All posts tagged: Parenting On Track

Privileges and Responsibilities, Part 462 (or thereabouts)

In theory, our kids have responsibilities. And they do—they pack and unpack their own lunches, they each have a weekly chore, they’re responsible for cleaning up their toys and getting their laundry in the bin. And, of course, they have privileges. We feed them, right? And take them places. And periodically buy them stuff.

We’ve been having some trouble, Rob and I, figuring out how those things were supposed to be tied together. Surely if you didn’t do your responsibilities, something should happen—but what? We kept looking for consequences that were tied to the responsibility, rather than just a punishment. Fail to pack your lunch, and the consequence is obvious. But fail to put your breakfast dish in the dishwasher and—what? Mommy tells you do to it or does it for you, that’s what. I though maybe it could mean I carried your dish upstairs and put it in your bed, but I’d still be the one who washed the sheets. Plus, mice. Then I thought, well, what if you always eat at the same place, and it’s still there when you go to eat again? That seemed like a decent plan, but I’d have to live with a house full of messy dishes all day. And what if you don’t care? Just like it’s cool with you to leave Lego all over the living room, because, if you’re five, why not? If you had your own living room that’s exactly what it would look like.

Apparently we skipped a key moment in the manual. In most families, that’s a joke, but yeah, we actually have a manual. When it comes to this stuff, we struggled for so long to get some rules and consistency going that we now rely completely on Parenting on Track to tell us what to do to teach the kids the things we already know we want to teach them. We know how to teach them a lot of things about become the adults we’ve become, but some things elude us. “Why you should clean up after yourself if failure to do so doesn’t lead to a punishment” was one of them—until I read this blog post, from a fellow Parent on Track, and realized: all the privileges are tied to the most basic of responsibilities. The link doesn’t have to be clear. It’s more of a “you live in this house, you have responsibilities, and if you can’t manage them, we’re going to treat you like you’re too young to do anything” sort of thing. You just have to tie in something the kid thinks he or she is old enough to do. I can’t believe I missed this. I feel dumb.

(I also feel like I should be able to figure this out myself, but no. Left to my own devices, I either come up with dippy star charts and end up buying everyone cheap toys, or I just spend all my time yelling at them or punishing them. I can be a good parent on the upper level stuff, but this nitty gritty just eludes me.)

Here’s the result:

Behold, the Privileges and Responsibilities Board.

Here are Wyatt and Rory’s basic responsibilities:

Wyatt's are the same, minus the piano practice.

If they can’t do it, they can’t play video games on the weekend. They love video games, and they’ve been allowed to play on Saturday and Sunday. I hate video games (well, not for me, but for 5-year-olds, although I owe this one a debt for being the first thing that every bonded the faux twins in cooperation rather than enmity). I take them away at every opportunity. They’ve lost them in the past for video game related transgressions (say “no” when it’s time to turn it off or get caught playing it without asking, and the whole house loses it for a week) but I never thought to link it to the other stuff, and I can’t imagine why not. It clearly makes sense to them. They didn’t question this for a minute. I’ve been so blind.

Both Wy and Rory also have a special job this week. They need to stop making me crazy. But that’s a little unclear (and hard to measure), so we put it a little differently. In essence, Wyatt needs to stop picking on Rory, and she has to stop reacting to him as though she’s been shot. This is a huge and old problem. You could argue that as the initiator, he’s to blame, but you’d be wrong. This is a game only two can play. If Wyatt brushes by Lily too close or pokes her in passing, she either tells on him or blows him off. Rory throws herself into a wailing, drama-filled explosion of emotion. You’ll scarcely be surprised that he then does whatever he just did (call her poopyhead, blow a raspberry in her general direction, hit her stuffie) again, with even greater enthusiasm.

They initiated this show in the grocery store Sunday, and now they’ve lost the privilege of going to public places until they can go five days without engaging in this dynamic. For the board, I told them no fighting, screaming or crying in the car (which they’d stopped after losing the privilege of riding in other people’s cars, but are on the border of starting again) AND they need to treat each other at home they way they do at school—but they know exactly what it is I really mean. And there is no way they are going to have the Wii back next weekend.

As for the older kids, Lily’s dying to be allowed to sleep over at a friend’s house, so if she can meet her responsibilities for seven days (because she’s almost seven), she’s good.

Lily's Responsibilities.

