Questioned authority

Tonight was one of those evenings when the chorus of “Mom!” seemed never-ending. Sometimes, when I get home from a long day, I yearn so much for a bit of solitude that I let the requests for my attention push me little by little toward the edge of the rabbit hole.

Also Charlotte has been testing us lately. Are we serious? Are we sticking to these changes? And she serves as my parental barometer. Are we practicing the crucial c’s? Encouragement? Following our road map? She lets us know. Every day.

So at our house, eating takes place only in the kitchen and dining areas. We’ve had this rule since the girls were babies. (I can’t stand cleaning food off rugs.) When I got home today, Ellen immediately wanted to play a game. I said yes, as soon as I get settled. She set it up in the den and as I came downstairs I heard Ellen’s voice, “Stoooop! Charlotte, stop!” “Charlotte, would you like to play next?” I offered. “Yeah.” “Ok,” I said and sat down to play with Ellen. A minute later, Charlotte appeared with a granola bar in her hand. She sat down next to us and took a big bite. I stared at her. “Um…Charlotte?” “What?” “That food belongs in the eating area.” She looked at me and took another big bite and didn’t move. I was so tired I couldn’t think of anything except scolding her, but I didn’t. The word ‘choices’ popped into my head just in time and I said, “You may sit there on the step, or in a chair at the table, what do you choose?” “Okaaaay.” She got up and walked toward the dining table. A minute later, she came back with one of our child-sized chairs in her hand. She plopped it down right next to us and sat in it and continued eating. I looked at her. “What?” she said, “I’m in a chair!”

Now I was at choice, and I was already crabby. I said, “No, Charlotte, the chair at the dining table.” “But I’m hungry and I want to watch the game!” I looked at Ellen. “Would you be willing to play this on the dining table?” “No!” she said. At that point I snapped a little. “Ok, well I’m not willing to sit here and play while Charlotte eats in the den.” And I got up and walked away. “Charlotte!” said Ellen, and reluctantly picked up the game and followed me to the dining table. She put the game down and sat in front of it. I stayed standing. My whole body was tense and I couldn’t seem to shake it. “What, mom?” said Ellen. “I don’t know,” I said, “I don’t feel good about what just happened … Charlotte, do you want to apologize to me with your words, or write a note?” “Sorry,” she said in a low voice. And then she asked, “Why do I have to say sorry?” “Because you brought food into the den and kept eating it after I asked you not to and now there are crumbs on the rug that I have to clean up!” She looked down and her shoulders slumped. I took a deep breath. “I’m sorry you guys, I need a couple of minutes in my office. I’ll be back in two minutes.” I closed the door and sat down and picked up my list of strategies. Choices, I thought, right, that didn’t go so well … distraction, hmm, … humor, yes, humor. Have to find some way to inject humor, even when I’m tired and crabby. That’s one of my biggest challenges. I stayed in my office and relaxed a bit and then I opened the door and gave myself another chance.

Soon after, it was Jerry’s turn for a challenge. During the game I heard yet another “Moooom!” coming from upstairs. “What?!” I answered. “I need toilet paper!” Fenner called. “I’m trying to play a game with Ellen!” I called back. Silence. We continued the game. After several minutes Fenner came downstairs. “Mom, I was sitting on the toilet! I thought you were coming with toilet paper!” “Oh,” I said, “no.” She rolled her eyes and walked away. Jerry had come in from the living room and chimed in, “Fenner, you know what would be great? If you took some toilet paper up there now.” “No,” she said, “I don’t feel like it.” I looked at the expression on Jerry’s face and said softly, “Would you be willing…” He repeated after me, “Would you be willing to bring some toilet paper upstairs?” “No,” she said. I cued him again, “What would you be willing…” “What would you be willing to do?” he said. “Eat a cookie!” said Fenner. Uh-oh, I thought. He didn’t like what he was hearing, but he stayed calm. “But Fenner, what happens when you’re up there next time and there’s still no toilet paper?” “Well, by then someone else will have done it.” “But if not you, then who?” “You or mommy!” she said cheerfully. I didn’t hear the rest of it, but it did not escalate. As much as Jerry cringed at what he was hearing, he stayed calm and was able to let it go. That’s big progress.

