I admit, it was a knee jerk reaction. For a moment afterwards I questioned whether or not I should have done it. About 15 minutes later, I patted myself on the back and congratulated myself. This needed to happen. Let it be a message to them. A simple reminder. I'm in charge, and I have no patience for a sassy mouth.
Coach's schedule results in his absence from our home for long hours during the week. He sees patients a few nights a week on Tuesday and Thursday, so he tends to be around a few mornings unless duty calls. Add his quest to earn his fellowship to his already hectic job and we can count on him attending a few educational courses a month on consecutive weekends. In his free time he manages to prepare for classes, courses, and case studies. Although he is physically present for hours at a time, he is often stretched out on the family room floor focused on his computer screen or some pressing reading material. On Wednesday evenings he is committed to an online course which requires him to be in front of his laptop utilizing WiFi in a quiet room from 6:30-8:30 pm.
The kids have come to expect their dad to be at work or on the computer most of their waking hours. Although they understand that their father and I are a united front, they realize that if I make a request for back up - chances are no one would respond. Translation: from a parental perspective, I fly solo most of the time. Our kids are mostly well behaved, good kids but they are smart enough to work the system. They tune me out, talk back to me, and treat me like a peer instead of a parent. When I say that there is trash talk in our home, I am not referring to selfless acts when kids offer to take out the garbage. Feeding off of one another is one of my offspring's impressive talents. It is true that Coach and I value a strong sense of humor, but this has led to our children anticipating our tolerance and even our praise for their wise ass remarks. More often than not, I rely on desperate survival techniques as I battle for my sanity solo against the teenage and preteen masses that make up our family.
Over the last few years our house has shifted from an early bedtime zone where we catered to the young children in the family, to an 'anything goes' atmosphere where teenagers insist on lounging in the family room in hopes that some form of television can be unlocked (we keep all TV channels on parental lock-down for obvious reasons) for their viewing pleasure. This new mentality has confused the family members who would still qualify for the early bedtime ritual made popular during my formerly powerful reign as 'mother'. Today in my role as an outnumbered, strategy-making warden, I gradually lose ground to the hilarious, sloppy night-owls who listen less and eat more each day. I feel at times like a cruise director juggling the many activities the 'passengers' enjoy while failing to enlist their help in maintaining the ship. Meanwhile the distracted captain slaves away to afford the fuel and provisions to keep us afloat, but additional crew members to support my efforts are not included in the budget. We routinely encounter rough seas when kids like 10 year old Reggie, an early riser to a fault, fail to recoup sleep by snoozing late in the morning. No amount of, 'Go back to bed. You need more sleep,' can convince him to doze off.
Reggie's combination of too little sleep and too much exposure to the teenage back talk rampant in our home lead to a kid who struggles to speak properly to his warden, formerly known as mother. On Monday, I waited for Reggie to clear away from his beloved basketball hoop before I launched the minivan full of groceries over the unforgiving curb and onto our driveway. I rolled down my window and instructed lil Mr. B-ball to start unloading the bags from the trunk. I hadn't even stepped out of the car onto enemy territory when I heard him utter, 'No, I HAVE to practice.' I pivoted and reissued my orders. Again, he refused. Blasphemy. With a raised eyebrow, I threatened to come out on the driveway and pop his basketball with a kitchen knife. 'I don't care. I'll just get another ball,' he quipped. The horror. I practically tripped over Reggie's pajama clad sisters (at noon no less!) as I raced into the house.
I had been gone for hours. Reg was awake, of course, when I left to attend a workout class followed by the arduous task of grocery shopping for the gang. Never wanting to waste a spare moment, I chose to scrub the kitchen floor on my hands and knees before working out. Still smelling of white vinegar as I bolted for the car earlier that morning, I asked Reggie to replace the kitchen chairs around the table once the floor was dry. All-about-food Tetenka stood in front of the stove waiting for cinnamon rolls to beep as I made my exit. 'When the rolls beep the floor will be dry and you can drag the chairs back into the kitchen from the family room.' Emptying the tray of silverware from the dishwasher each day is automatically part of Reggie's early morning routine.
Now an outraged me entered the kitchen and noted that lil Mr. Mouth had not returned any of the chairs to the kitchen. The full tray of silverware sat on top of the counter where I had left it. Straw. Broke. Camel. Back. I reached into the silverware tray and grabbed a steak knife. Reggie froze when he saw me coming. I didn't give him time to protest. The knife slid into the thick skin of the pricey, brand new basketball easier than I had anticipated. That was it.
There were tears. Lots of tears. Dumbfounded teenagers surfaced as news of my punishment spread like the pesky layer of used, smelly sweat socks dispersed in every room of our house. When they questioned me, I reiterated that no one should speak to me the way that Reggie had. Until the mouthy nonsense clears out, no basketball - or other prized possession- is safe. I was tempted to mount the deflated leather on a broom handle and carry it like a staff through my kingdom. I'm the mother, damn it.