After six months of procrastinating, we’re finally starting on “the full monty,” “the big bang,” “the mother of invention” — the Vicky Hoffle plan for getting parenting on track. At a family meeting tonight over dinner, we announced the plan and explained to the kids that we’re sorry we’ve been such lame parents up until now, doing everything for them while nagging and pestering them to do it. We explained that for the week ahead, there would be no complaining, no limits, no nothing on our end, but that maid service and butlering would also come to an abrupt halt. “Time to for us all to find out what we each can do in this family for this family,” Responses were predictable, really: Lucas merely challenged the notion of no limit setting. “You mean, I can stay on the computer as long as I want? Schweet.” He was all set. Lea, on the other hand, went into typical helpless inferiority complex mode: “but I can’t do anything by myself, I don’t know how to make my lunchbox or cook dinner or do ANYTHING!!!1!” Much wailing and gnashing of teeth, and complete denial of competence, even though this was the same girl that had decided to make nachos for breakfast this morning and done so quite well.
Strking to see that within minutes of the announcement, there were some signs of cooperation between the two of them — maybe just a shocked reaction to the news, maybe they were too busy mulling things over to fight, but it could also be that there’s the first small recognition that maybe, just maybe, they will come out ahead if they figure out how to get along.They both got very lawyerly at the end: “Well, what if something breaks and there’s glass everywhere, and I’m too scared to clean it up?” asked Lea, and it was the perfect change to explain that we’re going to help out if and when things are getting dangerous for anybody.
But it is still not clear to me at all how this week is going to play out. There are lots of uncertainties and things we’re not sure how to handle. Do they cook their own dinner entirely every night, or can they “share” ours? Do we just clean up “our” share of a common mess and leave it to them to deal with “their” half? Should we explain to our kids’ friends what’s going on so they are aware of any odd behavior they may be seeing?
It’s not going to be easy. I’m going to have a very hard time *not* cleaning up the place, since I need things in their right place to have the peace of mind to go about my business. Lise, on the other hand, is going to find it hard to be uncompromising and deal with the crocodile tears and the requests for help, since she is always afraid of being seen as a “bad” mother, and wants to be the kids’ friend and ally in life. Lucas is going to realize that his days on the couch are *so* over. Lea will have to focus enough on the tasks at hand to get them done, or suffer the consequences.
We’re all going to need lots and lots of patience. It’ll be fun…