A Big Fat Muffin Mistake

The picture below is quickly becoming not only a fair representation of how our household works but also the kind of mother I have become with 3 kids. Vacuuming isn't a chore I have, in all my cruelty, assigned to a 4-year old. I mean, one day I'll gladly hand it over. But for now she needs too much assistance and still misses too much mess to make it worth the effort. My effort.

Friday I had made the kids a special breakfast of chocolate chip muffins, which the boys kept calling cookies. Yay, Mom! Ho, ho hold on! Big mistake. Huge. When I saw a layer of crumbs under each child's chair and watched Ivan tease me by waving his muffin as far away from the table as his skinny arm could reach to shake the excess onto the floor, I gave the warning that he who made the biggest mess would clean the floor. I issued this warning knowing I would ultimately be the one who gave the floor its final inspection, but I'd let them take a fair swing at it on their little hands and knees. Well, moments after I announced the consequence, Avery looked at me, smiled and dusted all crumbs from herself and her chair onto the floor. At that point, the boys could have crumbled their remaining muffins beneath them and made less of a mess than she had.

How, you ask, is this picture a good representation of what my life has become? Despite Keith's efforts to steer the boys away from young chick flicks like Tangled by forcing them to endure the movie Cars and the dark side of He-Man, their most recent favorite movie is Annie. Yep, the one with Albert Finney and Carol Burnett. And, they are quickly falling in love with The Sound of Music, too. But, back to Annie and its relation to the picture above.

The boys seem most entertained not so much by the storyline, which...thankfully...I doubt they actually understand, but by a few details: 1) The fact that "Daddy Warbucks" is bald...much like their own daddy's self-imposed baldness. 2) The orphans' constant mockery of Miss Hannigan. 3) Miss Hannigan's mistreatment of the orphans. Oh, plus they have turned the song "Tomorrow" into "Two Marbles" because of their endless bickering and bragging over who can get or has the most marbles in his "marble jar."

They particularly love scenes in which Miss Hannigan manhandles the children by taking hold of their shirts to bring them closer while giving them some arbitrary instruction or when she goes off on a rant screaming, "Kill! Kill! Kill!" Yes, my boys imitate Miss Hannigan doing such things. Our friend Andy tells me they love Miss Hannigan because she and I have so many of the same qualities. Am I really that evil? What have I become? She's only one notch above Mommie Dearest! Why didn't I punch him? Well, this is the same Andy who came and divvied out lunch to 2 of the kiddos while I dealt with the 3rd in the pit of hell. And, if it weren't for this kind act, and many others, I would have.

So, I might be okay with reminding my kids of Miss Hannigan. I feel bad for her. Surely she didn't start out as this horrible woman. No, no, no. Those kids drove her crazy. Drove her to drink. Drove her to throw herself at every man who enters the picture, including Mr. Bundles. She probably started out at least liking kids. Now look at her! One day the punishment dolled out was skipping lunch altogether while the reward was getting cold mush for lunch. Now, I know which is worse in my book.

While I don't demand that the kids clean the floors until they shine like the top of the Chrysler Building, maybe I am a little like Miss Hannigan. Besides the chores we do each morning, cleaning is a logical and natural consequence to many of the kids' infractions. In our house you will often find kids washing walls, wiping down chairs, scrubbing bathroom floors, washing out sinks, etc. Having them clean is 3 fold: It pulls them away from a fun activity. Boo! It provides a way for them to make restitution for the wrong. Fair. And, it lightens my load. Yay!

For instance, if you put dirty shoes on the back of the seat in a vehicle, you get to clean a portion of that vehicle. Did you forget to take your own dishes to the sink after a meal? Well, you can pick up after everyone and clean the table. It's not always cleaning. You purposefully tore the puzzle box? You lose the privilege of playing with puzzles for a day. My kids seem to learn quickly, which I may regret because the van was looking mighty spiffy for a while.

These consequences have come with a recent restructuring of the way we do business around here. (Thanks to 2 books I've been reading: Creative Consequences by Blair from The Facts of Life and Parenting with Love and Logic, residing in my gym bag so I can double duty it on the treadmill). For a while I conducted my days like a short-order cook, servant and maid. No wonder the kids treated me as such. Sometimes we would begin a day in the vicious cycle of rude demands countering one bad mood. Or vice versa.

I can't do everything for my kids and expect them to be grateful...or even turn out okay. Those kinds of parents raise kids who grow up with a sense of entitlement. Having taught in schools on both ends of the socio-economic scale, I have known many kids who think they are entitled...and many who are grateful...and it's pretty easy to tell who came from which class. Plus, I'd wind up bitter because gratitude just isn't going to happen when life is handed to you on a silver platter. However, I can teach them how to do it for themselves and hope they grow in confidence and in character.

And, I won't be offended at hearing, "I love you, Miss Hannigan!"

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