We had to have a “Roundtable” discussion night before last. These are our family meetings at the square dinner table. This one was called to discuss attitudes and responsibilities Monday through Thursday night with our older kids. It had become so haphazard at our house that Zohrhubby and I were just randomly walking around hollering and fussing and generally making asses out of ourselves, in random spits and sputters. We decided it was time to convene the Roundtable, to lay down the law.
Zohrhubby: “Since we’re all here, your mother and I would like to talk to you about what all has been going wrong the past few weeks.”
Blank stares all around. Little B and Little A aren’t sure what’s going on, but can tell by their dad’s tone that they best just be quiet.
Zohrhubby: “Who wants to start the discussion?”
Zohrhubby: “So, what, no one wants to talk?”
I give him a glare like he’s slightly retarded. I mean, really? You think these kids who think that we are awful and mean and have no hearts are going to START the discussion that they can only assume will end in their dreams being shattered? Really?
Me: “Okay, guys. Here’s the dealio: Your daddy and I have spent most of the past few weeks fussing and hollering and bitching and moaning and quite frankly, I’m tired of listening to it. I don’t know about you guys, but your daddy fussing at you over and over and over and over gives me a friggin’ headache.”
Zohrhubby looks perturbed, but now I’ve got their attention.
Me: “And the only reason he has to do that is because you don’t LISTEN to me, and I give up too easily and I lay it on him and then he gets the results I’ve failed to get, which comes at his expense, because you treat him like he’s the meanest person on the planet. Which is hardly fair. So, I just want to start over with the discussion we had BEFORE school started about what is required of each of us to get through a school week. Four days a week, we have one set of rules and chores, and the other THREE days a week, you are pretty much able to do whatever. I want you to understand that the things that are expected of you Monday through Thursday are not punishments, they are only what each of our roles are to get everything done that needs doing to survive the week. Understood?”
Little B: “Understood!”
Little A: “Understood! Hey mom, I know what rhymes with CAT! BAT!”
Tween C and Big E: mumbling some things that might possibly be construed as a positive response.
I then go into each of their respective duties, the proper way to do each of them, as simply and plainly as humanly possible. I stress the need to show respect to the other people in the house, with words and actions. I tell them how if we are each responsible for our own messes, then the big picture doesn’t seem so bad. I ask them for their input on how best to accomplish the simple goal of a stress-free week, by managing to get everything done in a timely fashion and leaving time after dinner for relaxation and winding down.
Now, they are hearing me.
Big E: (With an attitude all over his face) “Well, if you are asking me to critique…I’d certainly like an opportunity to think about it for a minute.”
Me: “I’ll give you a minute.”
Little B: “Mom, my new name for “butterflies” is “flutterflies” because they flutter around so delicately, and they aren’t even made with butter!”
Tween C: “What about rewards…for like, grades and stuff?”
Big E: “Yeah, what about that?”
Me: “I don’t understand. That’s not we are talking about. We are talking about what happens around here during the week.”
Big E: “Well, not just grades and stuff, but like where’s the positive stuff? All we get is this is wrong and that is wrong. Where’s the good part?”
Zohrhubby: “Try doing something right, and give us a chance for the good part.”
Me: “Well, no, that’s not what he’s saying. Right E? He means what’s it to them? Right?”
Big E: “Yeah. I mean, all we get is this taken away and that taken away and my phone gets snatched out of my hand just because I’m looking at dates on my calendar on my phone at the table, I’m not even texting or anything…”
Me: “No. You’ve had that phone out at the table many many times over the past week or so and I’ve had to threaten to take it. Your daddy just does it. There’s nothing wrong with that. You know the rules. I don’t care if you are talking or texting a buddy or texting Google to find out what color Mars’ atmosphere is. No phone at the table means no phone at the table.”
Big E: “Okay, but what do we GET. Not just what doesn’t get taken away.”
Zohrhubby, who has the attention span of a bucket, walks away. I don’t even know where he went.
Me: “You get to live here. And eat. And watch our cable television. And talk on your cell phone. And listen to your ipod. And search the internet on our dime, on our computer.”
Big E: “But not Monday through Thursday.”
Me: “No. Not Monday through Thursday. Because…”
Big E: “I know, but if we get everything else done, and then there’s nothing for us to do, why can’t we get on the puter or play the xbox?”
Me: “TV. You can watch tv.”
Big E: “But the tv in the den is taken by you guys, and the tv in the living room is taken by the little kids, and me and C have nothing to do.”
Me: “Hmmm. Okay. I see what you are saying. We’ll have to think about that.”
But there was no thinking, no considering, what happened next happened so quickly I’m not even quite sure how it happened. Before I knew what was going on or what I had gotten myself into, the older kids had proposed, justified and sealed the deal on two new rules:
1. They get to stay up till 9:30 now.
2. They get to alternate computer and tv time after the little ones go to bed at 8:30.
Dammit. I knew the day would come when the outside world would influence and inform my older children that 8:30 is too early a bedtime for a 12 year old and a 16 year old.
When Zohrhubby came back into the room, the kids were more than happy to tell him how we’d resolved our issues.
When the kids scattered out after supper to get their chores done, Zohrhubby asked me quietly: “What the hell happened when I left the room?! I thought they were in trouble, now they get to stay up later?!”
Me: “You totally left me hanging. I was outnumbered. It’s all your fault. Oh, and before I forget, don’t ever call them “butterflies” again….they are now to be called “Flutterflies”.”
Zohrhubby: “Yeah, I was there for that part.”
That night, the two older kids sat up late(r) and watched tv with ZH and me. They made comments on the show, giggled and talked over the tv to one another. They were giddy with power.
I went to bed early.