Friday, June 13, 2008

What's a Girl to Do?

I generally drive my children bonkers in one of two ways:

1. The noncommital answer

They ask, "Can we go see Kung Fu Panda on July 21st?" or "Can I play computer after lunch?" or "Can we have dessert on Saturday?" And my answer is, "I don't know" or "I can't answer that" or "We'll have to see." Partly because who knows what we'll be doing next Saturday or on July 21st. But also because what I do on any given day depends on Jesse's nap schedule, how much kid whining saps my energy, how high-maintenance my resume clients are....

My life is like a puzzle and I just keep spreading out all the pieces to figure out which one will fit where. Ah ha! I have to take Levi to an appointment at school--let's stop by Costco on our way home! The kids want a movie from Blockbuster--we'll drop off our library books on the way home. Jesse is taking a long nap--perfect chance to plant those new tomatoes.

But sometimes the kids wonder why they can never get a straight answer from me. It's like they're living in some covert CIA operation where you only get one piece of information at at time, strictly need-to-know, until I suddenly burst in and shout, "We're going to the library! Everyone get your shoes on NOW!"

2. The reneg

This morning someone mentioned the library and I said, "Yes! Let's go to the library this afternoon. We'll do it!" Well, Logan didn't want to go, so he's at a friend's house, and Jesse is still asleep and why on earth would I want to wake him prematurely and listen to him grump for the rest of the day, and Levi says he has a headache and he's resting on the couch, which means he really needs a rest. So I told Roscoe the stars didn't seem to be aligning and how about if he just takes himself to the library on his bike. He's furious. I never keep my word. I said we could go.

So clearly I shouldn't have been so rash as to say we'd go. Or should I drag a bunch of tired and cranky little kids over there anyway just to appease Roscoe and keep my word?

The answer please?


  1. Wait until Jesse wakes up, then go to the library, even if that means postponing dinner or other plans. I give the same non-commited answers all the time, because I know that once I promise them something I have to keep my word, or they'll never trust me.

  2. Well, my kids will sometimes tell me that they will do something but then outside forces (or lazy inner ones) change the plan. I get annoyed, but I still trust them and ask them to do things later. On the other end, I just try my best to do things, but when plans go awry, give them viable options and they usually work with that. Example: tonight the kids wanted to sleep in the castle outside. I said they could. Problem is that Rob said the lawn needed to be watered, which it did plus it's breezy. So I told them they couldn't now. So then they came up with sleeping under the dining table, something, "we've never done before."

    Life is full of disappointments and plan changes and Roscoe (along with the rest of us) just needs to learn and relearn that. On a related theme:

  3. I think, as a parent, you can reneg for the greater good. But Roscoe does deserve an explanation of why that's happening. (You didn't say whether or not you explained to him). Empathy is a learned emotion and that would be a great opportunity to help him see things from your, Levi's, Jesse, etc. point of view.
    But I also think Jessica is right that we have to try as hard as we can to keep our word - also for the greater good. Our kids need to trust us.

  4. As usual, you articulate so beautifully everything I didn't realize I already felt. It's like you're in my head, only you can see through the haze.

    Throw it back at him a little: "what would you do right now if you were the mom? Do you really want fussy siblings at the library with you?" Or maybe just remind Roscoe (substitute Berkeley) about the time he promised he would clean his room, but then forgot when a friend came and asked him to ride bikes, and then you let it slide. We are a family. We do our best for each other, but we also forgive and recognize that we're all just TRYING.

    I break promises now and then, but usually make it up with something like, "when we DO make it to the library, there will be an icecream cone on the way home to compensate you for your inconvenience." But I don't think you'll find that in any parenting handbooks.

  5. Angela, you are a marvelous parenting expert. Much better at parenting than you were parented, IMHO. So here are snaps to you. Roscoe, like most of us do sometimes, over-reacted to a disappointment. He'll get over it and still love his Mom. I promise.