I walked out the front door to go to work an hour away, leaving behind my wife who had just entered early labor. Thinking that it was probably a false alarm, I told her to call me if anything changed. Right as I walked into the office, I got the call, and had to drive all the way back. By 6:30 that evening, I was a new father. Happiest day of my life.
Cecelia was born via emergency C-section. In the O.R., I had hunkered down at Louise’s head behind the sheet that obstructed our view of the operation. After a few minutes, the doctor announced that the baby was about to come out, and asked if I wanted to watch. I started to stand, but Louise, afraid I’d pass out, urged me to stay down. In the next half second I thought, “Are you kidding? I wouldn’t miss this for the world!”, and I stood up just in time to see her emerge. It was glorious.
And just in time for her birthday today, “Happy Birthday” is now in the public domain.
We face a serious economic crisis. Inflation runs rampant. Investor confidence in the future has dipped to all-time lows. The bankers have begun to demand austerity and greater discipline. The population stands on the brink of full-scale revolt.
No, I don’t refer to the Greek financial crisis. I speak instead about the Cece Dollar System we implemented almost two years ago. If you’re new to this and want to know more about the Cece dollar, click here.
As our friends know, our daughter spent a week at Girl Scout camp last week, which provided a much needed break for her parents and, we hoped, for her as well. Those who know us see us often rolling our eyes when someone asks us about our child, and like many stressed parents, we make tongue-in-cheek remarks about the level of her behavior — around her parents.
After we picked her up from camp and started back home, she literally went from zero to bitch in under five minutes. Apparently all her friends have iPhone 6’s, better houses and cars, and go more places. Within a span of two minutes, the kid covered all that ground (again) and more.
Things calmed down for most of the rest of the trip home, but it became clear that the attitude adjustment of our fantasies didn’t occur.
The next day, yesterday, all returned to the old normal as we began the hunt for school supplies.
Keep in mind that in many ways, we understand that our daughter is a fairly typical 10-year-old on the brink of puberty, and that outbursts and difficulties come with the territory.
However, from our perspective, the situation has careened out of control. We too-often cannot have a simple conversation with her that does not turn into an argument. She barely allows us to finish a sentence. We constantly fend off demands — not polite requests — for all manner of goods and services.
The impulsive disrespect to our authority and experience would have left me black and blue had I pulled that shit on my own mother at that age. In fact, every time I open my mouth to tell the kid to do something, I hear my late mother having a really good laugh.
Yesterday, on a trip to Staples to pick up ONE thing, the breaking point came. One thing became five things, which led to negotiations, which devolved into arguments in the aisle.
We left with nothing but a load of aggravation.
On the car ride back to the house, I told her as calmly as I could “Be prepared for a major announcement when we get home.”
This, of course, meant that I had to have such an announcement prepared, but the rational side of me knew that it had to be measured and over a long run, sustainable. I knew that whatever repercussion we imposed, we had to stick to it. And yes, fellow parents, what I really wanted to do was smack the kid into submission. I thought better of it. A grown man hitting a little girl never looks good (or works, so I’m told).
My first thought was to ban screen time entirely for the rest of the month, but because we had the Cece Dollar system in place, I felt strongly that we needed to stay within that framework. An outright ban meant that the system ultimately meant nothing. I don’t believe in arbitrary punishment.
We then announced to her that her screen time would now cost her 100 Cece dollars per hour, and that she would lose all her stuffed animals. She could buy them back, one animal, one day at a time for 10 Cece Dollars each.
The sudden jump from 10 to 100 may seem arbitrary, but I considered two things: First that we have entered a crisis situation, and second, had we strictly adhered to the system over the last year, her prices would push well above 200 Ceces for an hour of screen time. We give her lots of slack. She can still earn the money for screen time, but she’ll have to work harder for it.
We have long described our child in such polite terms as “willful”, “headstrong”, and “a challenge”, when what we really want to say is that too often becomes a stark, raving bitch. I’ve dated women like her, and I got out within an inch of my self-esteem. I finally figured out that the rare moments of bliss did not make the extended periods of mental hell worth it. Unfortunately in this case, there’s no exit.
She tests our patience in ways that I had long feared in my years before having kids. I’ve always wanted kids, but I’ve also feared the demon seed — that kid you’ve seen in restaurants or visiting friends or in the movies that no one could seem to control. I don’t want to think that nightmare has come true, and that hopefully, she’s only going through a phase (that started when she turned three).
And to the parents of grown children: YES. I KNOW, THAT SHE’S NOT EVEN A TEENAGER YET. Yes, thank you. I KNOW. Yeah, ha ha, real funny.
It’s not all drama. We can consider ourselves fortunate that she does very well in school, she has her friends, and other parents and her teachers report that she’s a complete angel in their midst. She has a keen sense of humor and a curious nature, but on too many days she acts like she was planted here by someone seeking revenge on my wife and me.
Tune in next month, and after a week in the woods and another week when she’s off with her cousins, we’ll have a better idea of the effect of this latest plan.
For us, this summer will go down as one of the hardest. Much to the chagrin of both father and daughter, we spent several weeks with no camp scheduled. Last week we all did enjoy a week with the girl at Girl Scout Camp way out in Pine Grove, Pennsylvania, but before that, she had one week in Vermont with relatives, and a smattering of day camps.
Thanks to increasing parental paranoia, two-career households, and the rise of the Summer Camp Industrial Complex, kids just don’t randomly play anymore. At one time, a kid could just wander down to the playground and inevitably find one or two friends and before they knew it, they heard Mom calling them in for dinner. While the same age as my daughter, I spent whole summers like that. As a result, I hated camp.
Thanks to the tyranny programmed play and the lure of technology, if the kid isn’t playing a computer game, she has absolutely no clue what to do with herself. The tech by itself doesn’t necessarily bother me, but she only wants to play games or watch father-bashing Disney videos on Netflix. If she told me she wanted to create a movie, learn coding, or start a podcast, she’d have Carte Blanche to the computer.
The last month of summer promises a strong finish, however. We have a week planned in the Catskills on a quiet lake where we have banned screens, and the child’s other cousins have offered to bring her along for their vacation at Busch Gardens and Hilton head. Then school begins.
I don’t know how my daughter will look back on this particular summer, but a child’s memory has a nice way of filtering out moments of boredom, retaining the happy parts. I remember the woods, the trips to the beach, the sandlot games, and the random acts of mischief. I don’t remember boredom, though I don’t doubt we had some moments of it.
We are approaching year three of the Cece Dollar economy. For those who don’t remember, Louise and I implemented Cece Dollar system as a form of behavioral modification two summers ago, and it springs from a very simple idea: Various behaviors have their worth, positive and negative. Do something good and earn Cece dollars to pay for fun things. Do something bad, and the fun things become more expensive. Basically, this is nothing more than a point system, but with currency that has her picture on it. …