Saturday, March 27, 2010

Winning Cooperation - Follow-up - Follow-up

Well folks, the father/son bliss didn't last long. I hope you all appreciate my brutal honesty on this blog, because I am proving my many parental shortcomings to the world. (or at least the 3 or 4 people who read this)

Let me go back a couple of days to try and explain this complex dynamic between a father and a son. A couple days ago I picked my son up from school. He was very excited and announced that he was going to make cheesecake. I was excited too, because cheesecake is my favorite dessert. So I said "Great!". Then Gibson explained that he had watched his friend make cheesecake. He started describing the recipe to me. It went something like this: You take some graham crackers and grind them up and mix them with butter for the crust. (so far, so good) Then you take some whipped cream and mix it with some sugar and melt down some chocolate chips and mix that in and then add some more whipped cream. (This is what I heard...sugar, sugar, sugar) Then you put it in the freezer.

I looked at Gibson and I tried my best to resist the temptation to speak, but the words just came out. "That's not cheesecake." Gibson said "Dad, why do always do that." I said "The reason they call it cheesecake is because one of the ingredients is cream cheese." Gibson said "Dad, it is cheesecake!" It went on like that until we got home and I tried to show Gibson a cheesecake recipe online. But he refused to look, so I finally gave up.

Gibson wanted to make his cheesecake right away, but I explained that we didn't have any whipped cream. He wanted me to go to the store, but I explained that I had work to do and I would add it to the shopping list. Fast forward to Friday. I had bought the ingredients and Gibson started making his cheesecake while I was gone running errands and picking up dinner. When I returned home he was up to his elbows in whipped cream and chocolate chips. Even though I was convinced that this whole experience was going to give me heartburn, I was very supportive of his efforts. He wanted me to taste his chocolate cream concoction, but I told him I would wait for the final product. (I found out later that this was a big mistake.)

I had picked up a Costco pizza for dinner and if you have ever shopped at Costco, you know that everything is super-sized for a polygamist family. So the pizza box is almost as big as our table. I told Gibson that it was time to eat. By that time he had completed his cheesecake and put it in the freezer. He came to sit down at the table and I said "Gibson can you take a piece of pizza so I can move the box?"

Let me pause here for a moment because this is where I get confused. I don't know if it is how I communicate or if my son likes to play little games to see how frustrated he can make me. Or maybe it's that individuation process and the fact that teenagers don't want anybody to tell them what to do. But regardless of the exact explanation, it definitely creates distance between me and my son.

After asking Gibson to take a piece of pizza, he sat there and stared blankly at the pizza box.

Dad: Gibson, can you please take a piece of pizza so I can move the box.
Gibson: Where are you going to move it?
Dad: I don't know, I just need you to take a piece of pizza.
(Gibson stares blankly at the pizza box)
Dad: Emma, am I speaking French or something?
Emma: No
Dad: Gibson, take a piece of pizza!
(Gibson stares blankly at the pizza box)

Finally I just grabbed a piece of pizza and threw it down in front of Gibson and moved the pizza box. Then I said "Gibson, what is your problem?" Gibson said "What?" I said "I was asking you to take a piece of pizza and you were just staring at the pizza box!" (I then proceeded to do my best impression of Gibson staring at the pizza box) Gibson said "Dad, don't be mean." I said "Well, I don't understand why you wouldn't take a piece of pizza." Gibson said "I was thinking. You didn't have to just throw the pizza down in front of me." I said "I was frustrated. Why do you do that? Is it just some game you like to play to bug me?"

After that it is all kind of a blur. Gibson's feelings were obviously hurt and he got up from the table. He was upset that I was making fun of him by doing an impression of his blank stare. He was disappointed that I didn't even want to try his chocolate whipped cream. I tried to explain that I wanted to wait and try the cheesecake when it was done. There were tears and teenage hormones and all sorts of evolutionary instincts flying around the room. Finally I got him settled down and we sat down to try his cheesecake.

Gibson cut everybody a piece of his cheesecake. Emma took one small bite and said "Hmmm, not bad. I give it 2 1/2 stars out of five." But she didn't eat any more. Not wanting another teenage meltdown, I ate my entire piece of cheesecake. I tried to be encouraging and supportive. Then I started cleaning up from dinner and the mess that was made from the infamous cheesecake experiment.