I think she’ll probably lose the privilege of going to other people’s houses at all by throwing a raging tantrum soon, but for now, this is her goal, and watching Rory and Wyatt wrestle with their demons will spur her to temporary good behavior.

That leaves Sam, and he’s a problem, largely because Sam makes a point of never being the problem. The whole point of this is that the “privilege” isn’t a “reward,” it’s something you’ve shown yourself to be old enough to do, and so you can do it. Lily isn’t working for one sleepover, but for me to say “yes” to all sleepovers. Once the Wii is back, it’s back, unless responsibilities go down the tube. These are your most basic jobs. Do them, and the real reward is more and harder jobs. The board is a reminder, no more—which it already is for Sam.

Sam does most of his stuff (it’s the same stuff as Lily, for now, with way more homework). He doesn’t necessarily do it without being reminded, but he does it. Cheerfully. Without complaint. And he’s responsible, so responsible that many privileges, like that of being able to walk from the other kids’ soccer practice to a friend’s house and be trusted to come back on time, are already his. Neither he nor I could think of an age-appropriate privilege that isn’t already given him, and so although I would like him to learn to meet his responsibilities without a reminder, I don’t necessarily want to take any of those privileges away in order for him to earn them back to get there.

And I don’t want to invent another privilege, like additional TV time, or any computer time, or (I considered this) the right to control the iPod in the car, that he hasn’t asked for. I might consider letting him earn the right to download some new songs to the family iPod for the master family playlist (I know, in other families, at almost ten, you have your own iPod and playlist, but not in ours). But again, he hasn’t asked. I did ask him: is there anything you want to work towards? Anything you want? I even offered to consider working for a reward for the more difficult task of completing responsibilities without a reminder. He said “No, I’m good. I think I’ll just do them.”

So I’m not quite sure how to push him to the next level, or whether, given that soon it will be summer and many responsibilities, although not all, will go by the wayside, I even should. Now Sam has no number chart, and no pushpin to move towards a goal. He’s in the happy position of having everything he wants. It doesn’t feel quite right to me, but I think that’s because Sam has naturally achieved a state of zen that I still only dream of. Long may it last.

KJPrivileges and Responsibilities, Part 462 (or thereabouts)
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Can I Give Today Back?

What a day.

Let’s just say that the amount of crying that went on this afternoon was stunning, and that was before I told the kids that the (old) dog had (easily, I hope painlessly) died this morning. I have had better days. So, I guess, had she…

But (so I won’t start crying) back to the crying.

I told the kids this am that I would bring them home for an hour before soccer. We take Lily’s friend B to soccer, so that would be B, too.

But then Caddie died. And I didn’t want to tell them, and then expect them to go to soccer. Plus there was the B factor. She didn’t need to be here for that. So–change of plans.

Lily does not like changes in plans.

Lily howled, kicked, screamed, threatened, cajoled and demanded all the way from her school to the bakery where I planned for us to get a before soccer snack, while B looked on in shock and awe. She issued ultimatums. She declared that she would die if we did not go home. In short, she LOST IT.

And I did nothing.

I wanted to do stuff. I wanted to scream back, stop the car, punish, punish, punish! This was disrespectful! She cannot act this way! She will think she can always act this way and never ever get anywhere in life or make friends–look how B was staring at her! She is SIX! Unacceptable! But there was B. And Rory and Wyatt had soccer, too. And Caddie, I might add, was still dead, and if we went home in any way, even as some sort of call Rob and get him to take everyone else to town and to soccer kind of way, there would be that to deal with. My options were pretty much: a) lose it myself, then get on with afternoon as planned and b) ignore her totally.

Fortunately I found a radio station playing Fascination (that 80s one, all techno and retro–“and so the conversation turned…until the sun went down…etc.). And I managed to completely pretend it wasn’t happening. For twenty minutes. When we got out I asked if she would like to put the money in the meter. She would. And that was that.

I probably wouldn’t have managed to do nothing and let her have it out with herself, except that I was forced to. But it was excellent practice…because Mimi gave Wyatt a ride home in her car with Wy’s buddy T, and all the way home–please note that B was still in the car–Rory screamed. “I want to go Mimi car! I want to go Mimi car! I …WANT…GO…IN…MIMI’S…CAR! (If I could make that last CAR! even bigger, I would.)

It was way harder to do nothing now. I did let her know I got her–you know, I hear you, it’s hard to let Wyatt ride in a friend’s car, it is disapointing that you didn’t get to go—because this is different, Lily’s was pure tantrum. At least Rory had a reason to feel bummed.

