It is midnight.

I am trying to finish prepping Pride and Prejudice for tomorrow when I realize that my thirteen-year old is avoiding going to bed.

I finally question her hovering.  “You just went to the bathroom and got water.  What are you doing?”

“I had to blow my nose,” she responds.  However, her voice has a lilt in it.  I can tell something is wrong.

Hmmmmm.  I feel agitation.  I want nothing more than to finish my reading.  She is at least an hour passed when she should go to sleep.  Ugh!  I am feeling a little undone because I am pms’ing and the dishes are never put away and no one else seems to be able to fold the laundry and the damn garage door needs fixed.   To be honest, I just want to go to bed but I have a lot of reading left and the minutes on the clock are ticking away.  I sort of feel like an emotional roller coaster, so to have my thirteen-year old daughter milling around when it is already midnight makes me feel like I could teeter or I could totter. Either way, it might not be pretty.

“Carson, it is late. You need to go to bed.”  I speak these words in the calmest, most motherly voice I can muster.

Of course, she says good night, but then, from behind her not-so-closed-door, I hear crying.

Momentarily, I assess the situation:  I need to finish prepping.  It is late.  She should already be asleep.  I should be asleep.  Shit.

I walk into her room.

“Carson, are you crying?”

“Sort of,” she says through a mixture of sniffling and tears.

“Why?”

“Because Susie is having a birthday party and I wasn’t invited.”

Susie.  A dance friend.  A friend that is a friend but not really a friend but seems like a friend because proximity puts them in the same building together four days a week.

Upon this proclamation, she lets go.  If I could teach actresses what true blubbering is, this is it: snot and tears and saliva and a constant wiping into arms and pillows and covers.

(If the sanitary police exist… we may need to be arrested.)

Watching this fiasco of emotion, I feel somewhat ambivalent.  It is late. She is overtired.  I am overtired.  I selfishly wish I would have let her cry it out.  What is it that she wants me to do?  Offer advice?  In the state I am in, my advice will either be to address Susie directly or tell her off, with the latter winning in my brain as she exhales the jagged breath of a crier.

As she escalates up her emotional Mount Olympus, some paradigm shifts in my brain.   Wait!   I will not have to spend thirty bucks to buy a gift for some kid I do not really know? 

Cha-ching!

The Hyde of my dispassionate Jackal realizes the pain she is feeling:  Someone told her about a party she was not invited to and  she believes the inviter to be a friend.  She feels ostracized.

“What do you expect from this crying, Carson?  Will this solve any of your pain?”  I ask.

“No!”  She takes a deep breath and cries harder.

I inhale deeply.  I count to three.  What to say?  What to say?

“Honey, this friend is a friend now, but she will not always be, and even in two months, her party will be arbitrary.”

I go for reason.  It doesn’t work.  She crosses her arms at the elbows and covers her face.

Yet, I still continue with reason.  “Carson, this is just one party of hundreds of parties in the course of your life.   She made a mistake!  Chances are you might not even remember Susie in twenty years.  Please do not let one little indiscretion hurt your feelings.”

“Okay,” she says as she tries to control her breathing.  She knows that I am right, although I cannot take the hurt away.

*****************************

 At thirteen, her world is so limited that she is unable to see a bigger picture.  As much as I want to protect her and punch all the little Susie’s of the world in the face, she is experiencing reality:  sometimes, you are not invited to the party; sometimes, the friends that you put all of your hopes in end up leaving you in the end; sometimes, what you thought was real was not actually there.   But, there will be other parties and other friends and more experiences that will fill her with joy.

Hold out Carson, it will be better soon.  And don’t forget.  I am your mother.  If you need me to, I can ruffle some feathers.