Group Project – The Sandwich Episode

cheery boy cooking with flour on his nose

Okay readers, I need some help. You ready? Good.

Thursday I spent about ten hours working on the books for a local nonprofit. I was the one who transferred everything to the software program over a year ago, and they needed some updates to get ready for annual reporting. Unfortunately, someone had gone in and made some, umm, interesting calculations. So I spent a lot of time working on the project. Went to bed at 3am.

Got back up at 9 on Friday morning and had a boatload of stuff to do before leaving at 11:30 to do more stuff and meet my folks at the children’s museum by 1. Right. Okay. So I was flying through report printing and so on, as well as supervising the older boys through lessons. Had to do a time out at one point because they weren’t listening to me, but overall things were going well. I had explained the time crunch as well as the todo list. The Mercenary said “Hey! I can make lunches for us!!”. Okay by me. We finished enough schoolwork and I suggested they start on lunch while I finished up my stuff. So far, so good.

Then all of a sudden a pouty boy showed up in my room complaining that no one was helping him make the sandwiches anymore. Pouting and whining can put any boy on the fast track to nowhere with me. I wasn’t terribly sympathetic, mentioning all the work I do by myself around here without any ill effects. I gave a pep talk and suggested he own the project and make us all proud. He wandered off. A bit later I heard all the boys playing.

Ten minutes later I was ready to move. Ran through the kitchen, asked if lunch was all packed and got an affirmative answer. Wiped jelly up off the counter and the trash can, then zipped the lunch bag shut and rushed everyone out the door.

We had to stop at church for 15 minutes while I ran checks. I brought lunch in and told the boys they could eat there and get some water from the cooler since we hadn’t packed any beverages. They chose to play instead.

It wasn’t until we were driving out of town that they decided to eat. And THAT is when The Mercenary said something about “only bread”.

What?

Then he said it again: “I didn’t have time to make sandwiches, so there’s only bread in the bags.’

WHAT???

He repeated it again. I. Was. Furious. He had more than enough time to make those sandwiches; he just chose not to because no one else was in the kitchen with him and he was pouting about it. And now here he was misrepresenting the truth. I got even more angry.

So angry that I turned on the car radio and called Hubby on the cell and quietly told him the whole thing. Honestly, I didn’t know what to do. When I’m that tired, it’s not the best time to make discipline choices. Anything I could think of on the fly would have either hurt the other boys (like canceling the museum trip) or been just plain vengeful (like buying everyone lunch but him). So I did nothing, just continued on to the city.

Then I got to thinking: there was jelly on the counter and trash can. That little stinker made at least one sandwich. Ooooooo, he better not be back there eating it himself and leaving the rest of us with plain bread.

Fortunately, he had the wisdom to offer me the real sandwich instead of playing favorites with his siblings or himself.

Hubby and I did spend some time teasing him mercilessly that evening when he was very hungry and we were waiting for food at the restaurant. But beyond that, we really took no action on the event.

Here’s where I throw it to you, readers. Can you think of something interesting that we can do about this situation? What would you have done at the time?

Earnest Parenting: help for parents who want to eat real sandwiches.

The editor-in-chief of Earnest Parenting, Amy is the mother of two sets of twin boys. Yes, they drive her crazy, but they also make her laugh occasionally. Amy enjoys writing, quilting, reading, and working on her burgeoning cyber empire.

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  • Doug January 28, 2008, 10:46 am

    Not sure if this is the right answer or not, but in team sports, or in the military it’s ok for leadership to allow all of the team to feel the pain of consiquence even when just one person is at fault…you know, basketball coach says, “Steve’s not boxing out for the rebounds, everyone line up, we’re doing sprints”. Steve’s gonna pay when it’s finally time for the shower room.

    I know, I know, typical guy answer.