Now comes the priceless part of the evening. Gibson's friend came over. You know the one who started this whole cheesecake controversy. I'm in the kitchen cleaning up and Gibson proudly displayed his cheesecake. Gibson's friend tried a bite and they began discussing the ingredients. Gibson's friend who is obviously a lot better at this Positive Discipline stuff then I am, related a story of his first attempt to make cheesecake. He explained how he made some cheesecake for a party he was attending and the cheesecake came out all lumpy. But his mom let him take it to the party anyway and he was the only one who ate it. They both laughed.

Gibson and his friend started discussing the recipe and the steps for making a good cheesecake. Suddenly I hear the word "cream cheese". I perked right up and looked over at Gibson. He looked at me rather sheepishly. So I walked over to Gibson's friend, I put my arm around him and said "Do you mean to tell me that when you make cheesecake you use cream cheese?" Gibson's friend said "Yeah" I started laughing uncontrollably. Gibson said "Uh...I didn't know it was cream cheese, it just all looked like white stuff to me." I was still laughing and Gibson said " don't have to make a scene." I said " raked me over the coals for having the audacity to bring up the fact that cheesecake has cream cheese. Isn't possible that your dad isn't quite as stupid as you think he is?" Gibson said "Dad, I don't think you're stupid." All I could do was laugh.

It really helps to write these experiences down. I can see that my communications skills could use a lot of work and I definitely need to work on my patience. For example, when Gibson first told me the recipe, I could have just asked him "Would you like to hear my ideas about cheesecake." It is very likely that Gibson would not want to hear my ideas. Then I could have just let the scenario play out. Who cares if he butchers his first attempt at making cheesecake? I could also have tried his chocolate whipped cream concoction. I'll just need to keep a stock of Rolaids in the medicine cabinet. I think if I had allowed Gibson the dignity of trying this out on his own, we could have avoided the whole pizza box drama. There wouldn't have been all the tears and emotional distance.

I realize that sometimes as parents we need to say no. If my son wanted to experiment with explosive devices, that would not be okay with me. But I've learned from this experience that letting my children experiment with harmless cheesecake recipes is not the end of the world. I can ask if they want my help or advice, but if they don't I will let them have a learning experience. Teenagers are especially in need of these kinds of learning experiences. Teenagers are at that stage where their friends know everything and their parents are morons. I should be grateful that my teenager is experimenting with cheesecake instead of more toxic things like drugs and alcohol. If I keep creating distance, he certainly won't trust me when those temptations are presented to him. I'm not saying I'll be perfect, but I will try. After all...since my teenager already thinks I'm a moron, I can only go up from here.


Karen said...

No matter how crummy an experience you might have, I love it that you can still manage to elicit a smile or chuckle from us readers! I could recount our Earth Hour disaster for you (candles, flashlights, scrabble game plus 3 kids that really weren't interested in the whole experience) but believe me, there would be no smiles or chuckles! :)

Isn't it great that a friend can maybe even say the same information that you might give, but that it's totally okay?

I'm glad that writing things down helps - it not only helps you - but it helps others too, so thank you for that.

Looking forward to this week's card!

4in4 said...

I find your honesty immensely helpful. You are teaching me better ways to look at our "learning experiences". Keep up the great work! (Also I am loving the Positive Discipline weekly cards, and following along at my house).

PixieGirl said...

Take heart, in some jobs you could be fired for being a parenting it's expected:)

The other day I had a moronic moment. I walked into my computer, looked at my keyboard and said, "You could probably do a better job than I am."

Just think, if we all had keyboards attached to us, parenting would be blissful:

1. You say something dumb, no problem just hit delete.
2. You need to make a point, but don't want to raise your voice, hit Caps Lock.
3. You bombed the whole day, hit control, alt, delete and re-start the day.
4. Want to entirely skip this day, just hit page down.
5. Need a little space from the kids, just hold down the space bar for a really long time! Hehe

Thanks for reminding all of us to keep trying!

Single Dad Brad said...

HA! That's funny PixieGirl. "Keyboard Parenting", kind of has a ring to it. :-)

Anonymous said...

I want to know what G was thinking 7yo does the same thing quite frequently and it can be quite frustrating (particularly as he most often exhibits this odd behavior when my hands are full and I'm waiting on his minor assistance). Sometimes I can see by his face that he is off in his own world, but other times he can repeat my request back to me, just can't seem to put it into action.

I generally chalk it up to SBS....