Zero Sum and the division of labour

During the summer holidays our lives take on a more leisurely pace. Crumble.

Whilst there is no school to attend, I select a minimum number of goals for the day.

The primary goal would be for all members of the family to be dressed in day time clothes by 9 a.m. at the absolute latest.

Spouse appears, bleary eyed after 5 hours sleep, returning home from work at 1 in the morning as slave to a start up business. The night time hours were filled with visitations by small people at irregular intervals. I herd my children in the direction of the breakfast table to a chorus of shrieks of protest whilst spouse fiddles with the equally unco-operative printer. No-one is hungry and the bribe of 'electronics' time at 5:30 p.m. is still ten and a half hours away and therefore too remote. The weeping and wailing continues throughout the ten minutes attempt at something that might loosely be described as breakfast.

We attempt table clearing but they turn themselves into a moving obstacle course, bump into one another, drop bowls, clatter spoons, tumble over cereal boxes, spill milk and generally make my head spin. Which mess or child to clear up first?

Spouse nips off to take a shower with the plunger in his left hand. He reappears moment later, semi clad to remove one boy, “you're coming with me matey, you honk!” A less than savoury aroma. Junior's lower torso fails to function, so he scoops him up to deliver him to the shower. As soon as his tippy toes lose contact with the floor, his legs whir into bicycling motion at high speed. Watch out Tour de France. I remind myself to encourage him to use the trampolene at regular intervals, if we have any hope of surviving the day.

We attempt teeth cleaning with the remaining two. This should be easy with the reduced numbers. A toothbrush crisis produces mass hysteria, “he's got my brush! I don't want his stinky mouth germs!”
“But……..but…….but…” he fizzles out and hurls the toothbrush in her general direction. It is sometimes difficult for him to locate items or distinguish one person's belongings from another's, it wasn't deliberate. He dissolves into a full blown meltdown of frustration, hurt feelings and possibly a dash of inadequacy.

Junior skitters back downstairs to join the mayhem and accidentally comes within striking distance of his flailing brother. More agony ensues and my daughter flees the room and the noise.

I marshal my reserves and try to clear my head. I hear the garage door open as spouse wheels out the rubbish and recycling to the curbside. I park myself on the floor between my two wailing boys to rub backs and pray for peace. mM own personal peace corps wouldn't go amiss. Calm, if not order, returns after only a few minutes. One sits up and runs his snotty nose along the sofa whilst the other duplicates the action on the carpet. I debate whether it is possible for me to do this today, again?

I take them both to the loo, as strong emotions often supercede more basic functions. Better safe than sorry. Spouse puts all the electronic bribes on to recharge, ready for later, as he was too tired to remember the night before. I attempt to scrub the snail trails of snot, prior to solidification and then make headway on the other spills. My daughter returns from bedroom fully clothed and with a cheery smile, little ray of something or other. She clasps me around the waist, since I am on all fours in a sea of cheerios and milk. Spouse refills the coffee hob so that my emergency caffeine supply is ready. I dither about my stamina quotient for the day, which appears to be severely depleted but has to last until 9 o'clock tonight.

I debate whether it would be a worthwhile exercise to put drop clothes throughout the house as a preventative measure? [translation = dust sheets] Spouse puts the toaster away on the high shelf that's out of my reach. This avoids the step retrieval step, for shorter people like me. I ask my son to go and choose his clothes, always a time consuming exercise. I move the little one back to the bathroom for teeth cleaning. I trip over spouse fiddling about on the computer again. Who has time for computers when the morning routine is in tatters.

I pick up three sets of pyjamas and I trip over a cat that entwines my legs due to neglect. This is the first step in the sequence of steps to achieve 'dressed.' Spouse scatters cat food in the general direction of his bowl so that the fur ball is enticed away from the danger area. My daughter plagues me with questions: what are we doing today? Where are we going today? I am sorely tempted to spend the day building an air raid shelter to hide in.

At 9:01 a.m. he glances at his wristwatch, “Oh heck! I'm so late!” and steps towards the door. I begin to flap. When that doesn't work I use words, “don't leave me!” I bleat like a star crossed lover. He turns towards his flapping wife with a blank expression, “what?”
“Look!” I flap some more and open my arms wider so that he is better able to take in the three yards of brown fabric that go to make up my dressing gown. I am not day time attire and no shower.
“But..” he checks his wrist watch again but his body is reversing towards the door simultaneously. I feel a rising sense of panic in both of us, but for entirely different reasons.
“Look at me! You can't go yet! You've done nothing this morning except get ready for work, whilst I've been running around like a blue….oh, never mind! Go to work why don't you!” I pout and fold my arms in defeat. I peer up at him, hoping for the pity vote but his face wears an expression of bafflement. I prompt, “what?” in an unpleasant tone.