    Reply
  • L.A. Mama January 29, 2008, 9:45 am

    Kids do better when they know what is expected of them. Expecting them to do something on the fly without prior planning and knowledge will most likely always end in failure. They should not be punished by lack of planning and time management on the part of their parents. This would be a great way though to incorporporate new responsibilities for the kids on busy days. Have a step by step guide to show they how to make sandwiches for the whole family…maybe a checklist to keep them on task. Definitely give them more than 10 minutes to get the job done and reward them with praise!

    Reply
  • Angie January 29, 2008, 2:01 pm

    I actually have an idea!!

    You could have asked him to pay for lunch with HIS OWN MONEY! Now, I don’t know if your boys get an allowance, have savings, or whatever – but my thought is that if one of my girls was responsible for packing lunches -and didn’t- they’d be buying sandwiches for all of us while we were out. Nothing terribly expensive, mind you, but certainly a stop at the filling station for a couple of deli type sandwiches, or at the grocery for a jar of pb to add to that bread.

    Reply
  • Amy January 29, 2008, 9:50 pm

    @Doug: Yup, man’s answer all the way. 🙂 On some level, what you describe did happen: all the boys didn’t get a delicious sandwich that day. We didn’t wind up with any peer pressure though. No one complained a bit. I can see Hubby implementing a strategy like this but it’s not completely my style. Have you done this with your kids?

    @LA Mama: Would you still be disapproving if I repeated the detail that The Mercenary volunteered to make the sandwiches, and added the detail that he routinely makes lunch for all the boys? This wasn’t a case of a child overwhelmed by a task he couldn’t complete.

    I could easily have done the job myself, but had no idea that the bread in the sandwich bags was dry until we were on the road. He made a choice to abandon the job-and to be dishonest about it by telling me lunch was ready when I asked.

    The concept of punishment isn’t one I am comfortable with. However, natural consequences that teach lessons I am all for. I want my kids to learn things when they’re young and the consequences of bad choices are a lot smaller rather than have supremely difficult lessons to face later in life. I know too many adults who’ve had to go through that, and the price is too high. If a person says they’re going to do something, then it’s completely reasonable for me to expect that they will do their best to follow through and keep their word. My son most definitely did not do that last week.

    @Angie: Love that idea! Totally fits with the Love and Logic approach. Something I can do with a sweet smile on my face while making a point he won’t soon forget. I like having a new trick in my bag. A couple of bucks out of his pocket for some peanut butter would have been a great solution. I’ll have to keep that in mind.

    Reply
  • Doug January 30, 2008, 6:26 am

    I have and it sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t. If it’s my oldest, he pretty much dominates over the younger two, so forcing him to face his siblings is of little consequence. They don’t interact as peers most of the time. Instead, he tries to take on the role as dictator. For the middle child, he’s so tender that this technique could crush him for a good half-day. For the youngest, she would just fold her arms, act out and not learn much.

    Hmmm. I guess it is good to step back sometimes and evaluate our parenting. While I might be “Earnest” in intention, it may not be effective in outcome.

    Reply
  • Amy January 30, 2008, 8:32 am

    Dictator…yes that’s exactly how The Mercenary is. He’s not even the first-born, but he is most definitely an alpha male. A ton of my own parenting has been to learn how to not get steamrolled and wind up angry with him, but instead to keep him in his place without hurting his (admittedly extremely high) self-esteem. That’s why I’m so fond of the Love and Logic.

    Just now, his hineyness told me very angrily that his twin had ‘disobeyed’ him. This resulted in a lot of open mouths and laughter but it appears that he’s convinced that he was disobeyed. I suggested he remove himself to calm down for a while. Missed the fact that he got followed, and the situation escalated into physical violence. Sigh. I’ve been seeing too much of that lately. We’ve been emphasizing for them to use their words and not just slug a sibling without warning. Yesterday I added step 2: get help from an adult. We’ll see how it goes.

    I think one of the keys to parenting is to have a lot of tricks in your bag because there’s not a one size fits all consequence. What do you think?

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