Archive for the ‘Week 1: Do nothing. Say nothing’ category

Saturday: part II

April 11, 2009

Fenner and Ellen made it to sewing class without any reminders on my part, and only ten minutes late–not bad! When they were getting ready, Ellen said, “Fenner you always care about me. You don’t have to help me you know.” I’ve noticed that when I stop bossing Ellen, Fenner starts doing it for me. Interesting.

So there we were, on Easter eve, living in a disaster area:

Aftermath of week 1

Aftermath of week 1

So day seven of do nothing/say nothing would have to be be cut short. At about 5pm, we got the family together and said: “Girls, look around you. For this past week, it has become very clear to us that we have not trained you to clean up after yourselves. We’ve been doing it for you and you can see how much work it is. It’s too much for us, and we need your help. Plus, you’ll get in the habit of it, so someday when you have a house of your own, it won’t look like this!” Fenner chimed in pointing to the puzzle pieces spread all over the floor, “Well, Charlotte just made that mess today!” I kept going. “So now we’re going to team up as a family and clean this up! We’ve got three major areas, the dining and art table, the living room, and the kitchen.” “I call the kitchen!” said Fenner. “I’ll take the dining room!” said Ellen. “Uuuuuhhh….I don’t want to clean up!” said Charlotte. “Maybe some fun music will help, who wants to put on the music?” “I will!” said Fenner. And we did it! With minimal complaints, we cleaned it all up. Ahhh. (And I learned that one of Charlotte’s favorite chores is to wipe the dust off the flat-screen TV.)

Later on I warned them that we would indeed have regular bedtime tonight even though it’s still the seventh day because the Easter Bunny has work to do. (One of the only rationales that gets them skipping up the steps.) Charlotte went upstairs with us but then morphed into noodle mode. I hadn’t confronted that in so long, I couldn’t think what to do at first. Finally I said, “Charlotte, I will be in your room in 5 minutes to read a book, and if you’re not there, I will leave.” That got her moving, but it also had her rushing to get her teeth brushed which is not so good. I’ll have to think about that one.

After the book she went into cling-on mode, holding onto my body in any way she can to get me to stay. I kept my eyes forward and pulled myself away. She followed. I went into our bedroom and had to push the door closed against her. I locked it and held the knob (she knows how to unlock it) and stayed quiet. Then I heard her say, “Alright!” and then a scraping sound on the door. Oh, jeez, I thought, is that a pen? Is she writing on the door? … And then she moved to the wall next to the door. I had to look. I opened the door and stepped out. No. It was just a chopstick. She dropped it and reached for me. I picked it up and closed the door again. Then she started banging the door with some hard object. And then the wall. Bang, bang, bang. Pretty hard. I still don’t know what it was she was banging. After several minutes of this, I heard her move away. I opened the door and walked up to the third floor to Fenner’s room and closed the door behind me. Charlotte’s footsteps soon followed. “Mom! Mom!” I opened the door. “Charlotte, show me you can stay in your room at bedtime and I will come say good night.” I closed the door. “But I have to tell you something!” Through the door I said, “Tell me when I come to say goodnight.” I heard her walk away.

A bit later, when I walked into her room, she was tucked into bed. “Look at you all cozy!” I leaned over with arms wide for a big hug. Then she looked at me intently and said, “Mom? … You know when I yell and I hit you and then I miss school?” “Yes,” I said. “Well, when I do that, I still love you…” “Oh, Charlotte, thank you for telling me. Me too. I love you no matter what.” Then we did kisses and said good night one last time.

Saturday: day 7

April 11, 2009

An add-on to last night: Jerry says to me, “So let me get this straight, next week there will be no more missing school, right?” “Uh, well, I’m not going back to ‘you must go to school’ and dragging them to the car. We have to figure out, what will it take for them to choose school every day?…And I think we can do it.” We shall see….

Meanwhile, this morning is Charlotte’s last karate class of the week starting at 9am. This is another weak spot for me–to do nothing and say nothing in the face of just having written a check for over $100 to sign her up. Again, I couldn’t contain myself: “Charlotte, Karate starts at 9:00 this morning, and daddy would love to take you.” “Aw, but I’m still in my pajamas.” “Right. So how much time do you need to get changed before you leave?” “Mmm…I don’t know yet.”

