D and P have been taking the front entrance way seriously. Since we started “rung one” of the ladder, they’ve been careful to place their footwear on the mat, hang their coats on hangers in the closet and put their back packs in their assigned spot. This is very pleasing to me and I’ve made sure that I’ve gushed a bit about it. I’ve approached them individually, letting them know that I’ve noticed their efforts and how happy it’s made me to walk in a door that isn’t blocked by shoes, to put away my boots without first having to move their coats and to stride confidently into the house without fear of accidentally finding the back pack that doubles as a booby trap for unsuspecting parents. At 12 and 13, my boys aren’t overly expressive, but a smile plays on their lips when I praise them and I can tell that they prefer to see me pleased than to hear me harping on them.
Even as I’m rejoicing in the early success of “rung one”, I’m already plotting to move them up to “rung two”. One of the great things about kids is that as they get older they get more independent. There was a time when I had to do everything for D and P because they were incapable of doing anything themselves. Those days are long over. D and P are both very capable lads, a fact that I remind them of often. They still loved to be served and catered to but more and more I am saying “no” to that. I won’t always be around. They need to learn to fend for themselves.
I don’t prepare breakfast for the boys anymore. They don’t catch the school bus early so there’s no reason why they can’t help themselves to something simple in the morning. I make sure that there are a lot of easy options on hand for them. I also don’t make lunches for D and P. They have hands that work and can put together sandwiches as easily as I can. I keep a good supply of meats, cheeses, fruits, veggies and snacks in the kitchen specifically with them in mind. I also don’t make an after school snack for them. They know what they’re allowed to have and not allowed to have before dinner. They are aware of what they can help themselves to and what they have to ask permission for to eat. I also don’t make anything for the guys after dinner. If they’ve eaten well and are still hungry, they can ask for permission to eat certain comfort foods. They must prepare those comfort foods though and no matter what or where they eat, my expectation is that they would clean up after themselves.
This is where we have pebbles. D and P both like to carry their food to wherever they decide their next activity is. They often forget to bring their dishes to the sink like I’ve asked them to. There are three main areas where I find dishes in our home – by the computer, by the television and in the boys’ rooms. When I call them to account, arguments often break out. Each one swears that the offending dishes were not left there by him. I’m not fond of donning the judge’s wig and going to court over these misdemeanors and disagreements. I’m fond of an easier way.
The last two years I homeschooled, I bought the boys colour coded supplies. D had blue pens, blue erasers, a blue pencil case, a blue ruler, blue duotangs, a blue binder…well you get the idea…his stuff was blue. All of P’s things were green. This really cut down on the “He stole my ruler” accusations and the “No, it’s my pencil. No it isn’t, it’s mine” arguments. It’s amazing how much time we saved when we didn’t have to spend even a moment deciding what things belonged to which child. It also quickly revealed who was guilty of not caring for their things. Can’t find your ruler? Too bad, so sad. Now you have to waste play time looking for it and still do the measuring assignment.
Since the colour coding worked for school supplies, I figured it might also work for dishes and cutlery. I’d be willing to invest a little money to get better habits in D and P. If I can, I’ll get some blue plates, bowls, glasses and cutlery for D and some green ones for P. They will be expected to use these dishes for when they prepare themselves food. I will have to decide a time when I want all the dishes to be in the kitchen sink for. Inspection will take place and the guilty will not only have to haul their dishes to where they should have been, they will also be awakened a half hour early in the morning to do all the dishes in the sink, including drying them and putting them away. We are a family that eats at home and there are always a good amount of dishes in the sink. The same penalty will apply if I catch either boy using the wrong dishes. D and P understandably are not fond of doing dishes so the consequence will be a good deterrent.
The hardest part of moving to “rung two” will be remembering to faithfully do inspection and being diligent to get the guilty up a half hour earlier than usual for consequences. The good part is that now we are not a one-parent family. DA will like the “rung two” phase and I know I can trust him to remind me and help me do my part of the agreement. I still have to find those special dishes and go over this with DA (I’m very confident he’ll say “yes” to part two of the plan) and then explain it in full to D and P but as Hannibal used to say on “The A Team”, “I love it when a plan comes together.” Yeah. Life always feels better when a plan comes together.