Day 5, 2012

Inertia. The bane of mothers with teenage children everywhere. The propensity to sleep late, move to the couch once awakened and play video games all while texting is maddening. Mac is usually pretty active but since we returned from vacation, he has had motivational issues. My biggest fear is that it is going to be contagious
so every day I renew my commitment to getting everyone out of the house for at least a little while to do something.

The Montgomery County Fair is a tradition in our household. We attend the Fair on Monday to get our discounted ride bands, attend pig races, eat bad food and we always run into tons of people because discount day is wildly popular as the fair now costs as much as your average hotel in Ocean City for the weekend.

But this year, Monday came and went and I was still in my food poisoning induced haze which meant no Fair going. So we had determined that Thursday was the next day we had free to attend. Because it was my stomach’s fault we had missed the bargains, I felt I still owed it to the kids to take them no matter the cost. I brought the Fair schedule for the day up on-line and was disappointed to see, well, nothing. No pig races until at least 2pm, no monster truck activity until the evening and no special events in between. I knew “The Midway”– that is carni talk for the rides– didn’t open until noon so I decided that we would go late and stay late.

I gave the kids chores including walking the neighbor’s dog and told them when all was completed, we could leave. I repeated the chore list at least ten times in the ensuing hours with no results.

As a diversion from real work, Drew and Reed played stick ball in the front yard. Unfortunately they were using the dog’s tennis ball and he was forced to jump as if to catch the ball each time Drew pitched it and then crashed into the storm door which was his barrier to the outside world. I don’t know who was more tortured by this, the dog or me from the sound of him banging into the door over and over again.

Finally at 1pm, having served lunch and gotten the chores quasi-completed under great duress, I began to wonder if the kids were really all that psyched about going to the fair. Time for a meeting.

I called the boys in and it turned out that, as I suspected, Mac had no interest in the fair at all if no one was going with us. Drew was on the fence and Reed was all in. Although both Drew and Reed kept asking who was going to be there. I never asked my parents who was going anywhere. In fact, I never asked my parents anything. Ever. I just got in the car. I will never understand how all these qualifiers became a part of everyday life for kids.

So, because the parent handbook requires it, I gave them the lecture about making our own fun and family time and how brothers can be friends if you just learn to appreciate each other. And in homage to the Agricultural Fair, they all bestowed upon me the dull stare of the dairy cow.

I then shared with them the math on the cost of the fair. Three wristbands for rides would cost $75. It would be $20 for Mac and I to just walk through the Fair gates. Even if we brought in food, we would end up spending $25 or so on some junk. And the games are always another $20. We were up to a $140 minimum if we were conservative. If there is one thing I’ve learned in our family dynamic it is that the nay-sayer always pulls down the other kids with him eventually. I needed a unanimous Fair vote or my wallet was staying sealed.

I began lobbing other ideas at the kids in the hopes of reaching some consensus. How about renting a boat at Lake Seneca and going on a nature day? Groan. How about going to hit golf balls? Nope. Reed reminded me that we had never gotten him new clubs and we had no left-handed clubs in the house. The pain of being the youngest is bad enough but being the only lefty adds a twinge of angst. Ok. How about going to the movies? Close… but, no. Everyone wanted to see something different and none of the movies were beginning at the same time. We would have been at the theatre for 6 hours trying to accommodate everyone. How about a Frederick Keys game? Nope. No game until 7pm would leave us with hours of nothingness in between. I stared at all three of them splayed all over my bedroom and thought they would have just laid there all day if I let them.

Before I had to face yet another rejection, my phone chimed and I looked at a text from a neighbor saying that her kids were going to the pool. How about going to the pool? Ok, they said. Really, the pool? The pool one block away. Now why didn’t I think of that?

Just then the doorbell rang and one of Mac’s friends appeared selling discount cards for the local high school. Without hesitation, my kids knew I wanted to buy one. Coupons, gift cards and discounts are my obsession to the endless mortification of my children.

One day recently I decided to try to use only gift cards all day. I spread them out on the counter like a Vegas dealer giddy with the possibilities. Five Below, Starbucks, Target and various Visa and MasterCard gift cards to boot. I had cleaned out all the drawers, containers and pockets in the house but had no idea what the remaining balance was on any of them. My children actually walked away from me in Five Below when I handed the third gift card to the cashier and the line began to snake down the aisle behind me. What do they know?

Mac’s friend was also going to the pool after he finished his door-to-door rounds of the neighborhood so this is now a solid plan with a friend for everyone. This is the most activity and enthusiasm I had seen from my crew all day but I was exhausted from trying to motivate them for the last four hours.

Mark surprised us all by coming home early so we planned a family dinner at one of the restaurants on my new discount card. Mark endures my penchant for coupons because it is one of my few vices and because I don’t make him actually use them. I do all the dirty work while he pretends not to know me.

The boys joke, tell stories and are unusually animated at dinner and at Baskin Robbins for ice cream afterwards. The absence of bickering and whining makes this one of the best family outings we have had in some time. I am left to wonder, could they have been saving all their energy for this? If so, then maybe a little inertia isn’t such a bad thing after all.

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Magnificence in the Mundane

Finding humor in kids and chaos

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Magnificence in the Mundane

Finding humor in kids and chaos

WordPress.com

WordPress.com is the best place for your personal blog or business site.

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