Saturday, July 01, 2006
THE FUN HOUSE
Kendrie -- Day 197 OT
Blaine -- Five weeks since radiation ended; nine more ‘til we find out if it worked. (But he has gone back to work, half days, which I think is good for everyone. Especially his co-workers, who are probably sick and tired of picking up his slack.)
OK, so, by the above title, “The Fun House”, I’m sure you are expecting some entertaining, amusing story about the wacky, madcap anecdotes of life in the Escoe house. You know, about how we’re all having fun, fun, fun, all the time. So much fun we can hardly stand it. So much fun I constantly say to myself, “Wow! I can’t wait to tell the Internet about THIS!”
You would be sadly mistaken.
Because the sub-title to this journal entry is: “The Never Ending Sleep-Over”
Now, to give you a little history, growing up, my parents were by no means wealthy. We didn’t have a swimming pool or tennis court in our backyard. We didn’t have a pinball machine (although I always wanted one) an X-box, or a PlayStation, or a Nintendo. If I wanted to play a rousing game of Pong or Pacman or Frogger (or my personal favorite, Galaga) I had to march myself to the local arcade. The closest we came to a video game at our house was the electronic memory game, Simon. Although I did love me some Simon.
And even though it perhaps wasn’t a carnival atmosphere at our house, with cotton candy and elephant rides, my parents worked very hard to make sure our friends felt welcome. There was always food in the fridge, something to drink, and we *did* have HBO, which seemed quite decadent at the time. Best of all, they didn’t hover when my sister and I had friends over. They would hang out in the living room and let us take over the den, doing whatever it is teenagers do. They weren’t dorks, and rarely embarrassed us, which is all that matters when you are dealing with friends. (Well, I do remember being embarrassed whenever my mom would dance … we’re Nazarenes, after all, and dancing wasn’t her forte …. Ms. Jan and Ms. SueEllen, you know what I mean?) :)
So I’ve said all along, when I grow up, I want to have the “fun house” …. the house that all my kids’ friends want to visit, and where they feel comfortable hanging out. Because as all parents know, you’d rather have your kids and their friends at YOUR house, where you can keep an eye on them, instead of doing Lord-only-knows-what someplace else. That plan worked pretty well for my parents, considering I never knocked over a 7-11 or got arrested or anything.
Sadly, I discovered this weekend that I do not have the fun house, nor am I the cool, fun parent. Rather, I am the grumpy old lady whose job in life is to squelch everyone’s fun. And I am apparently very good at it.
We had a brother-sister pair come over yesterday afternoon for a playdate, then the kids ambushed us with requests for a sleepover. I didn’t know the other mom very well, and felt embarrassed saying NO in front of her, although you can bet your sweet bippy I won’t make that mistake again. Because my “fun house” scenario involves much older children, that are capable of entertaining themselves, and have no need for discipline. A scenario where I am a fun, cool parent, one that exists peripherally, or in the background, without a lot of hands-on involvement, except for maybe forking over twenty bucks for the pizza delivery guy. And of course, hearing the whispered envy of friends: “Wow, I wish my mom was as awesome as yours!”
This weekend, however, was a harsh lesson for me in the difference between fantasy and reality. One where I discovered that I am way too lazy to have five kids between the ages of six and nine at my house for any 24-hour period. Because yes, that’s how long the sleepover lasted. Twenty-four tedious, mind-numbing, never-ending hours, filled with bickering and whining and fighting.
First, the other boy wanted his mom to go home and get his Playstation. He was horrified that we didn’t have some sort of video game system at our house. And that (gasp!) we only have one TV. I know! How archaic! And what made it worse was that he argued with her, in front of me, about how he NEEDED his Gameboy. Or whatever it was. Because otherwise he and Kellen would be stuck watching stupid movies with the rest of us. And that annoyed me, because I thought it was rude. Never mind if he thought it, or even believed it; I thought it was rude to say it out loud. So finally I squelched him by telling him *I* didn’t want his Gameboy here, that it wouldn't be much fun for the rest of us to sit around watching him and Kellen play video games all evening. Evidence #1 that I am a crabby, fun-sucking old lady.
Then we ordered pizza for dinner and when it arrived, he walked in the kitchen, stated, “I’m not hungry”, turned around and walked out. Although he did manage to help himself to at least five juice boxes (leaving those damn plastic straw wrappers everywhere!) from the fridge. Which annoyed me. Even though that’s why we keep the fridge in the garage stocked with extra juice boxes ….. it annoyed me that every time I turned around, he had a new one, and never asked if it was ok. Evidence #2 that I am a crabby, CHEAP old lady.
