Here's the scene: dirty white tablecloth on table. One green poker chip in the center. Salt and pepper shakers. Folded over section of yesterday's newspaper. Kid's brightly-colored plastic place mats askew as if fallen from the sky. One empty foil chocolate candy wrapper. One Matchbox car, blue, upside-down, occupants presumed dead. All six dining room chairs are pulled away from the table, like everybody left in a fire.
My entire house looks like this. I can't do anything about it. No force can stem the tide.
Sometimes I feel like my real job around here, if we are to be frank, is putting items back where they belong. Because really, that's what I do all day. I put away the laundry, the food, the shoes, the coats, the toys, the mail, the recycling piles, the stray scraps of paper, the kid art, the bulletins from school, and the dog's toys. Then there are my own things, such as the contents of my huge mama-purse which regularly get dumped on the counter because I'm in a fit and can't find my keys (Chapstick, money, ID, whatever). It's ongoing. We stubbornly keep taking things out and using them. But that's not the only cause of the constant mess.
My daughter is in a power-trip phase right now where she drops things on the floor at dinner and stares at me to see what I'm going to do about it. Typically, I stare back and raise an eyebrow. Then she yells, "GET MY FORK!" Then I look away and say, "You can get it yourself."
Can you guess how this goes over with her?
"No, YOU get my fork!" she says, eyes squinched shut, fists balled.
At this point, my blood pressure rises. Nobody likes being ordered around by an imperious three-year-old, but to add to my irritation is the keen awareness that if I'd ever uttered such words at home, I'd have been smacked and sent to bed immediately.
Anne Lamott says that when you overlook a kid's bad behavior, you injure them. "You hobble their character," she says.
I believe this. So, I don't want to overlook this behavior, but I don't want to smack Audrey and send her to bed. The alternate consequences we tend to employ do not often have the intended result, and they exhaust the whole family. Still, not knowing what else to do, I pull the same ones out every time.
In any case, picking up her damn fork is the last thing I want to do at dinner, since, as I mentioned above, I've been picking things up off the floor all day. Not to mention that I would hate to set a precedent that I'm Audrey's servant. So I'll be damned if I'm picking up that fork.
And so will she.
Hence the exhaustion, noise, and stress that will ensue.
I guess this is just life with kids. Why do I expect anything different?
Anyone have any tips, techniques, or sage words they would like to share with me? I could really use them.