Sunday, July 17, 2016

Grounded Tween = World's Most Helpful Tween

My daughter is currently enrolled in a two-week summer program at the middle school she will be attending in the fall. It's a good chance for her to learn her way around the school, and it gives her something to do. Every morning, she rides her bike to her old elementary school and then catches a bus to the middle school. There is a span of three hours or so between when she gets home and when her dad and I get home from work. The rules for that brief span are pretty basic. In fact, there is only one main rule, which is: "no friends over while Mom and Dad are at work." The other rule is more of a goes-without-saying sort of thing: "don't use the stove."  She wouldn't really use the stove anyway, because she prefers to have meals prepared for her so that she can reject them on sight. I keep telling her that she's 11 and is perfectly capable of planning and preparing a meal (something that she would like to eat), but whenever I make that suggestion, she looks at me as thought I've recommended that she gnaw on the dogs for sustenance.

On Friday, I did some shopping after work and then headed home. When I walked in, I was juggling bags of groceries but my kid didn't even look up from her iPad. I put everything away, and then sorted through the tote bag she had left on the kitchen counter (containing her bike helmet, rain jacket, etc.)  I decided to toss the bag into her room. In the middle of her bedroom floor, I spotted a grey hoodie that I didn't recognize. I picked it up and looked at the tag. Nope, definitely not hers.

Hoodie in hand, I went back to the living room. "Whose is this?" I saw the oh shit expression cross her face. I could see that she was thinking fast, trying to figure out how to throw me off the trail.

"I don't know," she tried. "It's not mine."

"Yeah, I know it's not yours. Whose is it?"

She looked down and admitted that it belonged to a friend who lives down the street. Since the hoodie had not been in our home that morning, I didn't have to be a seasoned NYPD detective to know that her friend had been in the house while we were not home. As a matter of fact, she had three girls (sisters) in the house and admitted that she'd done it once before.

I could feel the heat rising in my face. "GROUNDED!" I yelled and sent her stomping off to her room. I took her iPad and put it on top of the refrigerator.

"I can't believe she did this," I told my husband, who was doing a stellar job of parenting from his spot on the couch, where he has been playing the same video game for weeks now. But, I digress.

The rule is in place, of course, not to ruin my daughter's social life, but because if something happened to one of her friends while we weren't home, I have to assume that we would be liable/responsible regardless. It's just too dangerous. I did give her some credit for admitting what she had done, but I was still profoundly disappointed in her.

Earlier that day, I had stopped at the mall to talk to a representative from the cellular company that provides our cellular phones and service. I wanted to find out what it would cost to add our daughter to our plan. She's been begging for a phone and now that she will be in middle school (and is dying to sign up for all kinds of clubs and plays and such), I thought it might be good for her to have a way to call when she needs to be picked up if she has after-school activities. Anyway, the helpful sales dude gave me his card and a brochure. He had circled the plan that would work best for us.

After my anger had subsided a teeny bit (but not very much), I marched back to my daughter's room and waved the brochure at her. "Just so you know," I told her, "I checked into getting you a phone today. You lost your chance now."

Her jaw dropped and she began to wail.  She stormed outside into the back yard and sat in the dirt behind our lone tree. She took Grover with her. After a while, I went to check on her. Tears were rolling down her cheeks. "Don't you trust me anymore?"

"Nope," I said. This tough love stuff is not easy, let me tell you.

I left the brochure on the counter for the next two days so she could remember that decisions have consequences.

The weekend plans had to be changed a bit, of course. She had been looking forward to taking Grover to the dog park on Saturday.  I let her know that she would not be going. So, I took Grover by myself. When we got home, I did lay it on a little thick and told her that we had SO much fun and there were SO many dogs there.

Her weekend wasn't full of unceasing torment, because her dad and I did take her to see "The Secret Life of Pets" on Saturday. I had purchased the tickets on Friday and didn't want to let them go to waste.

On the way home from the theater, she asked me, "Mommy, did you like the movie?"  This was completely out of character for her. Her dad and I started chattering to each other in fake British accents, which did not amuse her AT ALL.

"Mother, did you thoroughly enjoy the cinema this afternoon?" 
"Was the movie quite to your liking, m'lady?" 
"Indeed, good sir!"

After the movie, I dropped them off at the house because I wanted to run to the grocery store to pick up a couple of things I had forgotten. When I came home with my lone bag, the kid sprang forward and said, "Do you need help carrying anything, Mommy?"

"Um, you're laying it on a little thick, Goober."

The grounding will end tomorrow morning and she'll get her iPad back. I did extract a few chores from her, such as talking Grover for a walk and cleaning out some junk in her room.  Since she couldn't watch TV or use a computer/iPad, she dug out a few craft projects. I think it is good for her to get some time away from electronics regardless. This afternoon, we watched a friend's three-year-old son for a few hours. I made my daughter chase him around at the park and keep a close eye on him. I saw her talking to some girls she knows, so I reminded her that grounded people don't socialize.

I'm pretty proud of myself for enacting a consequence because honestly, it's so much easier not to. I'm willing to bet she won't be entertaining in our living room while no one is home, though. At least not anytime soon.

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