Monday, September 12, 2011

Taking off the training wheels

I tried to reply to this in the comments from this morning, but it got too lengthy. (Me? Lengthy? Never!) Anyway, you know the number one reason I feel I absolutely cannot continue the ‘modified plan’ for Danger Mouse the way I am for Boo Bug and Captain Adventure?

It’s this. The first week of school, I put $60 into her lunch fund. I KID YOU NOT, less than a week later – she skitters past me, stopping just long enough to blurt out, “Oh! And! I’m out of lunch money!”

“No, you’re not,” I said confidently.

“Well, the lunch lady said so, and I had to have cheese and crackers for lunch,” she tells me.

Uh, wha-now?!

MUCH. PRODDING. LATER., I learn that my beloved idiot of a child has blown through $60 buying French toast sticks and fruit snacks for “everybody,” plus getting cash-back (!?!?!) at the register of her middle school for the ice cream truck later.

(I’m sorry. I need a moment. I am still so @^*&@ing pissed about that last one. IN WHAT REALITY is that even possible?! I MEAN, I KNOW, it’s middle school, blah blah blah responsibility blah blah blah growing up etc. etc. etc., BUT LORD LOVE A DUCK, that is just…ARGH!)

Needless to say, I called the school the next day and said, “Yeah, hi, I’m Danger Mouse’s mom – can we put a block on her lunch account so she can’t purchase the a la carte stuff?”

This is what we did at her elementary school to keep her from doing the same exact thing, minus the cash back part which they were not STUPID ENOUGH to allow.

{collects self…deep breath, and hooooold for a moment…long slow release…OK! moving on!}

The fact that she couldn’t do it didn’t teach her a damned thing. The instant she discovered that she could do it, bam. Her lunch money burned a hole right through the floor of the cafeteria.

And now? Now? We are in Middle School. Which apparently is some kind of magic ‘all-grown-up’ place where the same kids who three months earlier couldn’t be held accountable for wiping their own noses are suddenly more than capable of handling all their own responsibilities without anything by way of adult intervention.

Which is why they responded to this with, “Oh, hell to the no. SHE has to take responsibility for HER OWN actions.”

And I looked at this kid of mine, starting to wear bras, about two seconds from having to arm-wrestle her big sister for the box of menstrual pads, and suddenly…it hit me, hard, that this kid, this same kid who had just done this incredibly brainless thing, this too-smart-to-be-so-stupid child…was never in a million years going to be “with it” enough to make a lunch in the mornings. Or remember the lunch. And I’ve been out of the house for three hours before she leaves for school – it’s out of my hands.

She’s going to be going without food from dinner the night before until 3:30 the following day, every day, because this is how she is, she’ll never get her act together on this, it’s just not how she is, it’s not her nature, and hang on a second…why do we take that ‘as read’ with her?!

I sat there in this tunnel of past and future rushing by me, counting up all the various ways we’ve tried to impress the concept of budgeting on her; all the times we’ve walked her through how this stuff works, slowly, carefully, with charts and graphs, with budgets and ‘tell me what $7 plus $5 is,’ with real money and pretend money.

And always, always, having to bail her out. Having to wrestle the money out of her hand, slap her upside the head and say, “What did I just say?! You cannot spend this whole thing at the first churro stand you run across!!!”

We intervene. Every single time. We go back to the charts. We explain how 2 + 2 ends up as 4. We talk it to death. We have different color cards. We use different kinds of money-markers. We talk until we’re blue, and the instant we hand her money again?

The instant you take your hand off the brake, she is full speed ahead, and damn the torpedoes.

It’s like giving an ADHD squirrel a plate of frosted sugar cookies for snack with a Red Bull to wash them down, and then trying to take it for a walk on a leash made out of embroidery floss.

After six years of trying to teach her self-control…I’ve got to start letting her crash, if she’s going to insist on speeding up as she approaches the wall instead of applying a little brake…and then instead of rushing in with the Neosporin and band-aids, I’ll have to just tell her where they are and remind her what to do with them.

Hopefully, by the time she’s having to buy gas (OHMYGAH, WHA?!?!), she’ll be better able to remember to take care of those most important things first, and then have her fun.

(I don’t promise not to nag, though. I can’t help it. I’m like a walking, talking calculator with her. “That’s $6.50…that would leave you with only $39.75, are you sure you want to…I mean, seriously, dude, you don’t even like that color, why do you need to buy…OK, it’s your funeral, I’m just sayin’…!”)

(MEANWHILE, Boo Bug [her younger sister] is all, “Oh, I’m out of lunch money…oh, wait, it costs how much for breakfast at school? Welllllllll, we have plenty of muffins and waffles in the freezer, how about just lunches…and I’ll make a lunch on Thursday because I don’t like the school lunch on Thursday…” Heh. How can four kids with the same two parents all be so different?!)


