This morning I got dressed with alacrity, sailed out of my bedroom, and belted out a sing-songy “Good Morning, Everyone!”
(To toot my own horn, because this is my blog, I only got about five hours of sleep last night because I was up comforting a very upset and almost hysterical R. But I donned my best attitude because the parents set the tone, right? I was proud of me.)
The kids were waiting for me on the landing.
“Why don’t we have screen time?” Ah, so they already tried logging on. The parental screen time controls worked.
“Because,” I said patiently, “Abba and I feel that you’re just wasting time with it. You’re not creating or learning. You’re just watching garbage.”
“But we NEEEEEEED IT!”
“I think you’ll find that you don’t.”
“Please. PLEASE. PLEASE!!!” R started to shriek.
“SHUT UP!” K exploded. “JUST SHUT UP! I CAN’T TAKE IT ANYMORE! I CAN’T LIVE WITH YOU PEOPLE FOR ONE MINUTE LONGER! EVERYBODY JUST!!! SHUT!!! UP!!!!”
An honest-to-goodness fight ensued. They brought out all the classic moves: the “Lunge-and-scratch”, the “Dodge-around-Eema-and-punch”, the “Grab-and-pinch”, and (of course) plenty of basic slapping.
I got between them and said calmly, “Walk away. K, just walk away. R, walk away. R, go to the attic. K, go to the basement.”
They refused to move. “I will take away your phone and all your screen time for a week if you don’t go to your room right now,” I warned. That did it — K turned and stalked off to her room. R didn’t.
So passed the first fifteen minutes of my day.
I spent the following hour doing dishes (we don’t use our dishwasher during Passover). Perhaps sensing my mood, N dried and put away the dishes. R asked if she could clean the counters and stove after we were all finished in the kitchen. E helped sweep the kitchen floor.
The score: Fighting 1, Cooperation 1
N declared his intention of doing laundry (unprompted!) and offered to do everyone else’s at the same time. He actually followed through.
K spent a while telling me how upset and angry she felt, and how she couldn’t get any work done feeling this way, and nothing would help, and she didn’t see why she should even try. I spent about 10 minutes uttering variants of: “We all have days when our feelings are intense and we don’t think we can focus on our work. But we do our work anyway.” She slid down the cabinets in a corner of the kitchen, curled into a fetal ball, and cried. I really feel for her. This situation is frustrating for all of us. I cannot imagine layering all the emotional intensity of adolescence on top of it and exacerbating it by losing most of one’s peer interactions.
We finally got K ensconced in the library with her work. I went looking for N so I could prompt him to start his work; he was on the floor doing something with a set of dominoes. “I’m inventing my own game,” he informed me.
I’ve been trying to get him to do some kind of writing for weeks. This was my opening. “Great!” I said, “Now you need to write out the instructions so anyone can play.” I wrote out a few headings on post-it notes: Object of the game, Equipment, Setup, and How to play. He worked diligently for the next hour and returned with the rules. I told him to take a look at some of the rule books for games we already own and then copy the writing style.
In the meantime, R followed me around for much of the day whining, “I don’t feel well!” I sympathized, but really, after the twentieth time it gets old (before you suggest it, she couldn’t describe any specific symptoms, just generally not feeling well. She’s been doing this for three weeks.) I tried really hard, though, not to get angry as I usually would. Instead I said, “I’m sorry that you’re not feeling well. I’m going to the Makery. You can keep me company if you like.”
I left her and went off to finish a built-in paper tray that I started two weeks ago. She came down, asked “can I use this?” a bunch of times, and started working with the hot glue gun. I paid absolutely no attention to what she was doing. When I turned around, the first thing out of my mouth was “WOW!” While I was drilling and cutting and gluing, she had created a game board:
Let it not be said that my kids lack initiative. In fact, N took the initiative to solve his own problem — namely, that his hair has grown long enough to get into his eyes. I noticed at dinner, and asked, “N, did you cut your hair?” and, after he denied it, amended my comment to, “N! You cut your hair!” He’s happy that his hair is no longer in his eyes, but he now understands why cutting your own hair is often a bad, bad idea.