Saturday, October 10, 2009

Battle o' wills.

Do you want to know how I do NOT want to spend my Saturday morning?

Locked in a battle of wills with my children. Specifically Charlie, Henry and George.

It all started yesterday morning. Charlie and Henry were enjoying another day off from school because of a teacher in-service. One of the boys' jobs is to tidy up the basement playroom. I didn't say it has to be perfection, but the floors must be able to be walked upon without the potential of serious injury occurring, i.e. errant Matchbox cars that can stab you in the foot with a tailpipe. My boys think that having to do this weekly job constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.

Get over it, dudes.

We have been very busy over the last few weeks, so the last time it was cleaned was over three weeks ago. I took a picture of it for you, just so you can get the general gist of why this battle of wills is necessary. Also, to show you that I'm not the unreasonable one in this situation.

And here it is.

I know. It's not that bad, right? Right? Really, it's been much worse in the past.

But this battle of wills isn't so much about the messy basement, because kids = mess, and that's okay. Fun is messy. No, this battle is about the attitude I got when I asked them to clean up the mess.

"Okay guys, let's just quickly clean up the basement this morning, and when we pick up George from school I'll take you to the indoor pool for an afternoon swim." I said casually yesterday.

"Okay!" they all assured me.

Twenty minutes later I looked down there and nothing had been moved even a centimeter, besides the toys they were currently playing with. "Start cleaning now, and if you make some good progress I'll come down there and help you finish the job." I coaxed.

I've learned not to help them from the beginning, because then I end up doing the whole job while they throw a few Thomas trains and tracks in a basket and say, "Wow! Look what a good job we did cleaning this basement!" After I issued my offer of help once they got it started, Charlie said, "No way. I'm not cleaning. I don't have to clean if I don't want to."

Oh no he didn't.

8-almost-9-year old attitude is buckets o' fun.

"Oh yes you are cleaning, Charlie, and if you give me more of that attitude, I'm taking away pool time from you later."

"So what. I hate the pool. The pool is stupid."

"Okay then, you can think of that as you sit in a chair on the side of the pool for 10 minutes."

"Whatever," Charlie spat out.

"Wanna make it 20 minutes, Charlie?" I retorted.

I know he got "whatever" from me. I say it all the time. I'm either tempted to swear in front of them, which I can't, or I say, "Whatever." It's a great way to sum up your frustrations, unless you hear it repeated over and over by your 8-almost-9 year old. Then it's just annoying.

Basically, the same argument went on all day long with the kids. I took away everyone's pool time because everyone refused to clean. Fighting and punching occurred. (Not by me, of course. Who do you think I am?) I was called "stupid mommy." There was no TV, no video games, and no playing outside. My offer to help them clean was taken off the table.

Bill got home from work and I snarled at him. Seriously. I actually growled my hello.

To say I was frazzled was an understatement.

But he came in the door, ready to tackle the problem. We let the kids come up from the dungeon for dinner, and then sent them back down again, full of food in their bellies and a renewed sense of motivation to get the job done. "We'll have a family game night and ice cream when you finish!" But by 7:00 p.m., Bill was snarling too. So much for the calm one. They got to him. "See? I told you," was all I could muster. I was glad that I wasn't the only uber-frustrated one.

The job is pretty easy too. There are specific boxes for cars. There's baskets for the play kitchen stuff. There is a spot for train tracks. And blocks. And video games. JUST. PUT. IT. IN. THE. BOX.

Finally at 8:00, we shut it down. WE SHUT. IT. DOWN. Everybody upstairs. Now. If you're not going to clean, you're going to bed.

Everybody in bed, and lights out at 8:00. On a Friday night. Wailing and crying ensued. "BUUUUUTTTT IT'S FRIIIIIIIIIIIDAAYYYYYYYY NIGHTTTTT!!! WEEEEE CANNN'T GO TO BEDDDD AT 8:00 ON A FRIIIIIIDDDAAAYYYYYY NIGHTTTTT!!!" was what we heard over and over.

Oh yeah? Well look what we just did. We put you to bed at 8:00 on a Friday night. Fancy that. Sucks to be you, kids. Someday when you are older, you will get to experience this power trip. I assure you, it isn't that fun.

This morning they woke up after a full 12 hours of sleep, we fed them breakfast, and now they are down there as we speak. Cleaning. Kind of. Hopefully.

Like I said, it's not really about the cleaning anymore. I could almost care less about a clean playroom. It's about Bill and I winning this one so they can't call us chumps.

They're trying to wear us down.

But they need to know we mean business. BIZ. NESS.

For reals.

Jo Frost, ("Supernanny")

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