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Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Busted

I have a friend... he's actually one of my heroes... who never seems to sweat the details of life. 

His wife is also quite relaxed about many things, but is much more grounded when it comes to the kid's schedules and the routines/day-to-day management of their household.

For his part, my friend just assumes that if he creates the framework for something, then all the little stuff will fall into place.  I'd love to call his approach to life 'childish' or even 'dangerous'... but somehow things just always seem to work out for him.

Almost always, anyway.

The difference in their parenting styles has manifested itself primarily when one of them goes to the states on business or for a short visit. And this is the setting for one of the rare instances when things didn't exactly work out quite the way my friend had hoped.

You see... unbeknownst to my friend's wife, whenever she would fly to the US to visit her family (taking with her the only shred of discipline the household ever knows), pandemonium would break out.   Bedtimes would be set aside... dishes would pile up on every horizontal surface and overflow from the sink.  Pizza deliveries would arrive at roughly two hour intervals... and each night everyone would fall asleep in the master bedroom after watching countless movies into the wee hours of the morning.

The day before his wife would be schedule to return from abroad my friend would hire an industrial cleaning service to come in and set the house back on its foundation.  Popcorn would be vacuumed out of the sheets in the master bedroom, and dozens of movies would be carried back to the video store.  A fortnight's worth of dishes would be washed and put away... and countless bags of trash would be hauled up to the dumpster.   

When my friend's wife would walk through the door, she would be greeted by a pristine home and clean, smiling children wearing freshly laundered clothes. 

For years nobody was the wiser.

Until, that is, my friend was recently packing for a business trip of his own... and their youngest child inadvertently spilled the beans. 

As this little girl sadly watched her father packing his suitcase she asked her mother a perfectly reasonable question:  "Mommy, why don't we have parties when daddy goes away like we do when you go away?" 

Just like that the cat was out of the bag. 

What followed couldn't very well be called an interrogation because the little girl had no idea she was being cross-examined.  She also couldn't see her father's desperate attempts to 'shush' her because her mother had positioned herself strategically between the two of them. 

My friend's youngest daughter told her mother in great details about the bedlam that reigned while mommy was abroad...  fully expecting that her mother would sensibly adopt these measures during her father's impending trip. 

I'm not sure who was sillier here; the little girl for thinking her mother would agree to a week-long bacchanalia... or my friend for thinking he would never get busted.

It's a good thing that Zahava and I see eye-to-eye on all aspects of parenting!  [Looks around while whistling]

221_16_5_7

Posted by David Bogner on May 31, 2005 | Permalink

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As has happened in the past, I needed to look up a word after reading your post:

bacchanalia

I just hope that you weren't referring to the exact dictionary definition!

Posted by: Dave | May 31, 2005 12:45:17 PM

Dave... No, I was using the term in its less historical sense to mean "A riotous, boisterous, or drunken festivity; a revel" [as per The American Heritage Dictionary]. Of course there was no drunken-ness involved in my story... but riotous, boisterous festivity? Oh my yes.

Posted by: David | May 31, 2005 1:33:08 PM

And there will still be a party next time??

Posted by: oceanguy | May 31, 2005 2:24:24 PM

I laughed my head off!

If only I could have been one of those kids!

I don't agree with every aspect of my wifes parenting, nor does she with mine. Its not the end of the world.

The important thing is that we show the kids that we back each other up, when the need arises.

Sure kids pick up on little nuances, but one has to ensure that one doesn't say to the kids, "You can't do that. Dad/Mum doesn't let".

Its "we" don't. A united front.

Posted by: Frummer? | May 31, 2005 3:58:31 PM

Oh boy, he's gonna be sleeping in the doghouse a loooooong time. Move over little dog, the big old dog is comin' in!

Classic "Disney Dad" syndrome. You see that often with divorced men. They want it to be "party all the time" when the kids are at their house. Now I know it affects married men as well.

My husband falls into that a bit. The kids have fewer chores at our home than they do at their Mom's house. Also, we rely on our cleaning lady to pick up the slack, since I will clean our common areas but I am not touching the teenagers' rooms or bathroom (biohazard).

Posted by: Mirty | May 31, 2005 4:14:41 PM

LOL!! I'd be willing to bet some older siblings were just as dismayed to know the kid spilled the beans!

All in all, though, I don't see a problem. What dad does when mom's away is like a mini-holiday from reality. As long as mom isn't expected to clean up the mess (which she obviously isn't), and the kids don't resent mom for not allowing this stuff all the time, there's no harm done.

My partner and I each have children from our first marriage. We have different parenting styles. Imagine the complexity of respecting your partner's style with his children, while not wanting to adopt it, at least not entirely, for your own children! Over the years, he and I have created a very effective way of managing: we have forged agreement on those necessary overlap areas, we each allow the other to have their own style with the children, and we always display respect for the other's right to his approach to the children. So, my children end up staying up later than I'd normally prefer when his children are with us; his children get a lot more lounging-around time with me than they do with their more active dad. Add to this that these children also have another parent in another home with yet another parenting style, and you end up with a bunch of highly adaptable, tolerant children. (Really! It helps that the eight of them get along together, but maybe that's simply another sign of their tolerance and adaptability.)

