The children are home! The children are home! The children are DONE TRAVELING for the summer! AND ALL GOD’S PEOPLE SAID AMEN!
Hey, it’s nice that I don’t have any strong feelings about whether or not the kids are around, dontcha think? It really enables me to just go with the flow and relax. I can just totally enjoy the time while the kids are gone…
… biting my nails down to the knuckle and crying on their pillows.
Anyway! They’re home! They appear to be more or less in one piece! They are quite huggable and kissable and—as we discovered last night in the pool—throwable! And very little says “I love you so much” like tossing someone into the deep end. I’m just sayin’. (Dude. They were both wearing their goggles with the strap so low that their ears were all folded over like elves, and it was nibble said ears right off their heads or toss them. I tried to choose wisely.)
Anyway, school starts in less than three weeks (!!!!) and the idea now is to get into a routine, get back to normal life, and make stability the watchword. This summer was… erm… a bit scattered. (See how diplomatic I am?) Before the kids left this last time, we proposed a change upon their routine: Weekly family meetings.
Last night, we had our first meeting.
First item on the agenda: Allowance. Somehow, I got out of the habit of giving the kids allowance. I mean, really, what do they need money for? To pay for hookers and drugs? Despite my general level of meanness, I do pretty much provide everything they need. Food, clothing, shelter, the occasional popsicle; they’re living in the lap of luxury! But I believe in allowance like I believe in chocolate and bacon—it’s absolutely necessary. This is how the kids learn to manage money. So we renegotiated their rate and what percentages need to be set aside for donating and putting in the bank, and everyone was happy as I whipped out a stack of dollar bills. (And by “whipped out a stack of dollar bills,” I of course mean “looked in my wallet, realized I only had twenties, and asked Otto to please give me some ones.”)
All good. Happy happy!
Next up: Chores. We had a good family discussion about regular chores which are part of living in this house and contributing to the family, and how allowance is NOT payment for chores. You do chores because you want to help out. (And because I yell when you don’t. Whatever.) We had some discussion about what would constitute “extra” and ways they could make more money, if they wanted to go above and beyond.
All good. Happy happy!
And then: The most dreaded of topics. The elephant in the room (and under the bed, and all over the furniture)! I know that if you read here, you’ve come to adore my children (they ARE adorable), but… I have to tell you something. THEY ARE PIGS. I know, that’s hard to imagine. Because they’re so perfect, and all. But MY GOD. They are slobs. We had started to set up some rules, before they left, about when common areas of the house need to be tidied of their things. But last night was the formal declaration of something new we’re going to try, and it just about killed me.
After some soul-searching, and some pointed memories of being a slobby youngster and finding it HORRIBLY UNFAIR that I had to keep MY room to my PARENTS’ standards, last night we made it official: Their bedrooms need only be tidied twice a month. TWICE A MONTH! That’s 28 days out of 30 that I can’t say ONE WORD about the crap all over the floor. 28 days out of 30 that I need to ignore piles of books, mounds of dirty laundry, and toys left to be stepped on and broken.
On designated days, their rooms must pass inspection (and that means we can walk through without hurting ourselves). The rest of the time—I need to zip my lips and close my eyes.
Now, the corollary to this new rule is that I don’t help find lost items, I don’t say a word about clothes that haven’t made it to the hamper (and if I do laundry and your stuff isn’t in there, OH WELL), and common areas must still meet household standards of cleanliness every night.
They agreed, cheerfully. I think I’m the only one freaking out.
“What if my room ends up completely filled with GARBAGE?” Monkey asked me as I tucked him in, last night. “What if between cleaning days it gets REALLY BAD?”
“Well, I guess then you’d have to decide if you liked living like that,” I said.
“Oh,” he said. Then: “I think I’ll probably keep it pretty clean. I like to do extra chores!” This child sweats sugar. It was all I could do not to lick him.
Chickadee hugged me long and hard at bedtime. “I am glad to be home but it’s hard,” she said. We talked about the trip, the good things, the hard things, the things we’re looking forward to. “I don’t know if twice a month is enough to help me keep my room clean,” she said. “I think maybe you should make me do it more often.”
“I think that maybe YOU should make you do it more often, if you feel that way,” I responded (lightly, I hoped). We hugged each other, in the dark, my chin resting on her head, her breath warm on my neck, my arms wrapped around her wiry frame.
There’s no question that I lucked into a couple of great kids. Know that I say this with abundant love and gratitude in my heart: Please send Valium and a blindfold.