Sunday, August 16, 2015

Avoidance blanket

Yesterday was so hot, the only thing we did was go to The Dollar Store. We were there to get my daughter a plastic cheerleading baton, which would be (inevitably) weaponized, but it was Saturday afternoon and we were low on options.

Feeling expansive because everything cost $1, I put two "chore charts" and two composition notebooks in the basket. This ominous event was not lost on my son. School started in less than two weeks, and dreadful changes were afoot. There would soon be -- according to me -- fifteen minutes of "homework" and one "chore" before anyone could flop in front of the TV and demand takeout from the kitchen. And about that takeout . . .

Really, the chore charts were for me, as I am trying to step up my game. It is all too easy to let the kids do whatever they want. (Per Myers-Briggs: "INTP parents take a relaxed, intellectual approach towards their children . . . Having no interest in exerting control over other human beings, . . . INTP personalities are not particularly demanding parents . . .")

Still, I appreciate the value of "forming good habits," etc. Most other parents seem to think such things are kind of a big deal.  Okay, okay!  As Shakespeare's Portia puts it: "Happy in this, she is not yet so old but she may learn."

* * * * 

Cut to today, when the chore charts are still in a bag on the table, and my son is following me around, asking me to buy some Minecraft-related thing from Xbox Live.

After a whole day indoors with Minecraft, I am Minecrafted out. His speech comes through like this: "Blah blah . . . texture pack . . . blah blah . . mod . . . blah blah . . . I need . . . "

He followed me into my bedroom, where I put a down comforter over my entire body and said: "I'm at the store."

". . . Blah blah?"

"I went to the grocery store to get some milk. I'm not here. You're in charge."

Working entirely from my own mothering playbook, I proceeded to explain to him that I was in my Avoidance Blanket, i.e., "at the store."

He laughed and crawled under there with me. "Avoidance Blanket," he repeated.

"You try it!"

As he cowered under the blanket, I pretended to call his name. "Where are you?  Come out!  It's important."

A tiny voice squeaked: "I'm in Japan!"

Hilarity ensued, and this is -- for better or worse -- my style.

It is not a straightforward winner like the chore chart. But I believe its benefits will bear out over time. Because avoiding unpleasant things is human nature, and also funny, and making jokes about avoiding things is an exercise in self-awareness, I would be happy to joke about the Avoidance Blanket with my kids for the next ten years.

I like to think that, by college -- after a childhood of playful dialogue -- they will not be the ones demanding "trigger warnings" or banning speakers with whose viewpoints they disagree.

Hopefully, my kids will see those kids and be like: "Um, okay. Enjoy your Avoidance Blanket. With the excellent study habits I've formed, I'm switching to a science major right now."

(Image: Portrait painting of Princess Auguste Wilhelmine Maria (1765-1796) with children (public domain) via Wikimedia Commons)

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