Monday, October 24, 2011

Soggy Shoes

This past weekend, we celebrated FosterEema's birthday by going camping.  This time around, we met our camping buddies at what could better be described as an RV resort, rather than a grubby old campground.  This particular place has lush, green grassy spaces between each site, so it is quite lovely as compared to our favorite, but somewhat undeveloped, campground.

In the office there are large signs explaining the campground's watering schedule.  They water each night, Sunday through Thursday, to keep their lawns looking lush and green.  Since we stayed for several days (driving Danielle to school each morning and working remotely) we made a nightly habit of picking up our camp chairs, gear, and shoes so they weren't wet by the sprinklers.

During the length of our trip, Danielle was pretty unhelpful.  Although she did take a few bags of garbage to the dumpster when asked, she made it a habit of disappearing when chores needed to be done.  On FosterEema's birthday, after I'd made a nice meal and baked a birthday cake, Danielle showed up offering help only after I'd washed, dried, and put everything away.

I let her sweep the floor, which was the only chore left.  She rolled her eyes and didn't bother to suppress her annoyance.

The area of linoleum she had to sweep, by the way, is probably less than 15 square feet.  The task can be done in a couple of minutes.

Numerous times I asked Danielle to put away clothing, shoes, and other personal items that she'd left heaped in the dirt outside, stuffed in a stinky mess in cabinets where they didn't belong, or littering the dinette area.  Each time I asked her to help, she would exclaim, "G-d!," as if I'd asked her to do the impossible.

So finally, I got tired of asking.  When I found her stinky sweatshirt jammed into a cabinet, instead of put into her bag, like I'd asked, I hung it on the outside of the trailer and left it there, so I didn't have to deal with the smell.  Last night, after Danielle went to bed early to avoid helping to pack up our campsite, I noticed that she'd left her tennis shoes and the nice pair of suede boots some friends had given her for her birthday, right in the middle of the lawn.

When I spotted this, I debated waking Danielle up to go pick up her crap.  I decided against it, because I knew it would simply trigger a rash of complaining and ugliness.  Since I didn't want the nice suede boots ruined, I quietly picked them up and put them in the back seat of my truck.  The sneakers I left where they were, figuring they could be an object lesson in natural consequences in the morning.

Predictably, Danielle's shoes were sopping wet and she was furious.  "Where are my boots?" she demanded.

"Where did you put them?" I asked.

Danielle swore up and down that she'd brought them into the RV the night before.  (She hadn't.)  She accused me of stealing them. 

FosterEema and I extended our sincere sympathies.  ("Gosh, I hate when I forget to put my things away like I am supposed to.") but we also asked the question, "Who is responsible for putting your shoes away?"

"Thanks for not doing me a favor," she surled. "Where are my boots?" she demanded.

FosterEema, who legitimately didn't know where I had put them, replied, "Maybe someone picked them up.  It's a shame you didn't put them away last night."

"Well I guess I'll go to school barefoot," Danielle threatened.

FosterEema and I ignored her threats, and eventually she went outside and stomped around in the wet grass.  She sulked on the picnic bench, and banged her soggy shoes on the ground in a futile attempt to dry them out.

"If you put your feet under the heater in the car," FosterEema suggested, "they'll dry out some on the way to school."

Eventually, Danielle got into the car (around the same time she'd be catching the bus) and FosterEema drove her to school.  During the 30 minute ride, Danielle made a big show of not speaking to FosterEema.  She also made it very conspicuous that she was not using the electronic device we'd given her for her birthday, and was instead using the older, less functional, one she'd previously been complaining about.

If Danielle thought that giving FosterEema the silent treatment and dissing her birthday gift would have an impact on us, she was grossly mistaken.

1 comment:

  1. I have read your blog off and on for years, and there are a lot of times I cringe at your honesty, and sometimes what I perceive as mistakes. That said, I am glad you are sticking with this kiddo. A lot of people with opinions haven't spent time in the trenches. Most people who have "experience" with troubled kids either get to go home to peace at the end of the day or else provide limited time care. This is not easy, it's impossible to do perfectly, and the reality is that just doing it each day is it's own accomplishment. I think the reward comes when your work is done, the time when you are actively and desperately trying to create basic skills passes, and you get to see the progress however small and love the child you raised even though they have enormous limitations. Danielle will not be perfect, but I imagine that she will be a better mother than she was born to, and that her child will be even healthier and a better mother than Danielle, and that ultimately your effort will have a ripple effect that eventually ends deep generational dysfunction. So, all in all, no applause for a job done perfectly, but some recognition for a tough job done as well as you can do it.


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