Max walked home from school yesterday, not Macca. He sauntered in brimming with news of his day, but first he said, “I’m sorry about this morning, Mum” and we had a big, warm cuddle. “We have to talk about that later,” I said. “But first, I made you your favourite gingerbread biscuits.”
On Mondays, it’s just me and Max. The girls go straight to Hip Hop with a friend and Max walks home from school. We have a quick catch up and some afternoon tea and then I go back to work and he does his homework at the desk behind mine. Sometimes he goes for a swim and I move my computer up by the pool.
We sat down over gingerbread bickies. In my experience, a guilty conscience always bakes the tastiest treats and gingerbread biscuits are a bridge over troubled waters – a way to say sorry, and thank you, and please don’t all in one. So Max and I talked about what went wrong this morning, what’s been going wrong for quite a while now. “I get so cranky,” Max said. “And sometimes I really feel like I don’t love you, Mummy.”
“I always love you,” I said. “Sometimes you’re pretty unlikeable, but you’re impossible not to love.”
“I’m sorry my feelings go away from love,” he confessed.
“It’s okay, I’ve got enough love for the both of us.”
After the chat, Max washed the car while I went back to work. We agreed that he would wash the car every week and if his bad attitude didn’t get him in trouble during the week, I’d pay him $5. I’d give him one warning during the week, but if Macca came back, he had to wash the car for free. I figured this was a reward and a punishment rolled into one simple thing we can keep track of. Anything more complicated and I find we all lose steam.
Other consequences Max came up with (besides removal of screen time) included:
- Taking away his books (“this would be for a VERY big crime, Mum”)
- Having to go to bed earlier than the girls (“Just don’t tell them”)
- Cleaning out the guinea pigs and the chickens (“On the same day”)
- Missing out on the family big watch of MKR on Sundays.
Every minute we spent sitting at the table together, writing out our list and agreeing the way forward felt like a massive parenting win. Not because I think I’ve solved this one (mate, it is just the beginning), but because we had a plan. And in parenting, as in life, you just gotta have a plan.
After work we drove the gleaming car to the library. Max came rushing over with Rohan Anderson’s ‘A Year of Practiculture‘. “I found you a book you’ll like, Mum,” Max said gleefully. “You’ll love this guy.”
And I did. And I do.