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Motherhood and Misdemeanors

By Maggie Turner


January 3, 2000

Motherhood and Misdemeanors

This week the schools are closed. "The Teenager" is bored this week. After several attempts at humor, we both agree that there are worse things than boredom. I tempt her with fun activities like cleaning her room, returning some of the long lost dishes and cutlery to the kitchen and washing her cloths. I am trying to ruin her life. It is my job. If I really cared about her, I would do all those things for her. If I really, really cared about her I would pull out my wallet and prove it. Her sense of humor is unsettling.

"The Teenager" has always been just that, or so it seems. Life was chaotic when she was four years old. I decided we needed to get organized. In those days, I read things like parenting magazines. One such tome suggested that posting a calendar for the child would encourage responsibility. Each day on the calendar would list the routines for the day and the child could check them off. Mother and child could then admire the checkmarks and positive remarks would be shared all round.

I enthusiastically printed up calendars with her name on them. Each day had a list ready for checkmarks. Things like "brush teeth" and "wash face" were listed. I bought a bright pink pencil crayon for the checking, her favorite color. It seemed so logical, so right. She seemed very receptive to the idea. The check marks started to appear. We shared positive moments.

After the calendar had been up about a week, she asked if she could have some blank calendars to play with. I was so pleased. Not only were routines being established in a friendly and relaxed way, she wanted to learn about days of the week and months of the year. I printed some calendars for her right away.

The next morning I checked her calendar to see how the routines were going. Next to her calendar there hung another. The new calendar had a name on it; the name was "MOM". Each day had a list of tasks. She explained very slowly and carefully how to make a checkmark beside each task. She would allow me to use her pink pencil. The lists of tasks on my calendar were somewhat different from those on hers. She patiently read to me the squiggly lines that represented list items. My list included tasks like extra dessert, playing Barbies before going to work and letting her stay up past bedtime.

What a creative child, I thought proudly. What a clever child, I thought fondly. We laughed together.

A few days later I checked her calendar to see how she was doing. No checkmarks. I decided to have a gentle little talk with her to find out why. She explained it to me very patiently. Until I achieved better success getting all my tasks accomplished, she would not be using her pink pencil. After several days, she remained unshakeable in her resolve. I no longer read parenting magazines.


 

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