My sister needs a break in a big way. I've been wracking my brain lately to think of ways to help her, and I think I've figured something out that will really lighten her load up a bit. She's got a very demanding, insomniac infant that she's breastfeeding who never allows her much time to rest, so that alone is reason to be frazzled and have your once steel nerves be shredded completely, but it gets a lot more complicated than that. Until now, I've been spending occasional days/nights there taking care of the household chores & general cleanup, making meals, helping with the kids, and getting laundry caught up. I'll still do that, but I believe in the old adage that if you give a man a fish and you feed him for a day - but teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. First, a little backstory on the family:
Home: A great place out in the country, nice and quiet on the outside and not nearly enough quiet on the inside. 5 humans (Mom, Dad, 3 kids) 3 cats, 1 dog. Much laundry, many dishes, and the usual clutter. Kids have been homeschooled for the past year, and are about to reenter public school in the next 2-3 weeks.I'm working out the details on how to give a lifestyle makeover for this family and rules/delegated responsibilities/commitments for them to enact that will give them all a chance to participate in making the house run smoothly and effectively, and mostly giving the kids (who are now old enough) responsible choices to make to budget their time between school, homework, chores, and leisure. Mom & Dad have also got to be vigilant about their own maintainance and participation in order for all of this to work.
Mom: Christi. Also known as daisy_down. Stay-at-home Mom. On the proverbial ledge because she's overworked (that's a spectacular understatement) and severely unrested. Demanding baby, difficult children (one is a 14 year old boy, do the math; the other is an oversensitive, emotionally taxing preteen girl with health issues). Already exhausted without the incessant kid bickering and neverending drive on them to do their chores - they already know, but get nothing done without having to be told to do something, and it is always an argument. Had 2 miscarriages before conceiving the new baby, so has effectively been pregnant for two years. The new baby was a high risk pregnancy, so homeschooling the kids suffered - but they're going back to public school and reentering where they should be. Needs help, and fast.
Dad: Tony*. Hard worker, always busy, overcommitted, not at home as much as he should be and not as effective at contributing to household stuff as he needs/is needed to be. Thinks being supportive and helpful = the occasional "Are you okay?", but not the occasional picking up after self or doing any of the household chores that need attention. Delusionally thinks that as the breadwinner that he's absolved from anything else, apparently. Has anger issues and is prone to explosive temper tantrums/outbursts with a tendency towards belligerence. Heart of gold, best and most loyal friend you could ever have, loves and defends his family tremendously.
Eldest Child: Jake*. 14, so completely unfit for society (as 90% of all teenagers are). Typical smartass, complains that everything is "not fair", and by everything I mean anything he is required to do and any consequences he must pay as a result of his actions. Extremely argumentative, somewhat immature for his age, argues with sister regularly. In spite of all of this, is a very good kid and we've decided to keep him. Loves his Uncle Biscuit.
Middle Child: Sara Claire*. 10, hormonal preteen. Extremely precocious, but leans toward lazy and tends to half ass all chores/tasks by taking the easy way instead of the effecive way every time - practically without fail. Moody, tends to sulk a lot which drives EVERYONE batshit crazy. Is suffering from Crohn's disease, the most recent bout of which is likely going to require surgery in coming weeks, so is in a great deal of discomfort a lot of the time. Also suffers from the delusion that she is smarter than most adults, and decides to do things on her own timetable instead of the one given her. Thoughtful and insightful, sweet and affectionate, and Loves her Uncle Biscuit.
The Baby: Willow. Looks like Suri Cruise, only much prettier and with relatively sane parents. Loves her Uncle Biscuit, as well as the rest of the family, but is demanding and cannot get on a sleep schedule. Hates anything that requires her to lay on her back, actively despises carseats. Loves Stephen Colbert (I'm completely serious, she loves him - when the show comes on, she cooes at the tv screen). Farts a lot.
* Is in for a VERY rude awakening.
Basically, I want to assign roles to everyone so that each knows what they are responsible for. The parents have to know how to hold accountable for X thing and to issue appropriate consequences for breaking rules, not meeting responsibilities or finishing chores/tasks in an appropriate timeframe, and making sure it all gets done correctly as the habit has been to half-ass everything instead of getting it done right the first time. Issuing punishments will no longer be an argument, simply a notice given. Arguments are curtailed immediately, and will result in stiffer punishments without fail - no more free rides or looking the other way. The beauty of MY system is that as long as they do what they're taught is the correct way to do chores, behave appropriately, and meet their responsibilities - they never ever have to be punished - so should they wind up being punished for any reason, it will be clear that it is their own fault. individual punishments (no tv, no computer, no video games) are ineffective, so from now on punishment = being grounded. Being grounded means you finish your schoolwork and your chores, then you go to your room - where you may read at your leisure, but that is all. The only reasons to come out of your room are for bathroom breaks and meals, nothing else, no exceptions.Likely it is going to meet with resistance, but that's just too fucking bad.
Once school starts and bedtimes established, everything will run on a certain schedule. Their is a 2-3 hour window of time after school and completed homework assignments to budget between getting chores done and indulging in leisure time. School/homework comes before everything, as it is their primary job/responsibility. All household chores the kids are responsible for will be divided equitably into three categories: daily, every other day, and once a week (limited to weekends). Two lists will be made covering all chores, and they will alternate week to week on each list. Jake will be blue, Sara Claire will be pink. The lists will be posted permanently on a board in the home office, and Mom will be responsible for assigning each list as blue or pink each Monday for that week. She will not address whether or not a chore is completed until 6-7PM daily (check time), at which point everything must be completed in order to have leisure time watching TV, playing video games, or having computer time. This will effectively have them earning their leisure time, which is the point to teach them how to be accountable for their time and responsibilities. Everything is listed out for all to see and there should be no reason come check time for anything to have been unfinished.
Any instances of arguments or fighting between the kids will be handled by parents calling time out, at which point they will have to go outside until their issue is resolved. They're old enough to start compromising with one another, and when they fight with each other is never has anything to do with Mom or Dad - so I'm instructing Mom & Dad to not only divorce themselves from the tension, but no longer allow it in her home. Home is a safe, sacred place where strife and disharmony is no longer allowed - you WILL work out your differences and you WILL be kind and respectful to one another. They'll learn by being tired of having to go outside and not being allowed back in until conflicts are resolved or squashed, and they will do it for themselves.
I'll be there in the beginning of next week to put all of this down to paper and discuss it at length with the adults before bringing the kids on board, and will be there as it is all being explained and put into place as a system to address any questions and give appropriate answers. Basically, I'm going to throw down this gauntlet and be the proverbial 'bad guy' who ends summer vacation laziness, and let Mom & Dad shine as the bystanders who happen to agree with it all, only it isn't THEIR idea. That way any hostility or resentment gets directed outside of the house and away from Mom & Dad. Deliciously evil, innit?
I've already told Christi that if they complain about it not being fair, they are to call me and not complain to her as this is my system, she just happens to agree that it is a good one. That way she is absolved from accountability and reproach with the fairness issue. If they actually do call me to bitch, I'll be reasonable but unyielding. Either way, I've long ago secured my position as the "Cool Uncle" by ALL nieces & nephews, so it's a moot point.
Questions, comments, suggestions? All are welcome!