Reverse Psychology

I know I’m not the best parent that ever lived. Heck, I doubt I’m even the best parent on our block! Probably not even the best parent in our triplex, and Brandy and Steve haven’t even been parents for a full year yet… That’s not to say I don’t try, though!

And despite having a completely overloaded schedule, I still allowed my childhood companion, high school counselor, lifelong roomie, and long-time nemesis, Guilty Conscience, to whisper in my ear, “What kid is going to remember that you did this or that task for ‘their benefit’? What they’re going to remember is whether you took the time to spend time with them!” Gee, thanks, GC! You’re brilliant!

So, at the request of my 14-year-old, who oddly enough, broke character and rambled on in the kitchen for over 40 minutes (he’s a two – to – three sentence kind of kid, usually) about this new television program he happened upon, all while I prepared our dinner, I set aside the school books, and agreed to watch the pilot episode with him (thank you, Netflix, for your diverse library of programming). I did, so rudely, though, preface my response with the explanation that it could only be one episode on this particular evening, as I did need to continue on with my homework assignments – obligations are obligations, after all, and even in showing my propensity for taking time for quality time, I needed to also demonstrate that I was a responsible person!

The show was as interesting as he described, and it opened the opportunity for some informed and thought-provoking conversation between the two of us. I promised him we would re-visit the show as time allowed. Unfortunately, he didn’t like the idea of having to wait – although I didn’t exactly ask him to. By the time he invited me to join him in watching the program, he was already at Episode Five (proof positive that he didn’t have to wait for me), and wanted to advance forward. He learned quickly that I was not going to sit and binge-watch with him this time! Sorry, kiddo!

Okay, so here’s where things get complicated…

Remember, I already admitted my failure at “perfect parenting”, so no finger-wagging!

There are those times – definitely not right now, in the midst of these two heavy-homework-laden courses in school, but believe me when I say instances have presented themselves – when I have NOTHING better to do than to let my brain rot away, watching rerun after rerun of “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives”, and my beloved 14-year-old cannot divert his eyes from whatever electronic device holds him prisoner, not even long enough to acknowledge my existence. Do I say something? No. Do I unplug said device? No. Do I restrict future screen time? (I know I probably should, but please refer to previously posted disclaimer) No…

I think the most “reckless” thing I’ve done in such an instance was refuse to cook dinner when I couldn’t get a response to what he wanted to eat that evening. I called – TWICE! – on my way home from the office. I texted and asked for a return phone call. No response to anything. So I came home. And when he continued to stare at the computer screen, I simply curled up on the sofa with the hyper pup, a ginger beer and the tv remote. Was I worried about his nutritional well-being? Not really. He knows how to cook soup, eggs, pizza, potatoes, pasta… And if he wanted to be lazy but still indulge his taste buds, there was microwave popcorn, a variety of cereals available, as well as fixings for black bean nachos. I knew he wouldn’t starve. I just refused to put forth the effort myself since he wasn’t going to acknowledge my existence. On that same night, I even went up to bed without so much as a word to him (it was a Friday night). He didn’t stop to say “hi” or “hey” or “Delilah chewed up another soda bottle cap” (our dog; don’t ask!) Not a word. So I responded in-kind.

However, it seems without fail, the moment I mention I have a cascading mountain of assignments to attend to, and I beg for him to respect my need for quiet time, he all of a sudden becomes a social butterfly, or is absolutely compelled to find the loudest, most obnoxious, disruptive television programming the satellite dish in our yard can siphon from the cosmos. Really?! We have ONE television in our domicile, so it’s not as if he’s holed up in his room, channel-surfing. No, he’s sprawled out on the sofa, bag of potato chips rustling under the weight of his scavenging fist, making sure to ignore the passage of time and continue to fill the air with static noise. And because of the less-than-ideal wi-fi service offered in our area (only one provider, so it’s not like I can shop around for another provider – the only other option is paying 3 times as much to the same provider for “upgraded” speeds…), I’m trapped down in the adjacent dining room area, feverishly working on my laptop.

Not only that, but he’ll decide that on the weekend when I’m utterly slammed with research papers and exams, that he will simply die if he can’t have his long-time buddy come hang out at the house. What drives me up a wall is that despite MY need for solitary time in order to accomplish tasks, I end up having to be the chauffeur, the chef, the entertainment director, the moderator, the maid, and still manage to take care of my own checklist. “You do understand, I have a lot of homework to get done…” The empty promises of silence and respect for my work time; why do I fall for it?? I want my son to be social, to interact with his friends – to have a life away from the computer screen! I just don’t understand why he always seems to choose solitude and YouTube when there are no prerequisites on my time, but when I need a few hours of silence to devour the concept of balanced scorecards and product innovation, he can’t help but ponder, “I wonder how many episodes of this preposterous program I can watch before the sun comes up?”

I think I need to start using reverse psychology with him again, like when he was 4 or 5 years old. Please, make all the noise you want! Why don’t you invite your friends over? You don’t want to just sit there and stare at the computer screen all day, do you? Maybe then he’ll hunker down and not acknowledge my existence, allowing me ample quiet time (aside of the dog’s crazed barking fits, and the cat’s bellowing from the landing upstairs) to complete my assignments! Four and half more weeks to go!

Thirty days, and counting…

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