Sep 11, 2012

Hope, Revisited

Linnea (16 yrs) and Sara (19 yrs)
 A few weeks ago I posted about "hope".  I discussed the promise that organizational systems hold out to us and what can happen when we find that hope taken from us.  I mentioned that two of the girls, Sara and Linnea had approached me about the schedule and  home organization.  They had some suggestions that they wanted us to consider.

Several of the suggestions centered around actual organization of the home.  Linnea's Areas Of Responsibility included laundry and maintaining the order of the main areas of the house.  She is my organizational powerhouse.  If I want a closet or room or garage or you name it cleaned and organized, all I need to do is arrange an appropriate reward, grant her the time and stay out of her way.  Within the first few weeks of being assigned the laundry and main areas she had a list of improvements, the main suggestion was a family closet.  Now, we had tried a family closet in the past and dismantled it.  The concept is that all family clothing is kept in one central location (ideally in close proximity to the washing machine and dryer) to aid in folding and putting away laundry.  It also helps the keeper of the home keep an eye on the clothing condition and supply.  At a glance one can see who needs to weed out their clothes and who needs more underwear.  Despite holding out great promise, it did not work for our family.  The shelves were a constant mess, the littles would plow through everyone's clothes with abandon trying to find that shirt that they were lacking.  Having several girls of the same size, we had chosen to organize the clothes roughly by size rather than by ownership and this fostered great resentment from teenaged girls who ended up feeling as if they did not have ownership of their clothing.  When their clothes are housed separately they still constantly complain "Mom!  She is wearing my skirt again!  Make her take it off!" but at least when they have their own dressers and drawers they can clearly state "that is mine, you should not be wearing it!" without hearing "well, it was in our basket on the shelf" with a disdainful shrug.  I reminded Linnea of the issues we had experienced in the past and, wouldn't you know it, she had ready answers.   Clothing would be stored by owner, not by size.  It would take more space but give clear ownership boundaries.  No one under the age of ten could go into the family closet, the littles' partners would be responsible for getting their clothes laid out the night before.  What of the missing shelves? just so happened that the washing machine and dryer were adjacent to the built-in shelves that we use for a pantry, we could clear off the food and use the shelves for a closet space.  The food?  That, she explained, could go in the kitchen space that could be rearranged like this and she produced a sketch of the proposed new kitchen layout.  And, she promised, she and Sara would do all the work and have it done in one week, ready for the beginning of our school year to start.

I looked at Sara.  Sara and Linnea grinned at me as in the picture posted here and nodded.  Done deal.

I acquiesced.  After all, if my goal is to raise adults who are able to manage their own homes, what better training ground than the home that they live in right now?

That, though, wasn't the end of their demands, but simply the appetizer.  There were many routines and structures that we had when we lived in Houston that had changed or fallen by the wayside when we moved to the country.  Partly it was simply the adjustments made with added children (I was seven months pregnant with number nine when we moved and the next few children were actually spaced closer than most of the olders had been spaced.  That coupled with recovering from a cesarean, having acquired our first farm animals right before the delivery and a husband whose commute was longer meant that we slipped into survival mode.  We continued in survival mode by finding ourselves caring for first one ill and dying grandparent, then another, starting a business, etc.  Sara and Linnea reasoned that it was time that we resurrected those routines and structures that had brought meaning to our lives before the farm.

They wanted us to return to a more formal partner system.  In recent months the extent of our partner 'system' had become simply looking around when entering a store or restaurant or other public place and saying "hmmm...Sara, you have Dixie.  Grace, you have Seth.  Let's see, who should have Judah..."   They wanted a return to a system with the older partners not simply holding the younger's hands when out in public but also helping teach the youngers.  They thought it would help reinforce their relationships.  Seems that they liked and missed the special time spent with their younger siblings.

They wanted a more firm schedule, to allow more school time and time for their projects such as sewing and gardening.  I reminded them that the reason we do not do a schedule is that I get frustrated with with trying to wake them up to follow the schedule.  They emphatically assured me that they would follow it on their own, they understood that it meant getting to bed on time, etc.  And with partners, they would be able to help shepherd the littles through the schedule as well on days when I am at market or meetings.

They wanted us to return to Bible Study.  We had never stopped reading the Bible together but it had become more perfunctory and they wanted the youngers to experience what they, the olders had enjoyed, right down to the specific books used ("Leading Little Ones To God" and "Training Hearts, Teaching Minds")   They wanted hymns sung, like we did in the past and they wanted Dad to start the "game" that he had played with them in which he asked trivia questions about the different hymn writers so that they knew not only the words to the hymns but also the background.

They wanted assurances of family time each evening after Bible Study--fiction reading and game playing and movie nights--but especially the fiction reading.  They had grown up on Howard Pyle's Robin Hood and A. A. Milne's Pooh as well as tales of Byzantium intrigue and Tyndale and they wanted to return to family time.

They wanted the token system returned.  In years gone by we had established a system whereby they could earn tokens by faithfully tending to their responsibilities as well as by going to my list of "extra" jobs that would pay tokens.  These jobs would be those tasks that were either burdensome or that tended to fall by the wayside such as defrosting a freezer or wiping down the ceiling fans.  The tokens could be redeemed for something personal such as tea time with mom alone or a special treat from the grocery store (they have already requested treats from Happy Vegan, one of their favorite vendors at the Austin markets.)  They could also save tokens for a family treat such as a picnic dinner or to "buy" their way out of a job.

They wanted to get rid of the television.  They saw it as taking time away from family.

Lastly, they wanted to rearrange bedrooms so that their older sister who has her own bedroom shared with a younger sister.  Seems Katarina wants Dixie to move into her bedroom but Grace also wants Dixie.  Their solution was that Kate and Grace could share a room, and hence, Dixie.

Well.  I was not sure how to respond to teenagers who want things changed to give them more quality time with their family.  After much discussion, we gave them our decision.  Done.  Done.  Done.  Done.  Done.  Done.  Done.  Done.  Well, almost.  We agreed to only use the television for school, for the occasional family night movies and for food network.  Can't give up food network.

And with Sara and Linnea as my generals keeping the troops in line, it is going very well, indeed.

1 comment:

Jonathan H said...

How is the organizational system going after 10 days?
It's good that you have children offering to step up and work to make things better for the family.
As a single guy I have trouble staying organized - it must be orders of magnitudes tougher for a family with 12 kids!
Thanks for sharing your life with us, both the trials and the joys.