Saturday, November 22, 2008

Broken record

My kids spent an hour today writing lists for Santa. Not even letters -- just lists: item after godforsaken item that they WANT.

When my parents were here my mom helped them clean up their bedroom and playroom because they were unutterably awful. (This after a week of me patiently asking them daily to spend some time on their room so that it would be in good shape when Grandma came. Clearly to no avail.)

This morning they spent just over an hour upstairs. They were getting along (or at least no blood curdling screams or gigantic crashes could be heard emanating from their space) and I assumed that it was picked up with the exception of the GeoTrax train set that is spread all over everything. One item or set I can handle; it's the billions of Lego on top of the trains, covered in paper and markers, with a few Dora house pieces thrown in that I can't stomach.

After telling them that I was a little disappointed that they put so much effort into composing their want lists and that I sincerely wished they would take care of the items they currently own before demanding a thousand other things that will only serve to make my house more of a disaster than it currently is, I inquired as to the state of their room. When I suggested that I might go up to inspect, they almost ran each other down getting to the door before me. "Let us check," they said. "We just want to make sure."

Within 5 minutes the aforementioned gigantic crashes and an assortment of angry cries and not a little yelling (gee, I wonder where they learned that?) were heard in my once-peaceful house.

Apparently it is a mess. What a shock.

I know I bitch about this constantly; I am sorry. It's just that this issue threatens to drive me to the brink.

What do I do? How do I handle it? Do I have to resort to daily inspections?

And how, other than the guilt trip I just laid on them, do I get them to understand how fortunate they are? We donate to the food bank; we give to Goodwill; we contribute to worthy causes; this summer they and a friend actually donated their own money to the Red Cross and learned about how that money is used to help people. And what do my kids do? Make insane lists of toys they don't need, won't play with, and will absolutely not pick up except under threat of bodily harm. Oh, and they fight.

I think I'm taking the Christmas fund this year and going to Australia. If there's enough left over I'll bring Rob and hire a babysitter for the kids. Otherwise, they're on their own.


  1. Anonymous7:20 PM


    Good gawd, it sounds like my house. I was tempted to give up . . . but if you're not gonna give up, I can't. I'm trying to emulate you! :)

  2. Could be time to cut bait on some of the toys they already have...

    A thought: Ask them to total the number of items they have listed. Let's say it's 25 things. Ask them if, in order to get these 25 things, will they give away 25 toys they already own? And that's not 25 pieces, it's 25 whole sets of things.

    Also...have them price out all the stuff they want. Total it up. Ask they think that's a reasonable amount of money to spend on a kid for Christmas. Better yet, you price out all three lists and then tell them about someone you over heard talking about how they spent $500 on their kids for Christmas. Ask them what $500 buys. Better yet, demonstrate what $500 buys.

    (an aside...we are considering dropping cable because our bill went up and we're paying - I kid you not - $70 month on cable TV. When I said we should drop it they were sad...then I said, $70/mo is $840/year. What could we do with $840? For that we can buy season passes to all the places in DSM that we like to go (amusement park, museums, zoo) and still have a reasonable amount of ice cream money leftover. They're seeing my point on ditching cable.) them the cost and the value for the items...what are they getting? Are they happier because they have this? Is it really happy fun times at the homestead when mom's yelling and boys are fighting? WHY do they want these things? WHAT is it about them that makes them so great? Tell them they need to justify their lists.

    And good luck to you...this is a battle I'm still trying to win myself.

  3. Last night we had a family meeting with the kids and decided "as a family" that since we were moving and didn't need a bunch of stuff that we would pick a day and go out to a nice meal as a family and spend time together picking out a gift for each other. We are setting a limit or amount for each person and the gift/s that we choose are from the other three members. We even talked about going somewhere new to shop and spending the night at a cheap hotel with a pool-always a thrill for my kids.

    On the punishment side of my comment I want to share my new punishment system with Sam. Sam got in big trouble and I was tired of yelling so after I cooled down a bit the two of us sat and made a list of punishments that we both agreed on. They varied in severity...items like: give your monthly allowance to a dessert of pop for 2 weeks...practice handwriting for an hour...things that he thought were horrible punishments.
    Anyway, this weekend when Sam has not listened to my request/s I have asked him if I need to choose something from "his list" and he obeys immediately. Who knows how long this will last, but I ma pleased with the lack of bitching on my part.

  4. No dessert or pop for 2 weeks??? That IS horrible!

  5. Can I tag along? I'd bring Kurt, but lately I haven't been able to locate him in the mess of toys we call our home.

  6. I am coming too.