Friday, September 4, 2009

Falling Down on the Job

Last night as I was saying goodnight to Noelani, I said, "Honey, we only have two days left of the summertime before you switch back to dad's." My custody schedule has her with me most of the summer, and with him most of the school year, with once weekly plus every-other-weekend visitations by the other parent.

I drew her to me. "Noelani, could those two days please be days where I don't have to beg you or yell at you to do your chores?"

She looked up at me and nodded dutifully, but she looked like she wanted to cry. I thought I knew why, and smiled sympathetically. "Were you hoping I was going to say you didn't have to do any chores for the last two days?"

"No. I was hoping you were going to say you wanted to spend more time with me, not talk about chores."

The girl really knows how to drive a stake right through her mother's heart. She's gonna be quite a woman. I can just see her sucker-punching some boyfriend like that in a fight. Damn.

I replied honestly that I'd like to spend more time with her, too, but that the chore situation had me so upset that it was hard to want to. And it's true. She was quite good about chores at the beginning of the summer when we first assigned them, but since then it's gotten more and more difficult to get her to do them. On a good day I might have to remind her only 12-20 times for them to get done. On a bad day they never get all the way done. I get so tired of telling her, and reminding her, and dealing with her attitude.

I'm sure this is what she wants. Gabriel and several friends have told me they can see in her face when my back is turned that she is certainly capable of manipulating me. Now I wish we could do the whole summer over and I could lay down the law better, but I'm just learning how to do this. I feel disappointed in myself that I have been unable to create an environment with firm boundaries in which she did what was expected of her and we were both happy. At this point we're both unhappy, and I'm not sure how to fix it. But I know that setting boundaries is something she expects, even unconsciously, of me, and I didn't live up to it.


  1. {{{hugs}}} I have had so many issues with this with Alex. You have heard of some. All day long it is Alex vs Mom in this never ending battle of who can hold out the longest. The one thing that has really helped is my continual goal to make it Alex Vs Alex instead. I set a timer, remind him once, and then the ball is in his court. If his chores are not finished with in the timer amount of time, I just walk into his room, and remove his gameboy and PSP. There no yelling, and rarely is there a second chance.

    It works about 50% of the time... but that is better than where I was. ;)


  2. I never once won this battle with my daughter. She didn't care one whit that the place was an utter catastrophe (and by place, I mean *her room*) and anything I asked her to contribute to outside of her room was just *too much to ask*. It got done, not always to anyone's satisfaction, and never without the battle and the never-ending carrots and sticks. It would have been so much easier to either live with it as it was, do it myself, or hire some help (in the off years that I might have been able to afford to do so). But I firmly believed that she needed to make a contribution, and I still don't think that asking her to take out the trash or vacuum the dining room and living room when she got home from school (and before I got home from work) merited the endless breast-thumping drama that followed.

    The good news -- and yes, there is some -- is that she keeps a tidy house now. I never would have expected that, given the fact that her third grade teacher referred to her area of the classroom as "the O'Neill Dump" (and told me so).