Ok, plan B. A bit later I said, “Charlotte, if you want to be on time for karate, you have to get dressed now.” And then I went downstairs. The minutes ticked by. I barely restrained myself. I went out to the car to get something and noticed her shoes and coat left in the back seat. I thought: I’ll just put these in the mudroom for her because otherwise that could derail the whole thing! I carried them in the mudroom and looked around. Well…she does have those other shoes that are right there, and there are some extra coats, but they’re hanging on the upper hooks where she can’t reach and she’s never worn those coats before, she won’t even recognize them …hmm…. ok, ok, I’m putting these back in the car where I found them. (Sooooo tired of me always cleaning all their stuff out of the car! Have to make a change!)

Finally, she came down the stairs … very slowly … stopped to pet the cat …. “Charlotte, daddy’s waiting in the car.” “Well, I don’t want to go right this minute.” And she walked into the living room where her sisters were watching TV. Aaaaaahhh!  I could just hear the loud sucking sound of the TV taking over her brain. It wasn’t looking good. I couldn’t stand it. “Charlotte? What you’re showing me is that maybe I need to cancel karate.” She looked up with raised eyebrows. “Ok, ok, I’m coming.” She sat on the steps and slowly put her socks on. “Now you will be late,” I said. “I know.” Then she started saying goodbye to the cats. I had to leave. I went out to the car and sat with Jerry. “What’s happening?” he said. “Noodling. I can’t watch.” Back at the house, Charlotte opened the door and shot me a look and then closed it again. “I’ll go see what’s up.” She had been looking for her coat, but by the time I got to the mudroom, she had noticed those other coats on the upper hooks and figured out how to jump up in just the right way to get one down. “I couldn’t find a coat,” she said. “Look what you did find!” “Yeah, I think it’s my size,” she said as she put it on. I asked, “How did you get it down from up there?” “Like this!” she said and she jumped and got another one down. “Bye, mom!” She closed the door. A second later it opened again. “Love you!” she said, and blew me a kiss goodbye.

As I’m writing this about Charlotte, the other two are in the kitchen. They want pancakes and the questions keep coming: “Mom, where’s that pan?…Where’s the hot grease thing? [I have no idea what she means] … How do we work the oven? … Hey, the thingy won’t turn! … “Mooooommm can you pleeeaase show us?”

“I’m sorry girls, this is the last day of no help. I know it’s hard and you’re frustrated, but I’m learning a lot by seeing what you can figure out on your own.” “You’re mean!!!” said Fenner and marched away. Ellen stayed in the kitchen and I could hear her moving around and doing things. Then she started dialing the phone. She was using the speaker so I heard a strange answering machine pick up. Then she got out the phone book. “Mom, I can’t find Nan in the phone book!” “Where are you looking?” “In the Es.” (My mother’s name is Elizabeth.) “Hmm, she has two names, you know, so where else could you look?” I gave her a couple more hints and made a mental note: Need training on how to use a phone book. She eventually got it and got my dad on the phone and he managed to talk her through how to turn on one of the stove burners.

But the trouble was not over. “What’s wrong?! They’re just lumps of batter!” “I know! That’s what pancakes are! You just have to wait! …” “Stop pushing me! Why are you pushing me out of the way and not letting me help!” “Because I have to do things!…Here, I’ll let you help, take a towel and pat the grease … not THAT towel!…no, PAT the grease! … Mom! What temperature should they be at? Will you please tell us just one thing, please!”

“Girls, this is the last day. I promise we will teach you how to make pancakes, but not today.” Fenner wiped tears from her eyes. “Well, I don’t care if you want pancakes, I’m not making any for YOU!!!”

Twenty minutes later she said softly, “Mom, there’s pancake batter in the kitchen if you’d like to make some for yourself.”

“Ok, thanks honey.”

Friday night

April 10, 2009

Again, lots of TV. And Charlotte’s bath is not happening. On Friday I usually give them all a small allowance. I gave it to Ellen and Fenner and then Charlotte tried to take hers and I said, “Yes, it’s yours, as soon as you take a bath.” She frowned and then kept on playing. I don’t think it’s going to work. Hmm…what will it take?

Ah-ha! At 9:30pm she asked for the mini video camera (she loves to take videos of the cats). I said, “Yes! As soon as you take a bath.” She said “Awww! Ok … mom, do you want to meet me there? … Aw, the water’s cold! Let’s make this fast!” And when it was done, she said, “That bath, wasn’t so bad. Ok, mom, where is my allowance and the camera!”