In her situation, I'd probably explain that daddy and mommy are different, that daddy enjoys that sort of thing, but it would just make mommy tired... Daddy would be expected to make it clear that he respects mommy's way, too.

But a junior bacchanalia, once in a while? No real harm!

Posted by: Ilona | May 31, 2005 4:43:15 PM

A third "silly" option ~ you're saying this woman never thought for a single minute that a man does what a man thinks he has to do when his wife is out of reach? That's real silly.

[your anecdote actually shows who is in real control of the household & family; the man is just a poser ;) ]

Sad thing about it - I just know that one fine day, I might be very well up and posting such an anecdote [given blogging is still a commodity then]. Only that the rant will be filed under "peeve" and I'll have to strike out many a-bad words.

Posted by: mademoiselle a. | May 31, 2005 5:42:03 PM

Another truly excellent storie. Can you get
me the number to that cleaning service?
I could use some help here. My 2 yr old wrecks havoc where ever she goes but she's
the cutest so it's hard to get upset at her.

Posted by: Shloimy | May 31, 2005 6:40:15 PM

It is good to be the king. Ok, not sure why I threw in the movie quote, it just felt right.

That was a fine story and it made me smile.

Posted by: Jack | May 31, 2005 7:02:26 PM

OceanGuy... I'm guessing that my friend will be subject to periodic inspections by his wife's friends in the future. :-)

Frummer... I also think that a united front is very important. However all kids pick up on the subtle differences in parenting styles between mom & dad. This story just illustrates an extreme manifestation of this. :-)

Mirty... Too funny about the bio hazard! In the case of my friend I really don't think he was trying to spoil the kids so much as he was just letting them do what he does when left to his own devices. He's just a bit unconventional...

Ilona... You must be the coolest mom ever! :-)

mademoiselle a. ... You may say that now, but I'll bet your kids are going to have scads of fun! Your site reads like a 'how to keep kids entertained' book!!!

Shloimy... I didn't catch the name, but they must have been quite good for his wife to have been fooled for so many years.

Jack... I'm also a Mel Brooks fan, but in this case a better quote might be the one delivered by Comicus after he had been condemned for offending Nero with his stand-up routine: "Boy, when you die at the palace, you really DIE at the palace! "

Posted by: David | May 31, 2005 9:10:32 PM

Your site reads like a 'how to keep kids entertained' book!!!

...really, is it so mediocre?

Posted by: mademoiselle a. | May 31, 2005 9:33:22 PM

mademoiselle a. ... On the contrary! Your site is full of wonderfully entertaining projects, yummy recipes and breathtaking imagery. On more than one occasion I've found myself staring hungrily at something you've baked... or looking longingly at a pretty European street scene that I'd like to visit.

In all the time I've been enjoying your site, 'mediocre' is not a word that has ever occurred to me.

Posted by: David | May 31, 2005 10:23:16 PM

Good call.

Posted by: Jack | May 31, 2005 10:37:15 PM

I don't think it's so harmful unless the kids start to see the mom as the heavy or big boring parent and the dad as the rock star. Some of my nicest memories of spending time with my dad were kind of like this. Because he couldn't boil water he'd take me to a nice steak house when my mom couldn't be home to make dinner, and of course the princess got to order whatever she wanted. Plus dessert. That he would attack- I mean force me to 'share'.

The follow up to this story should be when the mom gets busted for her own little secret kid indulgences. Like massive trips to Bloomingdales that the dad is too dense to notice. (Not that that's autobiographical or anything. Nope.)

Posted by: Alice | Jun 1, 2005 1:12:03 AM

Kinda reminds me of what used to go on around here when my dh was in miluim.... Well, sorta.

Posted by: AmyS | Jun 1, 2005 6:31:18 AM

Geez, whatever happened to open and honest relationships? (rolleyes) I would never want to put my kids in a position where they were expected to hide something from their father. IMNSHO it sends all kinds of the wrong messages.

But then again, I'm a WYSIWYG kinda person. ;)

Posted by: jennifer | Jun 1, 2005 9:11:59 AM

"WYSIWYG"

Now that's an old word! Remember the days when it was all the rage!?

Nowadays, everything is WYSIWYG, then it was a special feature!

Posted by: Frummer? | Jun 1, 2005 11:56:21 AM

Alice... So you're saying that it's a bad thing when I tell my kids, "Hey, I'd let you spend your whole allowance on candy, but mom doesn't think it's a good idea!"? :-)

AmyS... Nice to know that there are female practitioners of this kind of thing.

Jennifer... In his defense, he hadn't told the kids that they were doing anything wrong... which is why the little one was so quick to spill the beans.

Posted by: David | Jun 1, 2005 2:49:09 PM

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