Just because I know better doesn't always mean I do better.
People like me who utilize CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) strategies love crap like chore charts: anything demonstrating tangible, measurable results gives us a contact high better than any aerosol can, can. But let's be honest - trying to get your family on board with any new system is like trying to train cats to care. I recently instituted a new chore system for my whirling dervishes of mayhem, known as my family, and its allure lasted all of two days before I started getting eye-rolls from Rocker Chick (my 13-year-old) and protests from Drama Queen (my 9-year-old). That said, the goddamn chart stays and I calmly refer to it daily. You want a ride to music lessons? Sure thing, just make sure you've done your chore today. Want a sleepover with a bevy of tweens, at my house? Yep, you guessed it - talk to the chart.
Even with the chore chart and some time on my hands, my house is always disheveled. Not quite at the level of A&E's Hoarders, but enough for people to know that I don't use cleaning as an anxiety-reducing strategy. I like to make piles. I have little towers of books and newspapers and magazine articles I'm plowing through. It's my adult version of fort-building, so there.
I say this fact without any guilt because I know there are many times my girls find me just as irritating. While I won't come out and say they're bugging me quite that directly, they've both gotten to the age when I'll tell them some social skill truisms we've all had to learn, such as:
a. You can't tell the same joke to the same person more than once. Glad you got the laugh, but move onto a different funny.
b. I want to hear about you and your friends, but please don't re-enact every bit of dialogue. Give mama the Cliff Notes version, I'm quick that way.
c. Try to save your True Confessions or Juicy Stories until after I've had my coffee or before 9pm. In fact, unless you're deathly sick or scared, assume the hours between 9pm-7am weekdays and 10pm-9am weekends are all yours.
Maybe it's a byproduct of what I do, but I see kids living through shit no grown-up should have to endure. So when Drama Queen or Rocker Chick decide to occasionally lose it over something like not having their laundry done or how life would be more fair with the latest iPhone, I either feign sympathy or just state plainly 'too bad, buttercup'. On a more serious note, there are other issues which arise for them that I'll initially not think are worth the energy they pour into them, but I try to remind myself they're only 13 and 9, and just because they don't have PTSD-worthy worries doesn't mean they're not entitled to a pity party once in a while.
This is one I actually feel sincerely badly about...because when my kids were little, I just wasn't the sit-on-the-floor-for-hours playmate mom. I would certainly take them out and snuggle and arrange play-dates with others, but the simply act of playing with a dollhouse was beyond me.
And now, guess what I'm often doing with my elementary-aged clients? Yep...sitting on the floor with them and using elements of play therapy in our work together. And the friggin' irony of it all is that I'm good at it with other people's kids. I get into character, use different voices, and follow their lead like an improv pro. Heavy sigh. Ok, so I know I'm ending this post on a low note, but the truth is, I consider one of my biggest failings as a parent to be my inability to be more playful. All I can say is, I'm working on it.