Life with my beautiful, headstrong, creative, and challenging 13-year-old has been more intense than usual for the past four weeks: she's been grounded. And any parent knows that what that really means is that WE are grounded. It is impossible to ground your child without simultaneously punishing yourself.
Gabi has been in the proverbial doghouse due to typical teenage crimes like lying, failing classes, throwing attitude, and lying some more just for good measure. This week is the last week of her original sentence...and she is itching for release. The youth group at church is participating in a community-wide lock-in Friday night and she wants to go SOOOOOOO badly.
Please, mom, PLEASE!!!
Being the merciful parental figure that I am, I struck a bargain with her. If she got all of her current and late assignments completed--and turned in (it's not an obvious follow up to doing homework, no matter how much it seems it should be)--and finishes a list of Cinderella-like chores, she can earn an early release date and be given freedom three days in advance to attend the lock-in.
Another of my parenting philosophies has been to ensure that my girls have a strong grasp on the value of effectively (not pathetically) kissing some ass when the occasion calls for it. This has led to many ridiculous and hilarious efforts on their parts--and, after last night, I know the lesson has been well-learned.
I was returning home for a long day hard at work (over 12 hours, due to the multiple directions of my employ these days) when I received this text from the indomitable teenager:
"let me know when you are 10 minutes away, I have a surprise for you"
My curiosity was definitely peaked. When I was almost home, I texted her of my impending arrival. I had a few ideas of what the surprise may be, but I was totally off-base.
When I got home, she greeted me and asked me to come up to my room. One of her slave tasks had been to clean my bathroom (parenting does have perks!) so I figured she wanted to show off a job well done.
I walked into my room and saw a candlelit glow emanating from my bathroom. The sunken garden tub was filled with hot, yummy-smelling water and was surrounded with candles. Where a huge pile of laundry had been collecting for the past 10 days or so, there was nothing. Where makeup and lotion had been scattered, there was order.
This sweet (albeit manipulative) girlie had transformed my favorite room in the house into a relaxing, spa getaway at the end of a hard day. There were tears in my eyes. Ass-kissing be damned!--she had done something that was thoughtfully committed to nothing but me and my enjoyment.
And she topped it off with the piece de resistance: an ice-cold beer brought to me as I luxuriated in the hot water and melted away not just the stress of the day, but the stress of the grounding, the stress of worrying that I'm doing everything wrong, and the stress that I don't know what my relationship is with this enigmatic, beguiling, little nymph. In one gesture she let me know that, at the end of the day, we're okay--and that was the best surprise of all!