And we got good information. Namely, something needs attention: Fenner’s relationship with Jerry? Her image of herself as a person who contributes to the family? Providing motivation to make those small but important contributions? Yes, yes, and yes. All of the above. Phew. This is work. Hard work. But as Vicki says, what else have we got to do?

Explore posts in the same categories: Week 11: The Slippery Slope

3 Comments on “Questioned authority”

  1. Vicki Says:


    As you know, I look forward to reading your blog each and every day. And I do my best to keep quiet. But, I’ve been quiet for, oh I don’t know, a week now – and I just have to comment.

    12 weeks. So much progress that it is hard to comprehend. So much before you that it is hard to comprehend.

    Is there a break? Sometimes, but not for long.

    Here is what I know – I must write book and call it – “Now That You Have Them, What Do You Do With Them.”

    I am referring here to the fact that as we invite our children to participate more fully in their lives, as we give them more responsibilities and subsequently more privileges, as we give them a voice in the policies that define our family lives, as we support them as they become more independent – the messier life can get.

    It is truly a thing of wonder this democratic parenting we are talking about here. It appears that one does not so much arrive at a democratic household, as one is always in the processing for keeping a democratic household alive, healthy and functioning. I believe that is a full time job.

    And so it appears, you have created the beginning of a democratic household. A place where everyone is included, has a voice, shares the responsibility of keeping the family healthy. It appears that you are awake to the glamor and the guts of living a democratic life. Personally, there is no where I would rather be.

    I use the word balance a lot and I think it is lost on many parents until they reach this stage. It is a bit like reaching a clearing after a long walk in the woods. You recognize where you have been – before you is this new space – and now, it becomes clear.

    Life with more than one person (in your case, another head-of-the-household and three very strong young women), is a constant balancing act. Anyone out there think it’s easy to keep democracy alive and kicking when there are so many personalities at work? I think not.

    So, as your 12 and a Half Weeks comes to a close, you can look forward to another 12 and a Half Weeks with new surprises, obstacles, breakthroughs, tears, regrets, and change. Yes, lots and lots of change. You will all be growing, stretching, changing. And for kids, that is the expected, but for us tired adults, it can be a real pain in the ass.

    Heed my words well – without this push from our kids to be more than we are, we atrophy, we grow brittle in our thinking, we become rigid in our dogma and we have little interest to the bright lights we are commissioned to nurture until it is their time to lead the world.

    For all the parents who have been following this amazing blog, I encourage you to drop a line and share one thing you have learned or one thing that has changed as a result of following this delightful families journey.

    And to the Flockmother Family I say – Congratulations. The fun has just begun.

    Big Love To You All

    • flockmother Says:

      Love hearing from you, as usual! Such good additional food for thought: as the girls participate more, life gets even messier; balance is key for so many things; and these past 12 weeks are only the beginning! So much has happened, it’s hard to believe there’s so much more to come.

      Thank you for all your support. I hope you have another boot camp that I can come to soon!

      Meanwhile, I’ve got a bit more bloggin’ to do …

    • Jerry Lamm Says:

      Hi Vicki,

      Thank you for all your support over the past weeks. I know that Catha appreciates hearing from you to make sure we are ‘on track’. Your program is truly amazing – lots to keep track of and remember to do in those critical moments we all have with children yet so simple and consistent in the message. I can see where this approach will become second nature – I admit I’m not there yet but I do have an in home instructor who has obviously taken your program seriously and diligently.

      To see those children today – Fenner cracking a smile to Charlotte, Charlotte hiking through the meadow on her solo trip to the school bus, and to hear Ellen reminding everyone of the agreements, schedules, etc. is truly amazing in 12 short weeks.

      So I wanted to just say “Thank you” for your program and support throughout. We have a ‘ways to go’ and I’m sure we can count on you going forward.

      Jerry (aka flock-daddio)

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