And my kids were by no means innocent cherubs, just standing on the sidelines. Having two sets of sibling dynamics was a constant balancing act. Either the girls were against the boys, or these three would gang up on these two, or these two would clique up and this one would get upset because they were left out; there were tears, yelling, pouting, fighting, name-calling …. You get the picture. If it had been just my three (and trust me, that scenario plays out pretty much daily around here) I would have put them on their beds for time out, and told them I didn’t want to hear it any more. But with two extra kids, and me not feeling completely comfortable disciplining them, things spun out of control.
All night long Blaine and I kept repeating ourselves: No slamming doors! No wrestling in the house! No fighting! Turn down the CD player! No jumping on the beds! No roller blades in the house! And at least three times: The rule at our house is you have to wear a helmet if you’re riding a bike!
They were bickering so much in the house that I took them all outside, hoping they would burn off some energy. We have three sets of roller-blades, three bikes, and three scooters. Naturally, all five of them wanted to do the same thing at the same time, and stood around yelling at one another about how “You cutted! It’s not fair! It’s my turn on the bike/skates/scooter!” and then of course the inevitable whine “Moooooo-mmm! He’s not giving me a turn!” (stomp, stomp, pout, pout)
Is it wrong of me to think that when kids stay the night, they should adopt a “When in Rome” philosophy? Or do all rules go by the wayside whenever guests are over? My children seem to think so. Because all five of them were wound UP and out of control. It bothered me partly that a few of these issues were safety concerns, like the fact neither of these kids wanted to wear a bike helmet. It bothered me more that as guests, they were so blatantly disapproving. And then I wondered if my expectations were too high, considering they were only 7 and 8 years old.
At 11:30 I took a deep breath and made them all get in bed “and I don’t care if you’re tired or not, mister!” …. Then had to tell the boy three times during the next half hour to get back in bed. Finally, shortly after midnight, I went into Kellen’s room to find him bouncing a rubber ball, and told him to get back in bed and quit playing. His response? “I don’t have anything to do” MY response? “It’s after midnight! The only thing you SHOULD do is get in bed and go to sleep!” Evidence #3 that I am a grumpy, TIRED old lady.
So then this morning, worried that I had been a tad bit grouchy, and determined to come across as a more nurturing, positive mother figure, I told the kids I would make them chocolate-chip pancakes for breakfast. Naturally, we were out of Bisquick. So I made them from scratch. Only to discover we were also out of chocolate chips. (Can you tell I haven’t been to the store since we got back from vacation?) So I put fresh blueberries in, only to be told by the little girl, “I don’t want blueberries in my pancakes, but I do want blueberry syrup.” And then she just sat there, like she fully expected me to produce it for her. If it had been one of my kids, they would have gotten our standard response: “What? Are you waiting for me to pull it out of my butt?” But I felt that might be sliiiiiiiiiightly inappropriate to say to a 7-yr old guest, so I bit my tongue. And suggested good ole’ Mrs. Butterworth could possibly help her out. And my nurturing personality lasted all of about fifteen minutes.
All through the morning, the fighting and squabbling continued. The little girl, every time she got upset, would threaten the other kids with, “I want to go home!” until I called her bluff and handed her the phone and told her to call her mother so she could come get her. We didn’t hear that threat again.
Please don’t think that I’m saying these two kids were monsters, they weren’t. Or that my three were virtuous little saints, because that’s certainly not the case! But I would have been horrified if I thought any of my kids went on a sleep-over and brought a movie from home, handed it to the mom with instructions to put it in, and “you’re going to make us popcorn, right?” Or telling a child, in front of his mother, that “This game is stupid” or “I’m bored” or “There’s nothing fun to do”.
Growing up, I cannot imagine talking to an adult host that way. Acting like that in front of one of my friend’s parents …. I never would have had the nerve. And to be honest, my mom would have beaten me like a red-headed stepchild if I had. Because you KNOW back in the day, when our parents all knew one another, another mom would have told my mom if I was a complaining brat, or if *my* behavior turned her kid into a complaining brat. Or maybe the mom would have just nipped it in the bud herself, something I was too cowardly to do. So what **did** I do today when their mom showed up? At 2pm, nonetheless, after telling me she’d be here before lunch? (And yes, I finally called her at 1:30 to drop a hint about her coming to get them.) I smiled, thanked them for coming, and didn’t say a thing. Evidence #4 that I am a grumpy, crabby, tired, cheap, FAKE old lady!
But at least now I know my “fun house” scenario has a better chance of coming true, because the behavior of my children last night and today proved to me that they have no business having a sleep over for at least five more years. Maybe ten. Or until after they're married. The *next* time I brave that situation, they’ll all be a little older, and hopefully a little better at entertaining themselves, and I won’t wind up being so ill-tempered and peevish.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go holler at some kids to get off my lawn.