Routine shmoutine

Did I mention that perfection is not required for this parenting approach? Between day camps and family trips and Jerry’s traveling, let’s just say we have not found a rhythm with these family contributions. Many nights it has gotten to be bedtime and following through with contributions has been the last thing on our minds.

But even so – as sporadic as we’ve been with it the past few weeks – the shift in attitude is still happening. The message is still getting through: kids, we need your help, and we are grateful you are so willing and able, and, yes! As soon as ______. And there, you did it, thank you!

So it’s been slow going, and that’s ok. Here’s what I heard yesterday:

  • Fenner: “Mom! Come see, I cleaned out the sink!”
  • Charlotte: “That’s done, I’m going to clean up the mudroom now.”
  • Ellen: “Mom, I did the den, how does it look?”

Even around the complaining and foot-dragging it’s so clear that they feel more needed, more included, more important, and more powerful.

Our goal for the fall: keep it going, be more regular and consistent, and add to it. Slowly but surely.

ps Fenner and Charlotte’s relationship continues to evolve and remains complicated and nuanced (aren’t they all?). We spent a week together at the lake where Fenner and Ellen have always shared a particular room, and Charlotte has moved around as she’s grown from baby to toddler to kid. For the first half of the week, Charlotte happily staked her claim on the room next door to them. She could leave her light on and play her music loud and all was well.

Then, all of a sudden, she announced that she didn’t want to sleep alone and she was going to sleep in the empty toddler bed in the room with Fenner and Ellen. Ellen shrugged. Fenner cried foul.

“Nooooooooo, Moooooooom! Please tell her she can’t sleep in here! She’ll just complain! I can’t sleep with her in here!!! I don’t want her here!!!!! Pleeeaaaasssseeeee!!!!!!!!!” Sitting on Fenner’s bed for our usual bedtime visit, I explained that I was not willing to force Charlotte out of the room and that she was free to take the extra bed. Fenner sobbed and kicked me off her bed, cutting our goodnight time short. At that moment my urge to lecture her came on strong, but I resisted and instead said good night and left the room.

I went around the corner and sat down and listened:

  • Ellen: “Hi everybody! How’s it goin’?! I’m just grand, thank you!”
  • Fenner: “Charlotte, will you please go in the other room?! What will it take for you to go?!”
  • Charlotte: “Seventy and ten hundred dollars.”
  • Fenner: “Nooooooo, Charlotte! Something besides money! What will it take?”
  • Charlotte: “Fenner, why do you hate me? Just ignore me. I’ll be quiet I promise!”
  • Fenner: “No, Charlotte! Why? Why do you want to sleep in here?”
  • Charlotte: “Because I feel safer in this room. I don’t have all my stuffies or my nightlight and it’s not like sleeping alone at home where I’m used to everything.”
  • Fenner (who had stopped crying and sounded much more calm): “Just one night, ok, Charlotte? And then you promise you’ll go back to the other room?”
  • Charlotte: “If you promise to let me sleep in one of your beds in this room next year then I’ll only sleep in here one night. If you don’t promise then I’m sleeping in here for the next three nights!”
  • Fenner: “Ugh! … Ok, fine.”

This is an abbreviated version of their negotiation. It went on for a long time. And although the intensity of Fenner’s objection surprised and puzzled me, their negotiation was impressive. As soon as I left the room, the crying stopped, and there was no yelling, no name-calling, and not one attempt to involve me or Jerry throughout the entire exchange.

I still don’t fully understand why Fenner got so upset, but I do know that once they got past it on their own, without interference from me or Jerry, they were able to continue their journey together – chock full of ups and downs – toward being more connected and mutually respected:

Connecting again


Explore posts in the same categories: Weeks following: Contributions

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