But it was another 20 minute ride. And this time I didn’t want to punish. I just wanted her to STOP. I wanted to pull over and say, fine–find Mimi’s car, then! Ok, you can’t, right? so just stop SCREAMING! I wanted to refuse to go until she stopped. I just wanted to bang it into her head somehow that no matter how may times she said it (I estimate 127) it WASN’T GOING TO HAPPEN! It wasn’t even up to me. There was nothing I could do. And Mimi and her car were long gone! Fury, Fury, fury. I have always hated their illogical tantrums the most. Lily’s made twisted sense, I could have done what she wanted, I just wasn’t going to. But this–THIS IS CRAZY!

But I didn’t. Not one word, not one shout.

Lily said “Mommy, Rory’s not behaving nicely in the car!”

And B just kind of sat there, stunned.

Tomorrow pretty much has to be better, right? But I’d feel so much worse about today if it had gone like this day. So there’s that.

KJCan I Give Today Back?
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What Lily Does on a Rainy Day

Crafty Lily

Originally uploaded by kjda

Lily has crafty instincts in more ways than one. By all rights, today should have been soccer. Normally, we play soccer in the rain around here. We do not let a little 50 degree weather or drizzle stop us! In fact, we have, and have had since Sam was this age and playing in this particular soccer (a spring fundraiser for the Dartmouth men’s and women’s soccer teams), special soccer gloves.

Well, they’re not really special soccer gloves. They’re stretchy gloves, the kind you get at the dollar store, that say “soccer” on them. But around here, that makes ’em special soccer gloves.  And they were ready to go today.

But the field was not. The field was wet and muddy after a long day of not-exactly-drizzle style rain (although not really ark-worthy, either) and I was pretty happy to see the email cancelling (all of two hours before we were supposed to go, and whether that’s because everyone in the world is supposed to have a mobile phone, or because the given assumption here is that a parent will be the one taking you to soccer (not actually a mom, it’s probably about 80-20 with soccer) as opposed to a babysitter or a carpool, I don’t know. Last week, it was indeed a babysitter taking Lily, Wyatt, Rory and Lily’s buddy B to soccer. But this week, it was me. Or would have been. And I was all revved to sit in the damp and cold and watch! I totally was! I was not even thinking of bagging and spending the afternoon at home, because what kind of an example would that set, to let a little wet stop you when we have special gloves and everything!

But they cancelled. And Lily, Wyatt, Rory and B entertained themselves, with no help from me, all afternoon in the basement. I was working on something, and I could hear Lily’s dulcet tones drifting up periodically through the heater vent.



“But when I ask you to do something I expect you to DO IT!”

I do not know where she got that last one, not at all.

But eventually, after B went home, Lily emerged with three “backpacks” made by her, her pile of felt and her fantastic little low-heat glue gun (which it occurs to me I should go make sure is unplugged). This one’s hers, and she’s pretty miffed that her homework folder won’t fit in it.

Crafty is Lily’s thing. She’ll scrapbook any time I’ll get the stuff out:And who can forget her Valentines? Certainly not her classmates. Or, probably, their parents. We don’t spend a whole lot of time worrying that she’s not sufficiently creative.

But what I do worry about is that they’re not really getting the hang of this whole “contributions” thing–which around here we call jobs. Indeed, everyone has jobs–the personal jobs of packing and unpacking one’s lunch daily, and putting one’s own things away, and one’s laundry, etc., and the larger job–dinner helper, say, or trash-taker-outer. And they do do these jobs, without a WHOLE lot of complaint–but only if reminded. And kind of slapdash and half-assed. We are often so busy that on some nights there really isn’t time for jobs, or even to do your own lunch, and it seems to me that on the one hand, they need their sleep. (Because it’s healthier for them, and they’ll do better in school. Really. It isn’t because if they’re still awake after 8:30 I begin to slowly start plucking out my own eyelashes.) But on the other hand, they should know that some things, you have to do know matter what. And they should know how to do the things, and not be completely stymied by the idea of figuring out how to wipe a counter with crumbs on it without resorting, minutes later, to the vacuum.

So tonight presented a good opportunity for that form of training. Plus we have ants, which, history suggests, will soon be followed by the fruit flies (must be Spring!) both of which always inspire in me great heights of clean countertops and even greater use of bleach wipes and whatnot. And tomorrow, which features only one brief activity for one child and should have us all home shiny and happy by 4:45, could be another! We could go on, actually managing to have the kids actually do what are meant to be daily chores!