His shoulders slump, soft open palms, “I've done what I can….unblocked the shower, fixed the printer, sterilized the stinky one, the trash, all the rechargables, coffee, toaster, booked the flights on line,……” he peters out, after only managing to recall a mere fraction of his tasks. The 'what more do you want?' remains unsaid. He wears the hangdog expression of the truly unappreciated.

My shoulders sink too as I remember to breathe. I take a few steps towards him and lower my head so that he can kiss my forehead, as substitute during mouth realignment. I resolve to refrain from referring to him as my 'lesser half.' I feel his stubble against my skin, “didn't even have time to shave did you?” I wheedle.

Moral – some people notice nothing until they make contact, head on.

As I write and post, I always wonder, ‘is this the one that will make you de-lurk?’ So come along now, be a good egg, let’s here it for the Dad’s.

For an update on parents’ ability to communicate effectively, go “here.”

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Sweet dreams

I arrive just as spouse is tucking them in to bed. “Right, so no pull-up then!” he announces in a booming tone. I stop dead and pout. No pull-up? Who is he to determine withdrawal of pull-up privileges? Is he responsible for the laundry? The inevitable carpet cleaning? Now there's a man who is totally out of line. I think about pulling rank. I decide to keep my own counsel instead, and content myself with thoughts of the following morning's 'I told you so scene.'

The nerve of the man!

I kiss my children good night, hide my pout and return downstairs to smolder. What could he have been thinking, to change the rules in such are arbitrary fashion? No preamble, no warning, no carefully implemented campaign. The man must be completely barmy? I can think of no rational reason why he should have chosen tonight to turn the bed time routine upside down. I froth, stew and steam. [translation = voodoo dolls] I won't have time to do an additional load of laundry tomorrow. The knock on effects could be earth shattering! No spare bed linen. Bare bed. More upset to bed time routine. No sleep for anyone. Curse the man!

In between fumes, I consider my own plan. It's not as if we haven't attempted this 'dry at night' campaign before, it's just that it has yet to be successful. There's no reason that we shouldn't implement a new campaign, we just need careful thought beforehand. How can I have 'beforehand' if we're already after? [translation = failure at the first fence is not a good reinforcer] All campaigns must be orchestrated with the finesse of a conductor. I suppress a growl. Spouse looks across at me. He is unable to detect the steam coming out of my ears, “are you alright love?”
“Anything wrong?”
“No, nothing. I'm fine, just fine!” I do my best flounce and depart. [translation = high dudgeon] I swear he the most annoying person on the planet. Who does he think he is? Why is the other adult in the household such a complete nit wit. The venom and bile accumulate, but are well leashed.

I debate whether I should lift him later before we go to bed ourselves. Should I haul 56 pounds of sleeping boy onto the toilet? I decide to delete. I stomp back into the family room, because flouncing more than once in any one day, decreased it’s impact. “You’ll be o.k. lifting him later?” I announce rhetorically. He blinks in my direction, “er, sure, if that’s what you want?”
“Me? What I want? And how exactly do my ‘wants’ suddenly come into the equation now?”
“Hmm what?”
“You asked if that is what ‘I want,’ but you weren’t concerned with my wants when you pulled the pull-ups!” I snap with the perfect enunciation of the truly incensed.
“Pulled? Pull-ups? What are you on about?”
“You told him he didn’t have to wear a pull up, without us talking about it first!” I squeak. [translation = and inadvertently spit at the same time]
“Ah! I see.”
“Well what?”
“What do you have to say for yourself!” [translation = Lummy! I’ve turned into my husband’s mummy]
“Well, I er, didn’t have much choice really.” I wait. I wait a bit longer. I suppress a sigh. “Why did you have no choice?”
“Well, it was him wasn’t it.”
“What was him?”
“Him,… I mean…, he said it, he asked, er, he said he didn’t want to wear a pull up any more…… now that he was a big boy, although……those weren’t the words he used………but that’s what he meant,…….I think, yes, that’s what he meant, I’m quite sure.”
“Well why didn’t you tell me that in the first place! That changes everything!”

Moral – before you flounce, feel free to ferret around for the facts first.

