Monday, December 28, 2009

Special Guest Writer: Experiment in Family Dynamics

It is a beautiful snowy, winter day and I am outside shoveling. I enjoy working outside in the snow, but don't enjoy the assumption that because Mommy is weird and likes shoveling that no one else has to help. I am resentful, but the endorphins are helping. So as I work my way to firmer triceps a thought occurs to me…. If I am out here getting this done, who is in there getting what I normally get done, done?

I wake up with a list of things that need to be done every day. You have the same list. My list varies depending upon the catastrophes de jour. Today's bonus items include:

(1) Microwave decontamination. Eldest wanted to know what would happen if you microwave an egg in its shell. [Sidebar: Her father seizes upon this as a teaching moment to show our daughter how pressure in a closed container changes with an increase in temperature. Personally, I would have thought the better lesson would have been to explain physics while CLEANING out the microwave. ]

(2) Bathroom floor decontamination. Other daughter had to pee but didn’t want to be bothered with trivial bodily functions so she waited until an explosion was imminent, peed through the toilet seats and onto the floor. Sadly, I have come to accept these things as normal.

As I clear six inches of powder, I notice my husband is in my kitchen. Yes, it is my kitchen because I am the one who cleans it. What is he doing? He appears to be eating the leftover pizza I was saving for myself and kegging his home brew. I have no ill will towards his hobby because he deserves it, and, let’s face it, I like beer. Perhaps he will clean up the kitchen as he is in there already?

Or, not.

I come in from yard work to find my husband has left for an afternoon of hunting, the equipment put away but the remnants of hops and yeast and barley and who knows what else scattered all over my kitchen, and, in yet another AMAZING home chemistry experiment, beginning to self-ferment on my counters. Really? Why must I do EVERYTHING?

So, just as I start to clean up the remains of his Pizza Crust Pilsner, and vindictively crack open his last cold beer, the idea hits me. I’m not going to do a damn thing … I wonder what will happen? Let's try an experiment...

Title: Controlled Abandonment as a Tool for Increasing Self-Sufficiency and Assistive Behaviors Among Ungrateful Subjects

Statement of the Problem: They are a bunch of ingrates who need to be taught a major Mommy-appreciation lesson.

Hypothesis: If I ignore my family’s needs, they will fend for themselves and begin to appreciate how much I do for them every day. Alternately, they will starve to death. In any either case, they will stop being a pain in my arse.

The Method: I will hide out in my bedroom (playing on the computer, napping and reading) and will totally ignore them all of them (unless intervention is required to prevent injury and/or death).

Procedure: I have a “discussion” with my children. I explain that I will be upstairs showering and resting and I do not wish to be disturbed. They can see that mommy is a little stressed and appear to be paying attention. After one of the most relaxing showers I have had in the last 10 years (probably because I just pounded hubby’s last beer on an empty stomach) I sit upstairs and observe, testing if my hypothesis is correct.

Data/Observations of Human Subjects:5:15: Daughters (ages 11 and 9) are hungry. They are attempting to make grilled cheese sandwiches. I should stop them. But I don’t. I hear the click, click, click of the gas pilot, the WHOOSH of flames and then “Holy crap! I HATE when that happens” but, they seem unharmed and have learned a valuable lesson, so I continue to listen. They are getting along and they are actually having a good time.
5:21: Maybe too good a time. Sandwich #2 is burning. Subjects decide it is a good idea to time each side as it cooks. Remarkable!
5:30: The dog is begging for her dinner and I hear my eldest feed her, I have never seen such unprompted responsibility! The real test will be if they take it upon themselves to clean up.
5:40: Husband has returned and is playing video games with our son. Will he too will react to hunger pangs in the same way and fend for himself?
5:47: The girls leave the kitchen, having cleared dishes to the sink but without doing any actual cleaning.
6:03: I am hungry and would love to go get a glass of wine but I do not dare leave – I must observe what the male subject will do. Will he feed the young one? Or will he ask for assistance? 6:15: I fear I may have to ruin the integrity of the experiment for the health and well being of the child, and my Saturday night glass of vino.
6:25: It is unnaturally quiet. Could they be making dinner or cleaning up? False alarm; they must have changed video games – yelling and cheering commences.
6:35: My son and husband should be starving by now. I did not anticipate that the hypnotic power of mindless video gaming would over-ride their biological need for food.
6:40: I’m going in for my wine.
6:42: Mission accomplished – and just in time - subjects are entering the kitchen.
6:43: A minor miracle. My husband is making my son an omelet for dinner and surprisingly enough neither has come looking for me.
6:48: My son asks husband where I am but no one seems concerned that they have not seen me in hours – very interesting.
7:04: Son sits down to eat.
7:11 Hubby is making a salad. Will he find me to ask if I have eaten and if I would like one?? Apparently not.
7:30: Need more wine and something to eat – going downstairs. Hubby eating his salad. This act highlights the fact that I have not eaten and that the care and feeding of Mommy is not important to the test subjects. I make my own dinner.
7:47: Husband starts to do the dishes, cleans the sink and wipes down the counters. Kisses top of my head absently and goes upstairs. Children are quietly doing their own thing. House is peaceful.

Results: Children are fed and kitchen is clean and I did not have to do anything. Controlled Abandonment appears to be a successful technique

Conclusion: For the next three days, test subjects washed dishes after dinner. As this is the first time in 11 years that this has ever happened, it may be a miracle. Helping behaviors peaked and then declined. Results may have been due to concern that "Mommy is losing it" (overheard). Mommy has not lost "it". Mommy has lost her bikini. Mommy will need it as she plans to replicate experiment and see if results can be duplicated. She will observe the effects of controlled abandonment once more. This time, from the Bahamas.

Special Thanks to Sophia L. for this gem.
xo, Lydia and Kate

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