Until next week….

KJWhat Lily Does on a Rainy Day
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Nothing for Me!

When next I post, it will no doubt be a picture–and it will surely be a happy picture, because we are off to the Happiest Place On Earth ™!

Actually, is that right? We’re going to Disneyworld, anyway. The Happiest Place On Earth ™ might be Disneyland. Or somewhere else. I forget. But we’re off to Orlando. And I do expect there will be plenty of happiness, although I’m not fool enough to expect nonstop joy or even a day without tears. DIsneyland may be happy, but it’s also hot, crowded, stressful and prone to providing disappointments in the form of rides that can’t be re-ridden or candy that can’t be purchased. But hey, it will all be good. We’re not expecting the trip of a lifetime, just a few fun days with Mickey and my parents.

But listen to what I’ve done. In honor of 4 days of theme parks, I purchased (as you will soon see) four sets of matching stripey tshirts. We need new summer ts anyway, and there’s no better cause than being able to glance up and pick our four out at a glance. Having other people have the ability to easily return a roaming kid to us (even the kid who might not, to uninitiated eyes, immediately appear to match) is pretty priceless too. Plus, while I was at it, everyone got new swimsuits to replace last year’s worn and outgrown models. Packing was easy. I grabbed underwear, then threw all the new shirts and plain navy shorts into the bag. I even bought new socks. In fact, the kids are totally packed, and we’re not leaving until Friday. (An advantage of going somewhere warm before it’s warm here–they don’t need any of this stuff. It’s been packed for days.)

But tonight I set out to pack for ME. And I have nothing. Not that I feel a need to look spiffy at Disney, but frankly a new swimsuit might have been in order, and ditto a few new tshirts. What I have is a pretty sad box of worn out stuff. Don’t feel sorry for me–I have some decent summer stuff too–but nothing you’d wear at Disneyworld. I have nice stuff, and then–ugh. But it really didn’t occur to me to get myself, say, a couple of UV blocking shirts or a better sunhat. Oh well.

Two questions, for Disney vets:

First, I don’t have hats for them. The last time we went anywhere like this, Lily lost her hat immediately, and Rory refused to wear hers, leaving me carrying it the whole time. They also came off for every ride and were far more trouble than I thought they were worth. Thoughts?

Second, I thought I’d give them some money, so that they can choose any souvenirs themselves and be done with it. That’s how we do money here–the answer to every “can I have that?” is “sure, do you have enough money?” It’s a parenting on track thing, and it’s fantastic. No one argues with it. But their tiny, a dollar-per-year-of-age allowances aren’t going to go very far at Disney, and I’m ok with giving them each something. But what? I have no idea what, say, one of those spinny light-up things they are bound to want there costs.

Advice welcome!

KJNothing for Me!
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The Family Meeting

The family meeting is a big part of Parenting on Track, and as it happens, it’s a part I really love. But oh, it’s hard to schedule. The idea is to meet once a week, at a regular time, for the following: family “appreciations,” the choosing/handing out of jobs (which ought to be called contributions, but we don’t), problems (which we don’t really do yet, I’m waiting to get really regular with the meeting) and allowance.

I think tonight was our first meeting in a month. We eat dinner together, all six of us, very nearly every night, but weeknights are chock full. Even if there’s no activity (and we’re down to two a week now), getting Sam and Lily through their homework is slow and painful (a sentence that right away makes me realize we’re not doing our job there, but that’s a different question) and it seems like there’s always something–haircuts or a playdate or the twice annual swim school. On weekends, again, we’re usually all home, at some point, but getting me and Rob to sit down is hard–we tend to have plans for the time, even if the plan is “getting in a run” or “clearing out the ski gear.” So we’re working on it, and I’m eying Monday night as a regular thing.

And this was Monday night. A family meeting isn’t supposed to exceed 20 minutes. It’s supposed to go quick and dirty. But what on earth is a parent to say when her kids keep frantically raising their hand with another “appreciation?” Wait, no, you’re not allowed to say any more nice things about anyone in this family! Stop!

