Saturdays in our house start out wonderfully. When Child #1 was born, Husband inadvertently created The Breakfast Club. (Not to be confused with the movie of the same name. No illegal substances that I know of, although I’d imagine there has been some eye rolling and attitude across the table over the years.) If you are old enough to walk, you are old enough to participate in Breakfast Club. So for the past 13 years, Husband and Offspring have headed out on Saturday mornings for their weekly meeting. Used to be, when we lived in Hoboken, that they walked around the corner to a coffee shop (hence the “you need to be able to walk” rule), but now they head out to a local diner where the waitresses make a big deal over them, ask them about their week, and generally talk with them like they were regulars a la Norm and Cliff from Cheers (again, without any substances stronger than orange juice and hash browns).
You’ll notice that nowhere in that paragraph am I mentioned. Sometimes I join the Club as a Special Guest, but more often than not I use the time to head to the gym or, less likely, sleep in. The times that I do go to Breakfast Club, the waitresses say things like, “I always wondered who their mother was,” or “So nice to SEE you!” I feel a bit like an interloper. The family has their ordering routine — one child always gets grilled cheese and fries (!) for example, and one orders decaf coffee. I have learned, in my limited appearances, to keep my mouth shut and go with the flow. (But really, fries?)
Way back a hundred years ago, I taught a parenting program called Redirecting Children’s Behavior. One of the lessons of the course was adapted from Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits work: crediting and debiting emotional bank accounts. In a nutshell, we’ve all got these emotional bank accounts, and the people in our lives make credits and debits to the account. For parents, when we continually debit our children’s accounts, through impatience, nagging, yelling, and otherwise less-than-perfect parenting behavior, but fail to make any credits (together time, respectful conversations, allowing independence, etc), then we run the risk of “overdraft” and the resulting behavior from our children reflects this.
Why do I bring this up? Because Saturday’s Breakfast Clubs have been happening for more than a decade, and it is truly time well spent among the children and Husband. He makes major credits to their accounts during this hour at the diner, and they reciprocate for his account. The Offspring know to count on the weekly meeting (it is rarely canceled), and it sets the tone for their time together on the weekends. Are some meetings of the Club better than others? Of course. At times, the car ride to the diner is a cause of great conflict and unpleasantness (turns out one still can’t sit next to another without making the other crazy) and the Club comes home grumpier and testier than is optimal. But the net-net from all these Club meetings is that they have a relationship with their father — and he with them — that is their own: pretty happy, and independent from me. Win win win!