“C’mon guys!” I bellowed from the kitchen, “You’re late!” One by one, they appeared at our table, each carrying a heavy attitude.
My husband had always thought my family meetings were pure nonsense. All this nicey-nicey talking was a complete waste of his Sunday leisure time. When he grew up, you did what your parents told you to do, or you’d be wearing five faster than you can say “child protective services.”
However, my active duty Navy husband had left me in charge of the household on so many occasions in our 19-year marriage, he had decided that it was best to go along with my parenting strategies, harebrained or not.
I’d been holding semi-annual family meetings since the kids were too young to read my typed agendas, and believed these forced family events were necessary to maintain order, and my sanity. Although no stranger to corporal punishment, I’d always been afraid we’d turn our kids into axe murders, heroine junkies, or worst of all, adults with low self-esteem.
So, I believed we could achieve total cooperation from our children simply by gathering them up and nicely telling them what we want them to do. Makes perfect sense, right?
Our girls, 12 and 14, arrived in a sock-sliding race for the best seat, the elder sister grabbing the prime spot.
The last to arrive, thudding down the stairs, was our 17-year-old son, who would’ve preferred a hot poker in his eye than a conversation with family in which feelings might be discussed.
With everyone seated, I decided to play upon their worst fears.
“OK, everyone, let’s hold hands and say what we love about each other . . .” I allowed a few seconds of uncomfortable silence, and just when I thought mutiny was imminent, I blurted, “Gotcha!”
My comedic genius softened them up a bit, exactly what I needed for my parental brainwashing plan to take hold. Clearing my throat, I began.
“School starts tomorrow, and we want you to manage your time properly so everything runs smoothly. We’ll get up each morning promptly at six, and we expect . . .” I went on, and on, about bedtimes, homework, chores, allowance, privileges, personal hygiene, and manners.
About 40 minutes into the lecture, I knew I was losing them, an eventuality for which I was prepared.
“In conclusion, to help you manage your time, we got you each a little gift.”
The girls squealed with delight when I revealed three super-cool new sports watches, with digital displays, dual alarms with five minute back up, 10 lap memory chrono, and water resistance to 100 meters – whatever all that means.
I sat back, smug with satisfaction. My plan is complete. Rules will be followed. Order is restored. No punishments necessary. And I look like Mother Theresa. Nice.
“Uh, just so you know, I’m not wearing this thing,” my son suddenly interjected.
“Listen Honey, you’re almost a man now — you really should learn how to use a watch… “
“I’m not putting this stupid hunk of plastic on my wrist when there are clocks everywhere.”
I can’t be sure, but smoke may have started rising out of my ears.
It may have been our son’s utter lack of appreciation, his complete disregard for authority, my unrealistic desire for total obedience, or the fact that my underwear was riding up that afternoon, but I was seeing red.
“Listen to me, young man,” I said through gritted teeth, “you WILL wear that watch, understand me?”
The next 20 minutes are a bit foggy, but I do clearly recall my husband storming off down the street, and my son throwing the watch at the wall while screaming a particular expletive, which he’d previously not uttered in our presence. Then, I vaguely remember flying upstairs without touching the ground and lifting my son’s door off the hinges with superhuman strength.
Cooling off in our garage, I felt an immediate sense of regret. The boy IS seventeen – he probably sees that watch as a shackle, keeping him under our control. I need to let him make his own choice.
I walked into the house, just as my son was coming out to find me. Our eyes met, communicating our mutual regret without words.
“Where’d that watch go, Mom? I’ll give it a try.”
“I’ll help you find it, Honey, and I was thinking, maybe you could just carry it in your pocket if you don’t want to wear it around your wrist.”
Just as we found the watch in the corner, my husband arrived home, refreshed from a nice afternoon walk, and asked, “So . . . what’s for dinner?”
- Rule No. 1: Follow the Rules (www.themeatandpotatoesoflife.com)