Yeah, it was a cool problem to have. They’re nice kids, overall, kinda mostly. I remember reading earlier this year that how empathetic you are isn’t about your parents or your peers-it’s about your older sibling and how he or she treated you. And our oldest is really something special in that regard. But he mostly has his work cut out for him as an example…

In any case, they were charmingly anxious to appreciate one another, and clearly also appreciative of the opportunity to get everyone to listen to you all at once. Rory was adorable, because this kid, this loud, bossy, out there kid, becomes a teeny weeny quiet shy person when all eyes are on her–but she battles it out, even with Rob insisting she say “appreciate” in all of its multi-syllabic glory. It takes her about three minutes to get out one appreciation, and everyone else is bouncing, ready, wiggling, anxious, antsy–but by the third time, they managed to hold it all in, and she got to listen to us all silent and waiting for her to talk.

I do believe that’s worth any amount of inconvenience!

KJThe Family Meeting
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Off Track


Wyatt stood in our hallway, feet in his socks firmly planted on the floor. “No. I’m not going anywhere. I’m going to stay here!”

Yesterday, I brought Rory and Wyatt home for about an hour before picking Lily and Sam up from school. I’d meant for us to stay out–but they were so awful, so whiny and obnoxious to me and to one another, that we ran one errand, abandoned the plan for coffee and treats (with a rousing declaration of “no way, I wouldn’t take you two out in public for all the cash in Texas”) and headed for home, where things improved to the point that Rory and Wyatt were able to play their version of chess (Wyatt knows the rules, Rory doesn’t, and doesn’t like to be told, usually ends badly) and eat some popcorn and even throw in a little knee hockey. Until it was time to go.


Wyatt, as you will have gathered, did not want to go pick up Sam, Lily and Lily’s friend. Wyatt was peeved. HE wanted a playdate. (That was part of the earlier issue.) And now he was home. He did not want to go out again (really, who would?). Part of the problem with living where we do (WAY out of town) and still, yanno, participating fully in life is the amount of driving involved– again, part of the reason why we were going to stay out–is the driving. The in and out of the car. All day long. We try to keep it to a minimum (the school is actually the closest public building to out house) but there it is. And Wyatt did NOT want to go.

What does one do, here?

I know–I could threaten him into the car, so easy. But I’m trying to wean myself off threats. I am trying to give them more control. More choices. I’ve been all about Parenting on Track, as you know. And I’m pretty sure that’s not in the PoT manual.

I counted to three and he got in the car. But what about next time?

KJOff Track
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The Parenting on Track Car Playout

Last week, I described the plot my friend Mimi and I laid to get my three littles to STOP MAKING ME CRAZY in the car.  How did it play out?

So far, so damn good.

I’m always a little embarrassed when these very simple things–courtesy of Parenting on Track–work over all the far more complicated strategies I’ve tried, and for the car, I’ve had more than a few. Let’s see, there were the stars that I took away for fighting or screaming. The countless times I’ve pulled over. The kids sent to their room when we got home. The times I’ve actually left the car until they stopped. None worked in the long run.

Granted, we’re not to the long run now, but I’m optimistic. Even a return to the removal of the privilege is EASY compared to all that stuff.

In truth, they got off easy–because after imposing “five days” on Tuesday–we were saying I would release them Monday, Tuesday for Lilly and Rory who blew it–on Saturday I forgot, and sent Wyatt home from skiing (around here that’s the equivalent of sending him home from the park) in the car of the very same friend I plotted with in the first place, to play at her house. (Some “friend!”) Rory wasn’t there when he left, but when the rest of us went in to lunch, eventually (after a rather embarrassingly long time) some kid or another noticed he wasn’t there, and said, “Where’s Wyatt?” “Oh, he went home with Trevor (Mimi’s son).”

Rory slapped her chicken finger down. “But you said we not ride in anybody else’s car until MONDAY!”

Oops. I’m very impressed by how quickly she caught me, though, and how that proves how well this was working. I have no doubt now that she totally got this. Lily chimed in, and I apologized, and released them both, too–with the caveat that if they don’t act in my car like they would in a friend’s car, it’s another five days.

And so far, as I said, so very very good.

I’ve been thinking about why this works. I’ve always said I couldn’t possibly parent without bribes and threats: wouldn’t even want to try. What this is, it strikes me, is bribes and threats inverted. I’m requiring that they bribe me. I’ve had good luck with threats, actually, but only because I’ve been very willing to carry them out–and that’s like this, only with a whole ‘nother painful step. Picture this: Wyatt slugs Rory in the car. I tell Wyatt, “do that again, and you can’t ride in anyone else’s car for five days. Same goes for all of you.” Now, I have to remember this and enforce, which I’m usually good at–but say Rory is the next transgressor. She’s punished. No one else is. That feels much more unfair. Plus, say the behavior wasn’t a hit, but a scream, or Lily’s patented I-won’t-let-you-get-into-the-car move. That wasn’t in the threat! But it’s just as bad. Maybe worse, from a problem-for-me point of view (and it’s all about me, right?). Eventually, it would work, or they would all grow out of it. Something.

