Chapter 1Arthur, Ken, and Emma
ARTHUR -- THE CHORE HATER
Jean, forty-five and divorced, should have been in good spirits. They'd had the closing on the house she just sold; there was money in the bank -- she would be able to pay her bills up to date for the first time in weeks; and her seventeen-year-old daughter, Melinda, had just been awarded a scholarship from the University of California. But Jean was tense, irritable, and on the verge of anger -- and, as it turned out, with justification. As she suspected, her fourteen-year-old-son, Arthur, hadn't done any of his daily chores. The dishes were still in the sink from last night, his room was a mess, the living room floor that he was supposed to have vacuumed was covered with litter and food droppings, and Arthur, ignoring it all, was watching television and eating cookies.
Jean restrained herself with great effort and attempted to use what she had read in several parenting books:
"Arthur, it makes me very angry when you don't follow through and do the things you've agreed to do. Last week you complained about all the yard work you had to do and said if Melinda would trade housework with you, you would do the dishes everyday and the floor at least three times a week. So far you haven't done anything."
Arthur looked up at his mom, said, "As soon as this program is over, I'll get busy," and went back to watching reruns of "Happy Days."
Jean, not wanting to be unreasonable, let Arthur finish out "Happy Days" while she went to change her clothes. Twenty minutes later she returned to find Arthur watching "LaVerne and Shirley." The floor had not been vacuumed, no dishes had been done, and his room was still a mess. Her resolve to be reasonable and trusting was overcome by a wave of anger and resentment.
"Dammit, I can't count on you to do anything. You won't even follow through with your own agreements. You can see what a filthy mess this house is but you aren't willing to do a thing. Your sister and I have to do everything. I work hard day after day to do my share around here, and Melinda more than does her part. And what do you do? Nothing!
Nothing but watch television."
Arthur stood up and threw his bag of cookies on the floor "Living with you is like living in a prison. You think you're a damn warden. Everything has to be your way, when you want it. You don't care about me or what I want."
"If you don't like it here, you can get out any time you please."
Arthur, taking his mother at her word, left the house in a huff and spent the evening at a friend's house watching television. His mother and Melinda worked in angry silence vacuuming the floor and doing the dishes. The next morning, Jean enrolled her family in a Back In Control workshop.KEN -- THE DOPE DEALER
Ken liked dope. He liked to smoke it, he liked to snort it, and he really liked the money he earned from selling it. The kids at his high school knew him as a dealer you could always "score" from. His room was like a small showroom for drugs. He had posters on the wall glorifying its use, several pieces of jewelry made to look like marijuana leaves, and the tools of the trade -- scales, manicuring equipment, baggies, cigarette rolling papers, and a drawerful of cash for easy transactions.
He was almost seventeen years old and had been dealing dope for three years. If his parents hadn't dried out in an alcohol treatment program, Ken would probably have continued dealing into adulthood. But once free of alcohol, his parents saw what their son was doing and brought Ken to a Back In Control workshop.EMMA -- THE TRUANT
Betty walked into Emma's room to wake her up. It was already after 6:30 and Emma would have to hurry if she was going to get to school on time today.
"Emma, get up. Emma, it's time to get up," said Betty, gently tugging at her daughter's shoulder.
"All right, all right!" said Emma, pushing her mom's arm away. "I'll get up. Just leave me alone!" and turned back over
Betty returned to her room to finish dressing so she could get to work on time. She looked in on Emma about fifteen minutes later and found her asleep again.
"Emma, Emma, it's time to get up," she said sharply.
"Leave me alone!" snapped Emma.
"You're going to be late for school."
"No I won't, just leave me alone and I'll get up on my own."
"But you don't. You've missed two days of school already this week." And Betty reached down to pull Emma out of bed.
"Don't touch me, bitch!"
"Don't talk to me that way, dammit!" she screamed. "I'm your mother and I'm going to get more respect than that!" And she slapped Emma across the face.
But Emma returned the blow with even greater force and doubled up her fist ready to defend herself. Betty, not knowing what to do next and not wanting to have a fist fight with her daughter, ran from the room and went to work. Emma missed that entire day of school, her third in a row and the tenth that month.
After she got to work that morning, Betty called our office on the advice of Emma's school counselor and enrolled in a Back In Control workshop.
We will rejoin Arthur, Ken, Emma, and their parents at the conclusion of this book.
Copyright © 1983 by Gregory Bodenhamer