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GAIL WHITE Kids learn they can't live by feelings alone



Published: Fri, November 23, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



"I don't feel like going," said my 8-year-old.

"I don't want to do that," responded my 10-year-old.

"I'm not in the mood right now," stated my 13-year-old.

What my children didn't want to do or where they didn't want to go could be a fill in the blank -- homework, chores, school, church, the list is endless.

They seem to be whining their emotional desires a lot lately. Or, perhaps, with everything that has gone on in the world the last several months, I am just noticing their cries over small, insignificant matters more.

Normally, I respond with short, to-the-point answers.

"Well, you're doing it," I might say.

"Get in the car. You're going," is another definitive answer I use.

The mood whine always sets me off. "Not in the mood right now?" I pause. "Now you are."

Taking a tone: My response to these whines has never been particularly sensitive. Depending on my tone, they can seem downright harsh. (My tone depends upon how many whines I have had to endure.)

"Sometimes, we do things because we should, not necessarily because we want to," I begin to explain.

There must be the tone in my voice that tips them off that there is a lecture on the way.

My lecturing voice is like a dog whistle to them; they just don't hear it. I wish I could find a species that did. I'd buy a herd.

Recently, after a particularly trying week of emotional whining, instead of a lecture, I devised a plan.

It occurred to me that a great deal of my day is spent doing activities that I don't really like to do.

Cooking breakfast at 7 a.m., packing lunches, cleaning up the kitchen (and the whole house, for that matter). And, of course, there is always laundry, laundry and more laundry.

A time to relax: So, one morning, I got up and did only what I felt like doing.

I made a pot of coffee because I wanted a cup of coffee. I sat, relaxing, at the breakfast table.

Child No. 1 arrived in the kitchen. "Where's breakfast?" he asked.

"I didn't make any," I responded with a big, relaxed sigh. "Wasn't in the mood."

Child No. 2 likes to check out the goodies in his lunch. "Hey! Where's my lunch?" he wanted to know.

"I didn't feel like packing lunches today," I said, examining my nails.

"I need clean socks," came another request.

"I don't want to do laundry today," I retorted.

With each response, mouths dropped open and uninterpretable noises came from their lips.

Looks of disbelief, indignation and disgust were on every face as they scrambled about making breakfast and packing lunches, while I sat, coolly enjoying my latte.

After the initial shock, I considered getting up and resuming my regular routine (especially after a container of cantaloupe fell on the floor). It took every ounce of resolve to stay in my seat.

Impact: My experiment seemed to have some impact. They were beginning to understand that life cannot be lived by feelings alone.

Nevertheless, I could not resist a small lecture.

"Do you think those firefighters felt like running into a burning building on Sept.11?" I asked them.

"Do you think those men on Flight 93 wanted to storm the hijacked cockpit that day?"

"Perhaps some of our servicemen aren't in the mood to lay down their life for our country today," I continued.

My children have never been so silent.

"They did these things -- and are doing them still -- because they have honor and integrity. That means doing what's right even when you don't feel like it.

"For more than 225 years, Americans have lived under a code of honor and integrity. It is what has made our country great," I told them.

Ending my lecture, I said, "I expect no less of you."

gwhite@vindy.com




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