But this? They all earned the privilege at the same time. (I kind of planned that–they were so bad so often it was easy enough to nail them all at the same time, which I guess might have worked with the threat too–but then there’s so often a single WORSE transgressor, and delivering the same punishment is not good. I just planned to have them all ask for the privilege on the same day, one way or another, and be denied it.) Now, they can lose it separately–but that will feel much more fair. And it’s not a punishment. It’s a loss. It’s not grounding, not a “consequence” but something just that little bit different. And it clearly makes sense to them. Of course they can’t hit their friends in their friends’ cars, or prevent their friends’ younger siblings from getting in the car. I mean, who would do that? It’s so obvious! And, “click,” they get it.

My life is so much better now. Thanks, Vicki (who I know swings by here occasionally, although I haven’t yet emailed her to say howdy. I will, I will!)

KJThe Parenting on Track Car Playout
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The Concert and the Tantrum

Holiday Concert!

Originally uploaded by kjda

It was an accident.

I have been to enough Montessori concerts by now to know that you do not MESS with the afternoon before the concert. You do not go swimming. You do not have playdates, or hair cuts, or doctor appointments or flu shots. You do not accept deadlines or work assignments. You take those kids home, cursing the fact that a 6:00 concert makes dinner impossible, you feed them a massive snack and get everything ready for the next day, and then you start dressing them up EARLY, because if you don’t get to the concert with at least twenty minutes to spare you will not get a seat. And Montessori concerts are long.

And that is all I meant to do.

Went home. Laid out the new dresses and the Christmas sweater and the shiny shoes. Found the (too big) dress shoes for Wyatt from the handy-down box. Put out the big snack-bread! Butter! cheese, pepperoni, milk! Eat, childrens, eat!

And said, as the snack wound down, Lily and Sam, get your homework out of the way. Wyatt and Rory, time to pack lunches.

Mmm. Now, to understand what happened next, we must go back in time, first, to me, joining the cult of Parenting on Track‘s Vicki Hoefle and drinking the glorious kool-aid of her cds, thanks to this neighbor (seriously, I love this woman, by which I mean Hoefle. I also love my neighbor–thanks neighbor!). Vicki H points out that we do too much for our kids, that we need to be training them to do for themselves, and that means not just not doing it for them, but not reminding, nagging and whatnot. For us, that’s started with homework, backpacks and lunches. That’s been their responsibility before, but with much nagging, and ok, I’ll do it this time, and here it is, just you do just this one little bit and rewards and starchips–all because at that point, as far as I was concerned, they were doing it for me. So I wouldn’t have to do it. Now they’re doing it for them–so they can learn to take care of themselves as they grow up.

So this week, just as a little start, I don’t touch the backpacks or lunch boxes (unless you have your hands full and ask me or something). You put it in the car, you take it out of the car, you empty it, you pack it. I don’t care when you do this. I don’t care how. I don’t even care what–much–that’s already pretty engrained, anyway, from an earlier emphasis on packing this past fall. But you do it. I don’t remember Monday or Tuesday. I think I’d brought them in for them, not yet being myself fully with the program, or reminded them to do it–but yesterday, when it came time to do homework and pack lunches and everyone but Sam’s was still in the car, there was much consternation. But I do not want to go get my lunch box! I know. But it is cold! Yep, sure is! But I am not wearing shoes! Put ’em on!But I DON’T WANT TO! Neither do I.

Eventually, working together, Lily and Wyatt got their stuff. Rory refused. I, she declared, am going to use a different lunch box!

Fair enough. She did. Now, Rory always has to win something, and having won that, she packed her lunch without difficulty, and I didn’t think much more about it. Until 4:00 today, when I said “Time to do lunches for tomorrow!” Now, Wyatt actually got out of the car today, went to the front seat, got his lunch box and took it in, without being asked. Lily didn’t, but when I said “time,” she went and got it without comment.

