“It’s just smooth sailing, nothing but calm seas and blue horizons, as far as the eye can see. Do you understand what I’m saying?” (Carrie, Sex and the City)
I’d like to report it was smooth sailing after the agreement between the adults was signed, but alas, there was a bump in the road.
A big one.
My husband had driven to Arizona to pick up his daughter and bring her “home.” He called me to let me know he had arrived safely. His voice was excited and animated, he was literally bubbling was joy as he shared the details of his drive, everything he had done since arriving including the fact that he was at the small town’s high school basketball game and how much fun he was having…and then he blew it.
“You would be so proud of me!” he exclaimed. “I’ve been negotiating like crazy down here since I arrived!”
Cue the sound of a needle being moved across a record on a turntable and the immediate silence that follows it. I don’t think it had ever been more deafening.
“What do you mean,’ negotiating’? And with who?” I asked. I couldn’t imagine who he’d need to be negotiating with or what possibly could need to be negotiated. Turns out, he had been ‘negotiating’ with the daughter who was coming to live with us.
I was appalled. First of all, and from my perspective, his daughter had no negotiating power—she had nothing to offer, not a thing to bring to the table. She was troubled, she had a history of poor choices (she’d blown her previous two living arrangements through her failure to abide by certain rules), her mother said she couldn’t take her, there was nowhere else for her to go but our home. (She is a cute, nice girl, by the way. Some teens just struggle to find their way.) Second, the deal hadn’t even begun and already the details of the agreement the adults had signed just the night before was being modified!
That is SO not the way I raise children.
I’m no expert but I was raised in a good home by good parents who modeled really good parenting practices—my mom even had a master’s degree in family relations and had written a book about children—she knew, and practiced, her expertise for which I am the grateful beneficiary. My parents’ parents, my grandparents, were also really good parents and raised great kids, not to mention I’ve studied and read a lot about parenting in the attempt to be an effective parent myself and maybe I come from whacky parenting traditions or I may be way off base (tell me if I’m wrong and I just can’t see it!) but I’ve always believed you wait to re-evaluate a situation until after you’ve at least tried living with it (for at least one week!) and THEN, based on need, behavior, performance or whatever criteria you establish (and only after children prove themselves and demonstrate they can be trusted with additional freedom, privileges, or whatever the need may be) you make adjustments.
I expressed my disbelief (and disagreement) of what was taking place. I suggested he return to the basketball game and we talk later. And I hung up the phone, shaking my head but NOT with the usual laughter!
WHAT had I just gotten myself into?
“Another fine mess you’ve gotten me into.” (Stan Laurel)
That’s exactly how I felt.