"The life of a blended family". Our Poly Life is written by any one of a poly-fi quad. Each month they will share with readers about issues they face as a blended and committed poly family with nine children still at home. You can read more about them at their website; Our Poly Life.

Previous editions of this column can be found in the Monthly Columns Archives.

The Great Big Book of Everything

Everything in this world has order; the cycle of life, the food chain, the ebb and flow of the lunar powered ocean tides. Regardless of your view of creationism, the researchers tell us the more they study the "randomness" of life, the more systematic design emerges. In our opinion, we as humans thrive on order, routines, and habit.

In our home there is a lot of activity. Without the reassurance of predictability, thirteen bodies would move about directionless and pandemonium would soon engulf us. When the proverbial "Murphy" does inevitably arrive and upsets the equilibrium in our functionality, we feel unsettled, and it may take days or even weeks to find our comfortable balance once again.

Last month we wrote about how our family is taking steps to put some organization into our lives. With the oldest children under our roof about to enter high school, we feel we are on the verge of the most insanely hectic years of our life, despite the craziness we’ve encountered to date. For this reason, along with many others, what began as a simple exercise has now taken on a life of its own. Our four older children are now in union with the parents creating a dependable basis for future poly-parenting. Chias asked us to expand on how we are establishing this approach in our home.

For those of you who roll your eyes at the thought of an overly organized person who is armed with date books, lists and color coded wall charts, let us just say that in a home that shelters 4 adults and 9 children (from two to fourteen years of age) as well as any number of playmates and or extended family and houseguests, chaos would ensue without organization; without knowing what to expect and what is expected of each of us. Simply put, schedules are in their own way comforting. Little ones most especially thrive on a regular routine in their days and weeks.

Last month we told you that as parents we had decided to operate our home as a benevolent dictatorship. By this we mean that we basically operate under the guise of a voting democracy where the children are concerned, especially our four olders (two 12s and two 14s). But when the rubber meets the road, we as parents have the last and final say. We created the Teen Consequence Board to discuss the parent’s grievances and allow the teens to choose the disciplines that would be consistent and fair for everyone. We thought this process would take four or five 30 minute sessions, but has now strung into a full month of conferences and deliberations; the average session lasting about an hour.

The kids have been fully dissecting each and every portion of not only the parent’s grievances, but are now moving on to other areas, such as the negotiation of age appropriate privileges and dating guidelines. We’ve far surpassed the basic "Dos and Don’ts," as our middle school students have begun to realize the lasting impact their voices have for the five youngers who’ll follow behind. What we intended to be a simple misbehavior/consequence chart has now turned into what we have dubbed "The Great Big Book of Everything" (our nod to Playhouse Disney’s "Stanley.") This book, a 3 ring binder with sections and page protectors, now holds not only disciplines, but other information pertaining to our home and family. For the purposes of this month’s column, we’ll share with you the details of some sections along with the process we utilized in rendering a final declaration. Below is a look at our table of contents:

Section I: Ready Reference
  1. Class Lists
  2. Emergency and Fire Plans
  3. Frequently Called Numbers
  4. Medical Release and Insurance Info
Section II: Family Forum
  1. Ages and Stages
  2. Phone Terms of Use
  3. Contraband
  4. Curfew and Timetables
  5. Dating and Relationship Standards
  6. Dress Code
  7. Integrity/Dishonesty
  8. Personal Space
  9. Physical Force
  10. Respect/Disrespect
  11. Rules of Engagement
Section III: FLY Journal
  1. Daily Routines
  2. Cleaning Zones
  3. Zone Details
  4. Chore Charts
Ages and Stages
With the goal of consistency, this page is dedicated to a written listing of particular privileges and responsibilities that accompany each age. For instance, at age nine, the children in our home are granted the privilege of making their own choices about caffeinated drinks (usually, coke, which we do not keep in the house.) Up until nine they are kept from a substance most of their friends consider "normal." By this time, the parents feel they are old enough to handle this choice when at parties or restaurants. We have been very proud of the way the children have handled this rite of passage and have generally made very mature decisions. The accompanying responsibility is laundry duty. In our home, all children begin being trained in how to do their own laundry when they reach nine. For one year, they are given a specific day, during which The Laundry Goddess works with them teaching them the basics of sorting, washing, drying, folding, and placing properly away. After the training period, they are henceforth and forever more "on their own" as far as laundry goes.

Not every age is defined by a "trade-off" type scenario, but is defined in its privilege by the accountability that accompanies that activity. A good example is the milestone of turning 16. The privileges are driving and dating, as maturity allows. The responsibility for driving is requiring the teen to maintain grades of C or better, to uphold the family driving standards, and to acquire no moving violations. For dating, there are a series of standards we require before and during the courting process, such as interviews with the prospective love interest.

Personal Space

This topic was a very touchy subject and took much longer to hammer out than we anticipated. We began by passing the talking stick and let everyone share their issues with others. The list was filled with incidences of kids entering other’s rooms without permission, "borrowing" without asking, invading another’s "space bubble," leaving personal items lying all over the community spaces, etc. We wrote down everything that was mentioned, and then listened patiently while each of the kids talked about possible consequences and how the rules "should" be. The meeting moderator finally condensed the issues and suggested some alternative words for asking what you want, as well as synthesizing some consequences for kids who repeatedly overlooked the new courtesies we had devised. We held a vote which ratified the new directives with an 8/0 majority.

Curfew –

Ok, same procedure with this subject, only we’re reprinting the "final" decree for below for example purposes.

Curfew and Timetables
Definition – a regulation requiring a person to be in a certain place at a certain prescribed time.

  1. Upon being given permission to go out, you will also be given an expected return time. This time is only negotiable if arranged in advance.
  2. First offense will be given "house arrest" for 24 hours. ("House arrest" is our term for not being allowed to go out to play with friends. The child must stay indoors without use of electronic entertainment.)
  3. Subsequent offenses will add one day per time. (i.e. 3rd offense=3 days)
In Home Timetable:
  1. Quiet Hours are from 9pm to 9 am. Everyone is expected to be respectful of other’s need for rest and quiet.

  2. Evening Bedtime Schedule
  3. PK-2nd grade       bedtime         8:00pm
    3rd-5th grade       bedtime         8:30pm
    6th-8th grade       space time     9:00pm     lights out     10:00pm
    9th-12th grade     personal choice, respecting quiet hours

  4. Anyone caught disregarding quiet hours or space time will be given the earliest bedtime the next evening.
  5. Ratified 1-18-07, by a 8/0 vote.
Some of the children (and their friends) think we’ve now made "too many rules," but in all actuality, we’ve managed to make fewer rules, and have instead spent our time focusing on proper positive behaviors. The only difference is that now our expectations are written down. The New Year’s intention to have us all "on the same page" with our hopes for each other has made tremendous strides in some true poly family cohesiveness. The real bonus to our discussions has been quality time with our older kids, listening to them and learning about what really matters to them. They may not realize it, but we as parents may in fact have gained far more than anyone expected in the creation of this manual. We firmly believe this great big book will help us keep ourselves on track now and in years to come. Perhaps we might even have begun a legacy that the children will be able to extend to their own one day families.

Temptress & the Laundry Goddess, February 13, 2007

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