Saturday, September 12, 2009

Teaching Responsibility in the Throes of Upheaval

Supergirl has had some problems with responsibility lately. I guess not so much 'problems' as it would be 'slow to learn', and I realized that I need to tighten up on that end, or she will be 'Responsibility Challenged', and I would like to know that I tried.

There are the small things, such as 'forgetting' to pick up something she was asked to take care of hours ago, leaving popsicle wrappers and sticks in the yard (this one makes me nutty and has prompted a popsicle boycott on my part), leaving nice shoes or a new jacket in the yard to be ruined or at a friend's house never to be recovered.
Then there are the big things, such as 'forgetting' to give the pets fresh food or water when asked repeatedly, and losing expensive gifts and then refusing to actually look for them.
"Daddy can get me another one." She says.
"This does not mean you will be allowed to use it until you earn it." I reply, more calmly than I want to.
Not one cent in child support, not one cent in restitution for the amount of debt with which he left me, but gifts are showered on them at each visit. I am very careful in my response, but one can imagine the amount of self-control it requires to take the high road at that fork.

We discussed a plan for looking for the missing items; namely, a Flip video camera which was a Christmas present, and an iPod clone video player which her father gave her for her birthday. I had already found the stylus for the video player, smashed out in the driveway, and the two-piece charger in a basket of her pajamas. "It was from a sleepover," she protested, "I just emptied my backpack into the jammie basket!"
I frowned.
We worked on organizing her clothes more. On reminding that her toys each have their own place...not a random place.
I offered to clean her room with her. She whined, and writhed on the floor while I sorted and got frustrated. Finally, I quit. I was tired of doing it for her. She knew the rules, and she certainly knew how, and she also knew what it would take to earn back the right to even play with my camera.
She quit.

"Fine," I said, "If you don't care about that stuff, I am certainly not going to!"

I lied.

She went to school, and I cleaned her room. And when I peered into yet another brown paper bag with twine handles, I saw a pile of scraps of paper and few tiny plastic bobbly head animal accessories. The kind of bag which every mother loves to just throw away because the kid will not notice anyway, and we're just going to have to clean it up again or pick it out of our vacuum. We know.
I shook the bag to see if there was anything solid rattling around in it. Lo!
The birthday gift video player.
HELLYEAH I WAS MAD! Two seconds away from the trash.
Lucky for her, she was at school, so my eventual reaction was mild and invisible to her. I simply hid it up high. Next to Elijah's ashes - nobody every looks there.
I told her that I found it in a bag of trash and trinkets and that she would need to earn it back. We have set up a new chores chart and there will be a clear and concrete system to earning back access.
She has not yet earned it back (it has been a week).
Today, she was packing for a sleepover. I recently re-appropriated an old storage closet into a kids fort, and thus some backpacks and duffels were retrieved. She had grabbed my backpack which I had not seen since she had used it in our 'safe-house' week long couch surfing back in April.
"My backpack! I haven't seen it!" I love that backpack. It's old and perfectly sized for a day trip!
"I packed my overnight stuff in it. It had a bunch of toys I dumped out."
Ahh yes...when we moved back in, she must have tossed it into the storage closet instead of unpacking it!
"Let me look in it before you go."

::::::::::drumroll, please:::::::::::::::::::

I rifled through some small plastic bobbly head animals, only to pull my hand out of the bottom with this prize:

,Oh yeah, Mama scored.
Supergirl first jumped up and down, then felt embarrassed, then begged for it back.

"No way," I told her.
I had not one smidge of remorse about that.

Clearly, if she had wanted to find these things, she could have put some more effort into the search.

We are both excited that these 'toys' are recovered, but for different reasons.
She gets the prospect of using expensive electronics again, and I get leverage in the responsibility education process.



MFA Mama said... it! You're dealing with this ridiculous situation SO well. Also? Xman is soooo the scum of the earth. Sure, don't pay anything toward your children's NEEDS--you know their mother will find a way to handle that. Instead spend money on trying to BUY THEIR AFFECTION. I think the way these gifts come into Supergirl's life may have something to do with her lackadaisical attitude toward them. Easy come, easy go, y'know? Good job there, Xman you twatwaffle.

MB said...

I think I may be related to you, or at least your daughter.

I lost my flip video camera my husband gave me for my birthday only 3 weeks after I received it. After 7 months of nonstop searching, I found it in one of those reusable grocery bags, mixed in with some plastic easter eggs.

I am THE WORST about these things. I hate myself for it, but so far I have not been able to make myself change.

surferhen said...

I knew it wasn't here and that my daughter didn't have it, wouldn't take it, wouldn't lie about it. I only wish you would have had the same faith in her. I'm so glad it finally turned up.

Lunasea said...

Coming from the shrink, I don't think it's an accident that she's losing the stuff she's getting from him.

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