Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Democracy? dictatorship? Our family is a bit of both.

Good for countries, not always for families with small(ish) children.  
Is your family a dictatorship? Or more of a democracy?  Some sway more towards the democracy, while others are ruled by an iron fist of totalitarianism.  And as with most things in life, a middle ground is preferable.  Complete democracy gives far too much power to the offspring meaning the lunatics end up running the asylum, and dictatorship makes one person the mean, stressed out bad cop which is simply unsustainable.

(Can I just say, in my opinion, when you're running a country (as opposed to a family), a democracy is by far the better option).

Our home fluctuates between the two, although possibly with a slightly stronger leaning towards dictatorship.  I do sense democracy will come into its own as the kids get older and better at arguing.  And potentially, capable of cooking their own dinner if they don't like what I'm doing.  From what I understand of teenagers, they don't respond well to dictators, so I possibly need to improve my democratic style over the next year or two.

For now, I just shout a lot of instructions about shoes and lunches and musical instruments and count myself lucky if they respond without being asked more than 3 times.

Some situations lend themselves well to democracy.  I am quite willing to discuss birthday party ideas, cake styles.  They wear what they want (almost always).  I don't mind talking through potential playdates, possible sleepovers.  Heck, I'll even let them give me holiday ideas even if some of them are unlikely to occur.  Disneyland for 2 weeks? Um...no.

There are times though, when I'm completely running a dictatorship.  Do as I say.  Do not argue, do not talk back, do not stall, don't drag your feet, pretend you haven't heard me or lie and say you've done it when you haven't (your teeth are yellow and I'm not an idiot).

Don't ambush me.  I do not respond well.  Especially not in public for something even slightly unreasonable.  Dictatorship.  Trouble will always follow the ambush.

Don't nag me.  If I've said no, I mean it.  I often say yes.  I'm not a big meany.  Benevolent dictator I am.

Here are a few examples of how our household sways wildly between ideological philosophies:

This is me dictating. 
Do NOT just pick up your device and start playing it on a weekday afternoon without asking first (BTW the answer is no).  You will lose it for 24 hours.  And no, just because you have to catch a bus to and from school doesn't mean you MUST have your phone every day.  Millions of children cope daily without this and so shall you.

Result: Dictator.

If you have been lucky enough to receive a generous joint birthday gift which has enabled you to purchase a rather nice piece of technology, don't stretch the friendship by continuing to request an ongoing membership related to this technology.  Or the technology will vanish.

Result: Dictator.

If you wish to play, watch TV, go to a mate's house and you haven't done your homework/music practice/speech/news.  DON'T EVEN ASK.  You are wasting your time.

Result: Dictator

Don't like the party ideas being suggested? Sure we can discuss.  I'm happy to delay a party (we have 1 autumn and 2 winters) to the warmer months so it can have a pool theme or we can go to Waterworks.  And while my default cake is your new age with some type of appropriate decoration I can be persuaded to look at the Women's Weekly cake book.  Just don't ask me to do the swimming pool again because I might have a nervous breakdown.

Result: Democracy

Don't fancy the dinner? If it's early in the day you can attempt to negotiate a change, although your chances may be slim.  I have been open to menu changes before when faced with sufficient convincement.  I know one of you hates tacos and another of you is firmly against spag bol but what am I to do?  Until someone other than me starts cooking the dinner I think I have higher voting rights than people who are merely eaters.

Result: Democracy than can quickly become Dictatorship if the wrong angle is taken.

Lunch box contents are available for change up until they go into a school bag.  As long as you don't try something insane like swapping your grapes for Oreos I'm usually responsive to requests.  But please don't tell me that thing you loved last week that I just bought three boxes of on special is no longer your favourite.  Just take it quietly to school and swap it with your mates.

Result: Democracy

At 7:30 on a Sunday night, after a weekend that included a birthday party for every single person in the house (including the grown ups), 4 games of sport played and one spectated, a Sunday of musical workshops, playdates and a long drive to Parramatta and back, don't come to me and say you have news on Monday which needs to be 2 minutes long with palm cards.  It will not be pretty.

Result: Madhouse, total breakdown of government, followed by a coup by the father.

So there you have it.  I still don't know which one I'm running.  It depends on the day, the time of day, whether I'm fasting (I'm doing 5:2 and not eating makes me grumpy) and how utterly ridiculous the request is.  Sometimes ridiculous requests are so off the wall I can't help but go for them, and other times they just make me all cranky pants.

Poor kids, they've got a madwoman in charge, I think that's the upshot of this post.  And poor Mike, who never knows what kind of government he's coming home too.

What sort of operation are you running?