Done. Phew. Now, when are they ever going to decide to go to bed?! I might have to turn in before they do!

… 11pm and finally everyone’s in bed. Charlotte fell asleep on the couch and Jerry just carried her up. Everyone is tired, but there also seems to be a slightly elevated mood in the house. I’ll call it cautious optimism….

Friday pm

April 10, 2009

When Charlotte saw me at pick-up time at school she ran into my arms and gave me a loooong bear hug. It occurred to me that she hadn’t done that in a long time. I said softly into her ear, “Charlotte, it’s such a beautiful day, and now it’s even more beautiful because you’re here.” (I know that sounds corny, but I think taking the time to say stuff like that is going to help Charlotte reinvent herself.) And when I said that she hugged me a little tighter.

After a while she leaned back and said, “Mom? Can I get my coat?” I put her down and she ran over to get the coat she left under a tree nearby. She went to tell Fenner it was time to go and then the trouble began: Charlotte chasing Fenner around trying to spit on her and Fenner swinging her heavy back pack at Charlotte. I looked away and pretended not to notice.

After a few minutes, Fenner was invited to a friend’s house and left, and Charlotte was out on the playground stepping around in the mud. Ellen picked up her backpack and walked over to me. “Where’s the little twerp?” she said. Sigh.

At home, Ellen approached the door with her hands full. I turned the knob for her. “Mom, you’re not supposed to help.” “Oh, well, I think the little tiny things are ok.” “How do you know?” she asked. “Uhh…I don’t…” Then I walked into the kitchen and announced, “Any Doritos left in the car will be eaten by Mom!” Charlotte thought for a second and then shrugged and said, “I don’t care.” So I said, “Oh, good, I get Doritos!” (I meant it, I love Doritos.)

Jerry got home from his business trip and cringed a bit at the mess. Just now he came into my office and said, “So do they now think that it’s ok to eat in the living room?” I looked at him carefully. “Ummm…I don’t know how to answer that….” “Well, do they think they’re getting away with something, or do they think the rules have changed?” “Uhhhh…so it bugs you that they might think they’re getting away with something?” “I don’t know…I guess I think they should know better and that it’s disrespectful, so I’m wondering what’s going on in their heads.” “Well, I can tell you what’s going on in my head and that is, ‘Hmm, look at that. We have not inspired them to pick up after themselves.’ So that just goes in the file for this week as good information.” He said ok and went upstairs. It’s got to be hard to walk back into this after four days away.

Fenner came home and now they’re all upstairs. I hear running, screaming, and yelling. Ellen’s voice: “You’re so annoying, and no one likes it! Why?!!” And then Charlotte: “I HATE IT!” I hear Fenner say, “Go, go, go!” and then slam her door. It’s ok, it’s ok … we’re doin’ the Obama: hope and change…hope and change….

Ellen seems exhausted from staying up late so many nights. And her hair is disgusting. And Charlotte’s hair is more disgusting. In fact, this is a weak spot for me. I really don’t like looking at or touching dirty hair, especially when it’s on my own daughter’s head. I mean, come on, I get it already. The current situation is that if I don’t make it happen, Charlotte will go indefinitely without attending to personal hygiene. That’s loud and clear by now, and no, it’s not a good way to go in the outside world. So I decided to give myself permission to try out the “As soon as” approach. I filled up the bathtub and announced, “Charlotte, your body and your hair are very dirty, and the bathtub is full. Do you want bubbles or no bubbles?” She frowned at me, paused, and said, “Bubbles.” Now I don’t expect that she will now march upstairs and get in. Definitely not. So the next time she wants something, I’ll say, “Yes! As soon as you take a bath and wash your hair.” To be continued…

Friday: morning time

April 10, 2009

Fenner woke me up at 6:45. “Hi Mom. Um…you know those jean shorts?…I put them in the laundry pile, and now they’re not there.” “Hmm,” I said. “I did do daddy’s and my laundry, but I didn’t move them.” “Well, where should I look?” “I have no idea.” “Uhh! You don’t help us anymore!!” Stomp, stomp, stomp.

I got up and got dressed and went downstairs. It occurred to me to take a quick video to show Jerry when he gets back:

Notice Fenner taking on the motherly role with Ellen!