Anonymous said...

Ooo middle schooler, yep that's a horse of a different color.

How about just the lunch money (2-3 dollars?) for the day left on the counter in the morning for her. Then you won't feel guilty about not providing something to eat. And if she spends it on candy and bubblegum, she'll just get sick.

Oh and no monthly allowance, just 2-3 dollars for lunch on school days. Tell her she's lost your trust. Really. She needs to know she's made a big mistake. She has crashed.

Good luck and prayers to you.

Threeundertwo said...

I feel your pain. My oldest was like this but now at 15 she's gotten much better about money. Eating right - not so much. I wish I could promise you that there's hope but these kids are all so different.

I miss the toddler years. Or the diapers. Really.

Layne Bushell said...

ok now the story is even funnier...sorry again, it's at your expense, but I'm still with ya there...tough love...they have to learn somehow....going through the same thing with my brainiac kid...only it's on turning in your homework on time. he's getting F's because he won't turn in the hw he's already done, on time. heaven help me...and you ;)

PipneyJane said...

Good luck Tama. You're doing the right thing - she has to learn the hard way that money can't be spent twice. It's better she does it now than later on.

I just had to comment when I saw the word verification. It's "workin".

- Pam

RobinH said...

Yikes. She sounds pretty resistent to learning from other people's experience- I think you're right that you have to let her crash, hard though it is.

You could even explain to her that since she's spent all the money intended for X days of lunch, she'll have to pack a lunch if she wants to eat. And that her allowance is going into the family grocery budget since she wasted the money given to her for food. Maybe that would help get it through her head that money is a finite resource.

Paula B said...

I have no advice, I just want to join your rant, OK?
Currently living in my home is my 18 (as of Feb) y/o step-daughter, her husband (since Mar) and their 9 month old daughter.
The part of all the above that had me commiserating with you is this: The OB office told her father (my hubby) and mother (his ex) that they couldn't come into the exam with their 17y/o daughter because "she has rights concerning her reproduction."
Of course after the baby was born and the bills arrived, guess who was expected to pay them?
I know there's not really a comparison, but your comment resonated with me!

Anonymous said...

Needing to learn the lesson, take responsibility, etc., etc....all true. BUT, I still would be so all over the school about the "cash back" thing. If I want my kid to have cash, I would give it to them. *I* pay money to the school to provide food to my child. I do not give money to school to turn around and hand it to the child. If there is no control over how the money is used once given to the school, then I wouldn't do business with them at all...and my kids would have to pack a lunch. Period.

Donna said...

Have four sons - all different enough in their personalities to have come from four different sets of parents. But now - at 23, 21, 19 and 16 - alike enough in their values and attitudes that I know we can have an effect on them!

Agree with the criticism aimed at the school response. You sent money for her lunch - not for them to give her cash! and if you chose to control how she spends that money, they should allow you that control! Middle school sweeties can be extremely responsible or completely brain dead!

Colleen Mole said...

Cash back? Are they freakin' nuts?!?!?
Dog help me when my kid reaches this age (PLEASE PLEASE LET HER TAKE AFTER ME AND NOT HER FATHER!!!!????)

JustGail said...

Cash back from the school?!?! I don't *think* our district does that even for high schoolers. The genetic crapshoot that makes each of us is a source of never-ending amazement.

Nope, I'd let her either make her own lunch or do without (or beg from those "friends" she bought stuff for) until the time that the money would need replenishing under normal circumstances. It's hard to let them crash, and harder to not make it all better when they do.

Steph B said... NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!! Holy crapoli, what an asinine thing to do! Probably even worse in middle school than elementary, 'cause the hormones are hitting and their brains are just Not There, most times. Unbelievable.

Maybe just get her a Camelback, fill it up with applesauce each morning and let her go? *ducking* Just a thought!

Anonymous said...

I'm wondering if you've tried delayed gratification conditioning? Exponentials go up too fast but you could do a little less. "I give you $1 today. If you don't spend it I will give you $2 tomorrow, if you don't spend that I will give you $3 the next day then $4.... and so on." Mind you, there has to be a limit ($10?), If she actually made it to the 10th day she would have $55. Mind you, I know she is like me (well, like how I was at that age) and she will likely not make it past the first day until she has a day with nothing to spend it on.... then she may only make it to the 3rd or 4th day and spend her $10. But from my view that would be progress. A single day or 2 where she could have spent it but chose not to.

Just a thought... :) Good luck!

-Trina D

Very Herodotus said...

Danger Mouse is in middle school?? I remember when I first started reading your stuff, on TMF, she was like 4 or something. Wow - time really does fly!!