I adore the word disgruntled... in print if not in action. When it applies to life with tweens and teens, meh, not so muchly. Last Saturday, my husband was gone on a shoot and it was our first warm, post frost danger day in Chicago, and perfect for getting the yard planted and spring ready. So I told the kids who are now 12 & 14, that their paid "helpful works" for the day would be a trip to Home Depot and yard work.
In our home, chores have always been called helpful works and allowance is "helpful works money". At this age, 3 hours a week are mandatory and they can elect to do more for extra pay. When the kids were toddlers and kids they loved to plant, help out, and were even good sports about errands more often than not. Now we're into the dreaded tween/teenage angst years, and helpful works are often done begrudgingly, amid much moaning and groaning.
When we arrived at Home Depot, a parade of littles were leaving the free craft workshop in their tiny orange aprons. One dad with two tots and two crafts in each hand was herding the kids out of parking lot traffic by using his raised knee to angle them toward the car. "Awwww. I remember those days. You guys made tons of cool projects like trivets and bird houses. We still have your pin collection and aprons somewhere. Aren't those kiddos cute?" Stone cold silence from the back seat. A glance in the rear view showed my disgruntled duo slouched down in the seat with glares on their faces and headphones on.
The place was PACKED and the kids whined about parking in the farthest reaches, and griped when I sent them searching for a flatbed dolly cart. At least they were united in their belly aching instead of fighting each other. At the cedar mulch pile, a HD worker who was a tall, muscular African American woman offered to help load up our cart. As I thanked her profusely she began to laugh and said with a big grin, "Here's you, all excited about bein' here and here's your kids!" She morphed her smile into a hostile glare. That got a smile out of the offspring for a moment. "Too true," I sighed and laughed. "But what are ya gonna do?!"
From there my charming children complained their way through the solar globes, dramatically declared they wouldn't eat any of the veggies I was planting, and showed a short lived glimmer of interest in the grapes, blackberry and raspberry bushes, and watermelon they picked when I told them to pick out something they WOULD eat. The angst filled glares hit a peak when I asked them to pick up 4 concrete patio squares so our new umbrella table wouldn't sink into the yard. Finally fed up, and with the planting, landscaping, watering, tree trimming, and poop scooping yet to happen at home, I resorted to bribery.
"OK, kids. Here's the deal. I will take you to see The Avengers: Age of Ultron, with the reclining seats AND popcorn if we can get through the rest of today with a minimum of complaining." I found myself blurting out in desperation. Suddenly, my pleasant pre tweens were back, all smiles and uber helpful. They pushed the cart to the car themselves and cheerfully unloaded multiple bags of cedar mulch, more yard fencing, concrete blocks, and loads of fruit and veggie plants. I thanked them and told them they were doing a great job as they hopped in the car without a grump or moan.
Their attitude adjustment was so convincing that a solo mom who had just pulled in next to us did a double take then came over to chat. "I'm all about that positive thing you're doing with them, but I've got a 15 year old boy who flat out refused to come with me. I'm guessing your son is about that age too? My kid used to be super sweet and helpful but not anymore. Just sayin".
It was my turn to laugh again. "Yeah, you should have seen them 10 minutes ago. They were being awful even though they're getting paid allowance to be here! I seriously just resorted to bribing them with The Avengers: Age of Ultron. She let out an audible sigh and began to laugh. "Let me hug you." she said. "That's great. I was trying to figure out why I got stuck with the rotten teen and yours are still helpful and pleasant. I'm relieved to know you're in the same boat. I bribed my son, too, maybe my bribe just wasn't big enough."
We hugged and laughed and commiserated in the bustling parking lot, while my hopeful, helpful kids waited patiently and pleasantly in the car with dreams of impending Avengers in the heads. "Supposedly most of them grow out of it in a few years and turn back into decent human beings who don't hate us." I said. "One can only hope." she replied, and grabbed a cart for some angst free errands, solo.