(I really wanted to take a video of Charlotte, but she loves the camera and it would be a huge distraction.  Maybe later…)

Today I could have easily worked from home, so I found myself almost hoping Charlotte would blow off school again. (I got so much done on Wednesday!) But then at 8am I heard her come down the stairs.  She was fully dressed and looked me in the eye very serious and said, “Where is my backpack! We have to get it, because I have to be right on time today!” “Hmm,” I said. Say nothing, do nothing? I could feel myself slipping. She wants to go to school! She wants to be on time! How can I not help her? So I did. I couldn’t help myself. I did a mini-save. I said, “Here is your black backpack, and I keep the extra lunch boxes under there.” And then I walked away.

I stood in the mudroom listening. She was talking to herself softly: “Ooooo, I have to get my lunch ready and I’m moving too slowly and I don’t know what to do about it! … ok …. I got it …. READY! … Hmm … it’s a sunny day today, I think I don’t need a coat. … Let’s go.”

We got in the car and I waited quietly for her to put on her seat belt before I started the engine. She sat in silence for about a minute and then said, “The birds sound very close, maybe they’re in the bird house we put up!” Another minute went by. “Well … maybe I will bring a coat.” She went inside and came back. “Ok, mom, let’s … Oh!” She reached for her seat belt…click. “Ok, let’s go.” And we did.

As we pulled up to the school she said, “Mom, am I really late?” “Not too bad,” I said. “Only fifteen minutes. Remember on Tuesday you were 30 minutes late, but today only fifteen.” She stood up and struggled to get her little black fleece backpack on. I glanced back to see that she had put it on upside down. I bit my tongue. At least the top flap was holding her lunchbox in … barely… “Bye mom!’ she said, and then to herself, “Errr, I can’t believe I forgot my back pack!” And then she ran into school, greasy hair flying out behind her.

Thursday: relative normalcy

April 9, 2009

I took a shower and as I was getting dressed for work, I heard voices in the driveway. It was 6:50am and Fenner and Ellen were headed up the driveway to catch the bus again. It looks cold outside, I thought. And they’re wearing capris and thin sweatshirts with no coats! (But they did have their winter hats on.) They were 20 minutes early for the bus. They’d have to wait out there like that for 20 minutes. I checked the outdoor temp.  36 degrees. I let myself feel my motherly worry. Then I let it go. Downstairs I found the newspaper open to the weather page. They had checked and seen it was going to be warm today.

45 minutes later, I sat in my home office, dressed for work, considering attacking another pile of stuff while I waited for Charlotte to make her first move. I didn’t have much time to think. She came downstairs at 7:45 fully dressed. She thought for a minute and looked around. “Mom, where is my backpack?” I knew she had left it in the car on Tuesday. “I don’t know,” I said. “Errrrg! Then I’ll just have to look for it!” she said, close to tears. This was more than I could take. We were so close. I had to say something.

“Can you think back to the last time you saw it?” She thought. “Rrrgh, I didn’t go to school yesterday!” “Right,” I said, “So think back to Tuesday when I picked you up from school…then what happened?” “Oh …. it must be in the car.” Now I stopped talking, and she thought. “I think … I’ll get all my food and then put it in my lunchbox when I get in the car.” “Ok.” I said. So she walked to the car with an arm full of baggies and snack containers. She packed her lunch, announced she forgot something and went back inside, and then we were on our way.

When we got to school, I said, “Charlotte! On Tuesday you were half-an-hour late, yesterday you missed the whole day, but today you are on time for school!” Slowly her smile got big. “That’s weird,” she said. And then she got out of the car.

After work, I arrived at my sister Sloane’s house half an hour before Karate class. Charlotte saw me, waved, and kept on playing with a young girl that lives in the neighborhood. Ten minutes went by. I said to Sloane, “Huh. I really thought she would remember. I thought she would see me and say, ‘Oh! Time for karate!'” I waited ten more minutes and then I couldn’t stand it. I walked over to her and said, “Karate class starts in 10 minutes,” and walked away. I heard her say, “Oh yeah, I forgot.” But she still didn’t come to the car. Karate class came and went. She never mentioned it the rest of the day.

She did, however, mention her backpack. She left it at Sloane’s house and realized it halfway home in the car. She pleaded with me 3 separate times to go back and get it. Each time I said softly, “No, Charlotte. I’m sorry.” “That backpack has all my stuff in it, you have to go get it!” “Hmm,” I said, “I’ve seen you wear a smaller black one, and I can show you where the extra lunch boxes are.” (We’ll see what happens in the morning!)