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When I mention that my son has a limited diet, many people are sympathetic. Many people experience the child who only eats a diet of pizza, chicken nuggets and other fast food items. My son eats “none of these” things, with the exception of fries. [translation = chips] Currently he enjoys a diet of some 17 exclusive items. Whilst I take many opportunities to widen his diet, I'm not in the least averse to a little help from any quarter. [translation = I have no shame]

I am up a ladder in the kitchen replacing the camping items. It is a galley kitchen. [translation = major thoroughfare with the family room and garage at one end, and access to the rest of the house at the other end.] My daughter pursues her little brother with a vengeance. I stand back and let her do her stuff. I have no idea why she has suddenly got a bee in her bonnet, but I'm more than happy to give her free reign, if only for my own amusement. The bag of salty pistachio nuts was a treat for the camping trip. My eldest son is the nut aficionado, like his Dad. My daughters like nuts, but they can more or less take them or leave them. Junior has yet to eat a nut, any nut. Even the universal peanut butter is poison to him.

Junior now likes salt, preferably from the salt cellar in a continuous stream. [translation = the consequence of permitting ordinary household items to exist without being bolted down or locked up]

She grasps a handful of pistachio nut shells, not the nuts. She's eaten the nuts herself. She figures that the shell without the nut, salt covered, would be a great preliminary step, shell licking, prior to nut licking. I'm with her. It's a sound theory. A shell is an inert thing, not a nut, a mere casing and not food.

“Lick it!” she commands. Junior makes rooster noises in response and legs it. translation = runs away very fast] She is nine and a half, and fit. He is six and a half but he has greater motivation on his side. [She stomps after him, “Come here you! You'll like it, it's salty, hmmm yummy, I just love it, you'll like it too, give it a go.” Jumping Jack flash is still careening all over the house, utilizing a zig zag running approach to throw her off the scent. “Stop it! Stop it now! Stand still or I'll sit on yah!” she bellows. Still shriller shrieks are emitted from Sparky as she hunts him down, a squib on the loose. “Just lick it. You love salt, you'll love this, it's great,” she persuades.
“Come here you little monkey!” she squalks, getting breathless. Junior responds with monkey noises and swings his body around the newel post of the staircase with aplomb. His agility is startling and his tippy toe escape sounds like a machine gun on the wooden floor.

They traverse through the kitchen, back and forth on switch backs. “I'm gonna get you!” she taunts, more positive than practical. Squeaky now has springs under his feet and wings for arms, so light on his feet, as fleet as a hummingbird. [translation = but a lot noisier] “They're just shells darn it! There's no nut, just the shell, the salty shell, it's not even food!” she barks with frustration. “They're only……er……..made of….? What are nut shells made of mum?” she asks, leaning against the ladder for a breather whilst junior sputs and spurts.
“Well, they're er. … made of……woody….” I'm saved from declaring my ignorance as she hares off after her prey. “Stop it. Stop running. You know I'm gonna win,” she declares without any corroborative evidence. They dodge around the sofa, each vying for position. “Listen, sea shells aren't food right? So nut shells aren't food either. You'd lick a salty sea shell wouldn't ya? This is no different it's just a shell!” She launches herself over the body of the sofa, but he's off like a whippet at the starter gate, miles ahead. They streak back through the kitchen. She pauses. “Why won't he lick em Mom? Aren't they just like sea shells? What are sea shells made of?”
“Well….they're er…..made of……” Junior skates past again darting hither and thither like a beserk clockwork mouse. She plops herself down on the floor, “I just don't get it. What is his problem?” I step down from the ladder and hunker down next to her, beads of sweat forming on her brow.

“Thanks for trying lovie, but maybe we can find better ways?”
“I thought that was a better way.”
“I know you did dear, very logical, and I think he was having fun really. I think you're right, that making food more fun is a good way to go.”
“Do you remember when we made things out of mini marshmallows and cocktail sticks?” she beams.
“I do.”
“Didn't work though huh!”
“Well he “touched” them and after a few days, he would join in and make them too.”
“Do you remember when we played finger soccer with peas? That was fun too.”
“I do.”
“Do you remember when we made faces outta fruit?” I listen to her list the many ways in which we have attempted to entice her brother to at least be on touching terms with food stuffs. It is a very long list. I'm surprised that she remembers so many of them.
“Do you know what?”
“What dear?”
“I told my friend about the funny things we do with him.”
“Oh yes.” I wait, her shoulders curl inwards, her chin drops ever so slightly, her fringe languishes over her eye lashes.
“They said that he was weird.”
“I know,” she sighs, “everyone is different, it’s o.k. to like different things,” she parrots back at me. There’s nothing like a direct quote to make your appreciate the full banality of your own words. [translation = tolerance sounds so feeble]
“Ah! Well…..did you have fun doing those things? He started to have fun too. As long as we're happy doing the things that we're doing, and not hurting anyone else, then I don't think it matters what “other people think?” Now there’s fighting talk!

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