Monday, January 19, 2009

More on Ripping and Burning

Wouldn't you know, armed with renewed zeal to do some ripping and burning this weekend, we had ample opportunity to make note of where our kids' personalized CDs either have giant gaping blank spots, have become demagnetized, or where there are scratches, causing them to permanently skip every single time.

With the little ones, I noticed that we need to work on a track called, "Ask for help." Yep, it's the classic situation in which it is much easier to whine, complain, blame others, or generally fall apart. This makes me insane.

Instead of saying, "I'm so hungry! I think I'm going to die! Do we have any cookies?" how much better would it be to say, "Mom, can you please make me a sandwich?"

Instead of throwing the boot across the bedroom in frustration, how much better to say, "Would you please help me zip this?"

What's more, in all this talk about burning tracks for the kids, I neglected to mention that I need to burn a few tracks of my own.

Dennis and I got invited to a fancy business dinner on Saturday night. A Real Date in which I got to wear my Little Black Dress, use way too many utensils, and try to remember which one is the bread plate (it's on the left, in case you're wondering).

It was in a city about 3 hours away - meaning, we'd be gone quite a while - so we made the cheapskate executive decision to let the kids babysit themselves. Neal-14 had to be in charge for the afternoon shift (we had to leave at 2:00 p.m.), and Allie-15 had the evening shift. My only instructions were that I'd like to come home to a clean kitchen, and that I wanted them all to get along. In times past, the kids have bossed each other around (becoming Evil Babysitting Czars) so I said, "I want you to play with the little girls and make it fun for them."

I left them a couple of frozen pizzas, and they had already selected a movie to watch together. They were off to a good start. We talked and texted as the afternoon rolled into the evening, and everything seemed to be going just dandy.

The last time I called, the little girls were asleep, I could hear laughter in the background, and Neal was whistling, so I knew things were going well. The thought had crossed my mind before we left the party that I should remind them about picking up, but I had already told them, right?

The night got later and later. On the ride home - strangely quiet without kids in the car - Dennis and I worked hard to keep each other awake. I couldn't believe it when my phone rang at 1:00 a.m. ("Are you almost home?"). Only Allie and Neal were up, laughing and goofing off, playing Wii and having a grand time.

When I walked by the kitchen window at 1:30 a.m. I had a sinking feeling. By the time I walked into the door, I knew it was going to be bad. I felt myself instantly getting angry.

Yep, the house was a wreck.

Suddenly I wasn't listening to Allie's attempts at saying, "I put the leftover pizza away in ziplocks!" and, "We were having a lot of fun together!"

I was instantly awake. As I walked through the house I heard myself making threats about privileges the next day and expressing disappointment about expectations - at 1:30 in the morning! All the fun of the evening was spoiled. Allie was in tears and Neal was upset.

Yes, they had messed up, but I - I had royally blown it.

All I saw was what was undone. The pizza pan encrusted with cheese. Dirty dishes in the sink.

Obviously a demagnetized portion of their CD. I thought they knew this!

I forgot all about the fact that my two oldest kids had managed to refrain from becoming Evil Babysitting Czars. Not only had they kept my younger ones from burning the house down, they had fed them and played with them. They had entertained them, painted nails, colored with them, and cuddled with them at bedtime. And they seemed to genuinely enjoy it.

Our kids had done exactly - in theory, at least - what I would have wanted them to do: focus on relationships with those entrusted in their care. In practice, though, I'm afraid I gave them the message that a clean house is more important. Sigh.

After all of my solemn apologies (and a good night's sleep) we held a family meeting. We'll be working on what it means to clean the kitchen. The kids will each be assigned a task from the Kitchen Spec Sheet until they can prove to me that they have mastered it. After all, cleaning up is a skill that can be learned and improved over time.

And I will be working on a new CD for myself: "How Bite Tongue with Teenagers When Deliriously Tired."

I think I've already burned the first track.


Les & Sweetie Berry said...

It is disappointing when what we know will be left for its hard often to remember how fun matters as much as the friend, I hope you did have a good night with your Dh....and I am glad that even after we blow, we have the change to ask forgiveness and communicate differently....we are indeed all human and sometimes the best lesson for us as parents for our children is to see that we too make mistakes and how to handled them when we do, and show them as they will in the future are loved... hugs hugs hugs!

Mommahen said...

Ugggghhhh! Isn't it hard to get off of the "everything needs to be clean" default setting?

What an example you set for you kids though showing them that we make mistakes too, and it's okay to admit them and apologize for them.

As nursery minister at our church I've seen your children's behavior with some of my teen volunteers. They forget to take toys out of teething children's mouths, they allow the toddlers to act much wilder than I would, and they give them seconds, thirds, and fourths at snack time should the toddlers ask for them.

And on really bad days I have to remember that the experiences they have ministering in the nursery will either stir their hearts to serve Him more, or drive them to serve Him less. OUCH!

Thanks for the reminder.

Etta said...

Oh, Katherine, I SO identify with how you felt after this. This post reminded me of all the times I harped on the negative instead of focusing on the positive, like the mess Jamie made when he was creating a beautiful piece of artwork or pretending to be whoever. Or the times when he has gotten in the way when he was just trying to "help." How many more times will I have to apologize for my harsh words? I'm with you, girl, on this one. Need to do much more ripping and burning for myself.

Maureen said...

Katherine, I absolutely loved this post. Where shall I begin? I wish my kids could ask nicely for help too!

But I know exactly how you feel when you leave the older ones to babysit. I have to bite my tongue as well. I want the kids to bond but man it would be nice if my house was clean too. Is it too much to ask? Right now I am more concerned with the bonding so it has been easy to let the housekeeping task of babysitting go. When you figure out how to get the kids to do both things at the same time, please please, please let me know lol!!