The evening was quiet, but they stayed up later than ever. At 10:30pm Fenner said, “Mom, will you come say goodnight to me?” I told her yes, and she said, “I can’t believe those guys are still watching TV!”

Another 20 minutes went by and I checked to see if Charlotte and Ellen had fallen asleep on the couch. Nope. Still awake. Finally, ten minutes later, they headed upstairs. I followed them up. “I’m sorry Charlotte, but it’s too late to read a book.” “Oh. Will you just lay with me a little bit?” “Ok.” I said. “I’ll come back up after you brush your teeth.” But by the time I came back, she was fast asleep.

Then I went to say goodnight to Ellen. “Mooomm,” she said, “I forgot to do my homework…and I haven’t even looked at my spelling list.” “Hmm,” I said, “I can see that you’re worried about it.” She thought for a minute. “Mom? Will you quiz me in the morning … or … maybe Fenner could quiz me on the bus, and I could do my list … but then I still have to read a story too.” “Mmm. Well, it is a long bus ride,” I said. “Goodnight mom.”


Wednesday: a mixed bag

April 8, 2009

Wednesdays are my day off and our neighbor usually gives the girls a ride in. The older 2 were barely ready on time and Charlotte was still in bed. A bit later she came down the stairs and announced that she has decided not to go to school. (I’m saying/doing nothing now, but what do I do if she does this next week?!)

So she stayed home all day and learned very quickly that I was not going to be available to help her put on a movie or play games or make her any food all day long. She tried to get her TV show on and then tried the computer and said, “Argh, I can’t watch TV or do computer!” I don’t know what she ate. At one point I went upstairs and found my husband’s bowl of spare change dumped out and spread all over our bedroom floor.

I’m leaving kid mess untouched as much as possible–besides making sure the workmen have a clear path and the painter can use the sink without a pile of dishes in the way. Otherwise, I’m not touching anything. And since no one is asking me to do anything, suddenly I have time. I cleaned out my bathroom shelves and my bedside table and my dresser top. And I filed the 2 huge piles of paper in my office. And I did my and Jerry’s laundry, but no one else’s. Now they won’t have to wonder what it’s like to not have a mom picking up after them, and they’ll understand why we all have to work together to keep the house running. It’s just too much for one person.

Fenner and Ellen came home on the bus as usual. Usually on Wednesdays, Charlotte and Fenner have back-to-back gymnastics class. Charlotte’s class time came and went without us. Thirty minutes before Fenner’s class, Fenner came to me and said, “Mom, do you think I should get ready now?” I said, “What do you think?” She said, “Yeah, I think I should … but what am I going to do about Charlotte? She’s not going to want to get in the car. …” I listened and waited. “Hmm, maybe if I let her play my Nintendo DS, she’ll do it. …” And she went away.

A bit later I heard a loud bang upstairs. Charlotte had knocked over an empty bookcase and got some minor boo-boos on her hand and her foot. But this sent her over the edge. She wailed, and Fenner begged, “Charlotte, will you please get in the car?!” Charlotte shouted back, “NO! My foot hurts and I don’t want to go! I don’t care about you, I only care about me!” Then Fenner yelled, “I HATE YOU! You’re so selfish!!!”

Fenner came to me, sobbing, and I gave her a good long (silent) hug.

Watching all this made crystal clear the thing I had suspected for a long time: Fenner and Charlotte are not in relationship with each other at all. They have no empathy for each other.

Vicki promised her program would bring change in this area. I have such a mix of emotions, but overall I’m relieved. We were so stuck with Charlotte adopting the role of “family pesterer.” And the more we all pleaded with her to stop, the more she self-identified with that role. And Fenner became the “mean big sister” and Ellen was just flip flopping between the other two. We were at a loss, so this is the road to change. Bring it on!

Charlotte has just started Karate lessons, and she’s excited about it. That night I said to her, “Tomorrow is Thursday. Karate is at 5:15. If you choose to go to school, then you will go to aunt Sloane’s house after school. If you go to Sloane’s then you’ll know it’s time for Karate when you see me arrive there. When you tell me you’re ready, we’ll go. If you choose not to go to school, I will not tell you when it’s time for Karate.”

The $6 million questions is, what will it take for Charlotte to choose to go to school?