Thursday, October 15, 2009

My household: coming together?

Well, perhaps you've been wondering where I'm at with the pressure cooker that is my household? Six children, a dog, a few too many mice and me?

I had a long chat with my contrary young man's mother this weekend. She was most startled when I intimated that he might need to change homes. Apparently, she finds he's doing better this year than in the past, and that our household is having a good effect on him. All for the better, and yet, I left myself an out by expressing the extreme weariness these house-hold blow-ups engender in me. It's always on a Thursday. Thursday night is akin to the full moon at the local emergency room. Excepting that it occurs four times monthly, not just once! All the horrors of my past month -- the car breaking down, both household explosions, Gaetan's broken arm -- have happened on Thursdays. And to think, these were to be my lovely goat-cheese making days.

Mother to mother, we spoke and shared examples of her son's rigidity, his dislike of helping out, his tendency to pull the girls away from my boys, etc., I was careful to praise his initiatives, his ambition, his drive and his energy, before going on to discuss his remarkably tackless--though proudly direct--manner of sharing how he feels and thinks. She's pleased that he is speaking out (apparently this is relatively new for him), but listened as I expressed that cushioning his verbal attacks with a bit of grace and politesse might go a long way in endearing him to the household.

I shared with her last Tuesday morning's debacle when Gaetan had turned off our young man's alarm clock to assure himself a more tranquil morning; and that when he awoke and realized this, our young man did everything in his power to wreck that tranquil morning, turning on every light, making tons of noise (which traveled up to my room awaking me, and for which I was quite upset). I shared with her as well the more appealing image of Leo and he paying court to our teen girl, taking turns holding an ice cube on her wasp sting just behind her shoulder, right above her tiny little bra strap. It was a charming and relatively innocent scene: These twelve year olds seeking the good graces of our lovely thirteen year old.

In the end, we promised to keep in touch and see how the next week fared. And, as I say goodnight to a subsequent Thursday, I can testify that this week has been far easier, far calmer than the last. Perhaps it is the wind which has knocked us all about. Or, perhaps our young man received a talking to from his mum and is trying just a bit harder to adapt to our household.

I've had a few quiet moments with him this week in which I reiterated what I'd said two Fridays ago: please make an effort towards my boys. They and I are the center of this house. You cannot live with us, and ignore them. I stressed that befriending Leo could be the key to re-accessing the social life of the household. It was our young man that set into motion the either he or Leo scenario. He excluded my boys from his games and outings with the girls for much of this month, and Thursday last, he reaped what he had sowed. If he were to cultivate Leo, the girls would be less likely to succeed at the game of playing one off the other. Part of last Thursday's distres came when the girls allowed Leo and Jonas into their room for the first time since their arrival, but in so doing, adamantly excluded our young man. It was not a fun moment for him. And yes, he wept with frustration and anger.

However, I did not feel it my place to intrude too heavily in the situation. I spoke with each individually, urging them to tell me what was going on in each of their heads and hearts, but I did not demand that the girls let him in. I clearly saw that he'd paved the way for this eventuality. Thus, to my mind he needed to live it fully.

Over and beyond these dynamics, the girls have both expressed frustration at what they see as his laziness and his lack of alacrity towards doing his tasks, or anything else in the house. He mostly does what he's signed up to do, but, there he stops. His attitude has been to do the least he can get away with. And, this has been noticed.

I spoke with him yesterday, suggesting that he try to do more. That whether or not he shares this view of how hard he works and how much he contributes, he would do well to make more of an effort if he wanted to regain the girls' respect.

Voila, two routes to reintegration in the house: cultivate Leo and do more. I would truly appreciate it if he could find a way to be with Jonas that was not exclusively teasing and putting him down, but, it seems that this is not yet a possibility. Thankfully, Gaetan, our littlest girl and Leo are all present and play-mates to Jonas. So, he is not left out in the cold, little man that he be amongst all these pre-teens.

So, for the moment, our young man stays with us. The money I get from his parents certainly helps pay my grocery bills. Though I continue to debate the value of and consequent fatigue from spending so much time teaching, correcting, adjusting, nudging. I signed up to house and feed and care for. Did I sign up to raise these children too? Last year, the boarders were older, and far more autonomous. This year, I hear myself actively scolding, encouraging, teaching, pushing, and not only for the benefit of my own children. Mostly, my crew seem quite content with the household as it is coming together and functioning. Leo certainly adores having kids to play with at all times, and would likely go through withdrawel if I didn't continue to host children. For Jonas, on the contrary, I'm not so sure.

And onward towards another week. And at the end of next week: vacation! All go home to their respective abodes, and I, recover.


Gillian said...

While I empathise (having 2 x 16 year old daughters to contend with is quite enough for me), I had to laugh...the best laid plans - lovely-goats-cheese-making-Thursdays - happens to us all...

Madeleine Vedel said...

oh yes, minor family catastrophes do take precedence!

Zuleme said...

Yanno, you are doing some future wife an immense favor if you can teach this young guy to do housework!

Madeleine Vedel said...

Yes, this young guy, my two, and my 13 year old teen girl needs some serious lessons on what the concept of a clean dish really is. There are some educating moments ahead of me.