Several months ago on a Monday night I caught Bonn watching one of the Nanny shows. For those of you either outside of the confines of US TV Pop Culture or immune to television's siren call, the US has been invaded by two remarkably similar shows involving a British nanny coming into a Typical American Household that's been overrun by screaming, tyranical two-foot tall monsters.
The format of these shows are staggeringly similar, too: for the first 55 minutes we see the Nanny look incredulously at the hapless parents who for some idiotic reason endure the verbal, physical and psychological trauma their Sweet Precious Angel children inflict upon them. Then, after dispensing their Nanny Words of Wisdom, a proper Naughty Stool/Mat/Whatever as a punishment/time-out area, some Common Parenting Sense drilled into the parent's heads and the kids seeing that the parents are both serious about this and consistent about the policies, things settle down. Hugs and Cuddles abound in the final moments, the family having been magically transformed into a happy, cohesive unit. As the Nanny walks away down the path from each family's front door, the reincarnation of Norman Rockwell passes her on his way in to do the obligitory Saturday Evening Post cover of them.
Okay, so I made that last part up.
At first I couldn't understand why Bonn was watching these shows. Intentionally watching someone else's train wreck of a family situation, especially when ours had calmed down since The Boy was out on his own and our home had become much calmer and more peaceful, was a foreign idea to me. I mean, these families weren't just bad, they were all pretty much awful situations from top to bottom. Instead of "Peaceful Resolution" my mind would inevitably spring to my longstanding idea (25 years old or so, back from my days substitute teaching in the public schools) of a retractable electric cattle prod. ("I'm sorry, what did you say? 'Mommy is a f*ckf@ce jerk and Daddy is Drunken Irish Thug'?" *snap snap* Grrddggiddgggge--zzzaaappp!!! "Now sit down, apologize and be quiet.")
(Two things here. First, "Drunken Irish Thug" was once one of The Boy's insults hurled in my direction. Bonn loved it so much she's held on to it and kept the phrase alive. Second, as far as Corporeal Punishment goes, that needs to be a future Americana topic -- going into it here would take far too long. Now I just have to find a 'family appropriate' image to go along with it. Talk about your photographic challenges)
Um, where was I? Oh, yes. Nanny Nights.
Mondays became Nanny 911 @ 8, 24 @ 9 and SuperNanny @ 10. (And, for the record, no, I did not think that Jack's way of dealing with "hostiles" was necessarily the best solution. Not all of the time, at least)
It turned out that Bonn was not just watching, but learning from these shows as well. We had spent inumerable days and nights arguing about how to raise The Boy, what he needed, didn't need and how much responsibility he should assume when. I was seen as too harsh; Bonn as too soft. (This is, from what I understand, typical of step-parent households) Seeing that John was still something of a tyrant, Bonn was learning how some of our mistakes could have been alleviated.
"I wish Nanny Deb could have come to our house when John was younger," she said one evening. "What am I saying? He's still that bad. Think she'd come out to help us now?" I said I doubted it. First he was 19 years old, not 1.9 years old. Second, he didn't live with us anymore. Third, I'm not sure a week would be enough. Eventually Bonn realized that we didn't need Jo to come to our house. We could do all of those things ourselves, adapting them to the raising of a 19 year old as necessary.
We've emailed today about putting together a list of expectations and rules and presenting them to The Boy together. It's a very positive step for us, I think. We've both said aloud how important our space and our time is with each other and how things need to change with The Boy in our house.
It's been amazing to see just how quickly our home has gone from a place of relative peace and refuge to the tense dwelling of The Brooding Boy in just a few days. It's time to put an end to that and get our home and our life back.
All in a loving, compassionate way, of course.