Rory, once she realized where that lunch box–and the other lunch box–was/were, lost it. She only has two, see. I don’ WAN go out to the car! I too tired! I cold! It cold! I don’ WAN TO! No! I WAN you to do it! You can fill in my replies as you wish here. Occasionally I sat down on the floor next to her, but mostly I did not. It was all some variation, shorter, because Rory only hears about four words at a time, of “I HEAR you. You don’t want to do it. I know you don’t. But it’s your lunch, and I know you can do it, and I’m not going to do it for you. Once you get it, I’ll help you pack your lunch.”

She screamed for half an hour. Seriously. On the clock. Half an hour. Screamed. Kicked. Hit. Screamed. Kicked the glass doors between the playroom and living room until I thought they would break. I did nothing. Didn’t send her to her room. Didn’t stop or scold her. Didn’t go get the lunch box, or offer any additional compromise. (I did stop Lily, who, at minute 15, said “I’m going to go get the lunch box.”)

She screamed while Wy made his lunch. Screamed through Sam and Lily’s homework. Screamed while I helped Wyatt get dressed in his red turtleneck and snowman vest. Screamed while Lily, through with her homework, packed her lunch. Screamed, kicked, screamed. It was an astonishing display. And I began, just a little, to panic.

We really had to leave the house at 5:15. I didn’t care if she was dressed. I didn’t care if she was still screaming. But how was I going to handle that? Rob was out of town and barely going to make it to the concert. Sam and Lily had their hearts set on hearing it, and Wyatt would be crushed if I didn’t go, but what would I do? I couldn’t leave her screaming in the parking lot in the car, she would never stay. I finally called a neighbor and got her son, and explained, very briefly–could him mom call me? He said he could hear Rory, and wow, wasn’t that something, and yes, he’d ask her to call. I thought she come over, I guess–kind of a lot to ask! It occurs to me now, of course, that I should have called flockmother, who lives right across the street, but it’s hard to think straight over that kind of screaming. What, I asked Sam, am I going to do if she doesn’t stop?

Rory heard us and paused. “Isn’t she going to the concert?” Sam asked. “Not if she’s still screaming,” I said, but pretty calmly–it wasn’t a threat to Rory, that wasn’t how I wanted to play this, I knew that much. Rory, though, caught on. “I GO CONCERT!” she roared, and I said, of course you can. You just have to stop screaming. BUT I NO WAN GET LUNCH BOX I WAN YOU DO IT!” I know you do, I said. I hear you. But I’m not going to.

I walked away to help Lily get dressed. And I hear her run to the hall. Hear the door. Slam and she runs back. Again, run. Slam and she runs back. Shoes on, no coat. IT TOO COLD! Put your coat on. I NO WAN! Ok, don’t.

And she’s gone again, and slam! slam! Slam! She’s back. Thows the boxes on the floor. I WAN’ YOU EMPTY THEM! nope. I WAN YOU EMPTY THIS ONE! (Remember, there are two.) Nope.

I hear, from the kitchen, plastic containers being slammed into the sink. Cupboards slamming. Banging. Rory appears in my bedroom doorway. “Will you help me pack lunch?”

Well, yes. Yes I will. And I do, doing no more or less than I would any other day. I’ll cut your apple. I won’t put chips in a container, you can do that. I’ll reach the box of cookies from the shelf.

As you can see, we got to the concert. Early. Second row, my friend. And here’s how I know this was the right thing: Rory, once she stopped, had no recovery time. None. This wasn’t sorrow or fear or even really anger, it was a battle, and I made her fight it all herself. (I know she looks upset in the picture, but she wasn’t–that was goofing. ) And I didn’t, either. Usually, when I write something like this for the blog, I shake with the very memory. Not this time. I was calm, I was actually really nice. I wasn’t angry. This just wasn’t a big deal for me. If she’d never done it, we would have worked out the concert–the only thing I was worried about–somehow. I’m pretty sure she’d have stopped screaming at school. And she would have no lunch, and the boxes would still be in the car, and so be it–it was no big deal. It wasn’t my problem.

This is going to be harder for Rory than the others. (I wrote a little about that in the No Hands But Ours post, linked below). She’s more dependent on her patterns than the others, and she needs to feel in control. But I’m going to help her feel in control because she can pack her own lunch, and because she can take care of herself, and because she can be a loving and loved helpful part of the family–not because she can manipulate me into doing stuff for her and then call that love. This is going to be good for both of us.

But somewhere along the line, we may miss a couple of concerts, one way or another.

KJThe Concert and the Tantrum
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