Otto doesn’t like it when I brag about him. I love him dearly, but on this he can suck it up because I don’t think I’m ever going to stop being amazed at how he just never, ever phones it in with these kids of mine. And I am here to tell you that—while also beautiful, talented, funny, and amazing—my kids can be GIGANTIC pains in the butt. No one would BLAME Otto for occasionally throwing his hands in the air and walking away, is my point.
Chickadee is at a magical age. One minute she is hilarious and loving and perfect and the next… uhhhh… somewhat less so. (AHEM.) (“Mom, why do all of my teachers keep saying I would make a good lawyer?” Gosh, I have no idea!) Remember when your precious snookums was two and it was a constant barrage of “ME DO IT MYSELF!”? The teenage years, it turns out, are VERY SIMILAR. Except that instead of “ME DO IT MYSELF!” it’s “YOU NEVER LISTEN TO ME!” or “JUST A MINUTE!”
(Let’s save discussion of the irony of “YOU NEVER LISTEN TO ME!” as the battle cry of the child who is EXPRESSLY DISOBEYING for another day. Preferably one when I am very, very inebriated.)
So here is what we’re currently dealing with at Casa Angry Young Teen, and feel free to stop me if you’ve heard this one before: SOMEONE has a bedtime and SOMEONE has recently decided that it’s fully permissible to view said bedtime as, I don’t know, a SUGGESTION. So SOMEONE is never ready for bed at that time, or claims to be ready but is still wearing contact lenses, or is completely ready but then comes wandering into my office fifteen minutes later “looking for a book” or “because I need you to sign this” or something else. Furthermore, when I resort—as I have, the last few nights—to refusing to engage with SOMEONE in these late-night antics, SOMEONE basically has a tantrum because “YOU NEVER LISTEN TO ME” and “WHY WON’T YOU HELP ME” and “I WOULD GO TO BED IF YOU WOULD JUST ANSWER ME.”
Hey, there’s nothing I enjoy more than a evening power struggle, except maybe a nice audit by the IRS. Still. I find it prudent to try to stay out of these interactions.
Now, that’s plenty of fun on its own, right? BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE! Because you will never ever guess that this prolonged I’ll-go-to-bed-when-and-only-when-you’re-positively-furious-with-me-and-I-can-cry-about-it routine begets! For some CRAZY REASON, this same SOMEONE is having trouble getting up in the morning. WEIRD, HUH? It’s ALMOST as though we’re trying to enforce a bedtime so that SOMEONE is well-rested and able to comply with
her SOMEONE’s chosen schedule, which includes an early morning team necessitating being at school 90 minutes ahead of the first bell every day.
Otto takes the kids to school in the morning. The deal is that if Chickadee is not ready to leave by an appointed time, they leave later and Monkey gets dropped off first. She misses half of her morning activity that way, so you’d think that would be plenty of motivation to get her butt in gear. But then, possibly you haven’t met… SOMEONE.
This morning Chickadee came downstairs with about a minute to spare, sniped at her brother, barked at me, insisted she needed help with her hair but then yelled at me when I tried to help, mouthed off to Otto, and when Otto informed her that she wasn’t ready on time they would now wait to leave, she continued her little rampage until Otto informed her that she’d just lost her ride altogether, she could ride the bus. This, of course, resulted in tears and stomping and complaining, and Otto calmly informed her that early rides to school are a privilege, and the way she’d been speaking to me and to him, she’d forfeited that privilege.
Otto and Monkey left, while Chickadee sat here crying in my office. I told her I was trying to work so she’d need to go somewhere else until the bus came; she picked up her stuff and stepped over the threshold into the kitchen, then sat down on the vinyl there to GLARE AT ME ANGRILY while I attempted to get some work done.
I think what Otto did this morning was good parenting, and that SOMEONE made her bed and had to lie in it. I wasn’t thrilled to be left to deal with her for the next half hour, but stuff happens.
What happened next, though, was GREAT parenting; Otto dropped Monkey off and then came back home. “I want to finish dealing with this,” he said, and then turned to Chickadee. “We’re moving your bedtime back by half an hour, starting tonight,” he said. “You will be IN BED by that time and ready to go in the morning ON TIME every day for a week before we move it forward 15 minutes, again, and then IN BED ON TIME and ready on time in the morning every night for another week before you get your old bedtime back. Screw it up and we start all over. We are not going to chase you into bed and we are not going to wake you up. You will take responsibility and you will do it without complaint. Do you understand?”
There was more, about the way she talks to us and her general attitude, and she sat there and glared but nodded and agreed and finally, Otto stopped talking and sighed.
“Let’s go,” he said. “I’ll give you a ride.”
“But you said I was on the bus,” she said, petulant.
“WOW!” I said. “Here, let me help you. Try this: THANK YOU SO MUCH, OTTO, I’M VERY SORRY FOR BEING SUCH A JERK AND THANK YOU FOR CARING ENOUGH TO COME BACK AND FOR GIVING ME A RIDE EVEN THOUGH I DON’T DESERVE IT.”
“I… just… thank you? I just thought—”
“STOP TALKING. GO TO SCHOOL.”
And then they were gone. Otto reports that they rode to school in silence, but she did say thanks when getting out of the car.
I wouldn’t have blamed him for leaving her here today and having that conversation tonight, instead. Heck, after her behavior this morning I wouldn’t have even blamed him for telling her he’s just not going to drive her to school anymore. But he came back. He laid down the law. And then he extended the olive branch that she probably doesn’t even appreciate, because… he loves her. Even when (maybe especially when) she’s not being very lovable.
Happy Love Thursday, everyone. I always tell my kids I picked Otto for US, not just for me. They may not understand that for years, I know. But days like today are the reason why.