Plotting My Doom Will Bring My Children Together

My children are plotting my doom. I can hear them because as plotters go, they aren’t the best. That’s not a knock on them, but if I was going to give them some great dad advice, it would be “Don’t laugh so loud when you are considering overthrowing the house government.” But I’m not mad, just disappointed.

About how bad their planning is, not the doom itself. I’m dad. Bring it.

They giggle in the next room over, and if my guess is right, it’s going to be about getting out of cleaning. Mom has been on the warpath and appointed me her General to enact her plan. Granted, it’s a bold plot that involves levels of clean that have previously not existed in our house.

We try. We might even get it close. But with three kids, a dog, a cat, and a whole lot of growing up—that level of clean is beyond our abilities. Not that my wife would admit this. I think she is upstairs putting on her combat uniform. So my kids are plotting my doom to get out of it.

Whispers and I take a peek to see my teenage daughter making rapid hand gestures. There might have been a middle finger in there somewhere, but I let it slide. Sometimes doom-making requires some middle fingers. I dart back before they see me and just listen.

“So, mom wants…” I hear my son say. He’s a clever 14-year-old boy that has facts upon facts stuck in his head. “But if we…” I might have said next.

“Yeah, yeah, let’s do that,” I heard his older sister. There has been some agreement on the beginning of the plan. The plan that will be my downfall.

A lesser man might be counter-planning. Or as Barney Fife used to say, nipping this in the bud. I should be walking in straight away and let them know that they’ve been caught. It would certainty add to my legend of the all-knowing and all-seeing. And it might go a long way in adding to my mystique. I like having mystery about me. It makes me feel special.

But like I said, a lesser man would do that. I’ve been a parent for a while now, and there are some things that I have figured out. I have learned to look at the bigger picture.

The giggles over something as futile as challenging my power, and to an extent the cleaning supremacy of my wife, has a bigger purpose. Yes, they don’t want to vacuum and clean behind the silverware drawer. That is understandable for teenagers. But for me, what I want to see, is for them to rely on each other. That, and I’m having a good time listening.

The truth is that the world can be a difficult place. Even for all of our privilege, and I recognize my own, that doesn’t mean they won’t have hardships. They seem to come from all over and can be devastating no matter who you are. But when they have each other, when they can count on each other, that’s gold.

I know this because I’ve been through this. Growing up, my father had multiple sclerosis. It’s a disease that I watched weaken him over years. At times, it seemed almost benevolent. It would be a hint here and there. A cane would appear out of nowhere and my father could walk. And other times, it could be brutal, eventually robbing him of his ability to walk, have double vision so he could no longer read, and eventually forget the names of his grandchildren. He could still recognize them, but the names wouldn’t come.

For most of my life, it felt like it was my family against the world. In a time where ramps were not an everyday occurrence, it was difficult. But my brother and I would band together and could pick up my father and his wheelchair over steps, bumps at doors, or push him through muddy fields on the way to a parking spot way too far away.

It was those times that I was thankful for my siblings and my brother. The way I knew that I could count on him because he was the only person in the world that knew what it felt like when your father couldn’t come to the game and watch you play. That’s what I want for my children. I want that feeling. They’ll need each other, one way or another, just like I needed him.

But there are other hardships that I hope they don’t have to go through. Toward the end of my father’s life, that disease started chipping away at my family. Arguments came about my dad’s care and the best course of action. Disagreements happened. And I think resentment built. That relationship, that strength that I always had near me, eventually was eroded. It’s a hard thing to see. It’s a harder thing to feel. My dad passed, and I thought that would be the end of it. That whatever disagreements we may have had would be forgotten. And for the most part, I think they were.

However, I haven’t spoken to my brother in a year. I’m not sure why my phone calls and messages go unreturned. I’m pretty sure he is angry at me, as he has been for most of my life one way or another. But it’s never lasted this long before. It is my ultimate fear that my children will know what that hole in their lives feels like. It’s what I want them to avoid. M.S. has a way of bringing people together, but it also has a way of destroying relationships, too.

So, my kids are plotting my doom and trying to get out of cleaning. Have at it. Build that relationship so that when you are older, when hard things come, you’ll be able to work against the problem and not against each other. That’s what I want for my children more than anything. To be able to count on each other like I once could with my brother. I have no doubt I will be able to again, but if they could avoid this part, then I know that I will have done my job.

But they still have to clean.


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