Warning, this post contains a full moon, crazy kids, Halloween candy, wanting to quit homeschooling and researching the age minimum for scheduling an Uber pickup. Cuz Momma is TIE-YERD and FRUSTRATED and wants to ship her kids somewhere far far away.
So that was how it all started last week.
And- spoiler alert- it ended with me feeling empowered and encouraged as a mom and with kids happily interacting all.day.long.
I know, right?
So here’s what the middle looked like. Basically, 5 cute kids, though adorable, had me questioning my very ability to parent.
By the end of one particular 15 hour day of all-things-kids, primarily consisting of fighting between the 2 big boys, I said good night to them, cried a little, stood inside my pantry cussing in my head for choosing a second round of Whole30 right smack dab in the middle of Halloween candy, threw a personal pity party which brewed over into a temper tantrum for my husband to enjoy, then told/yelled at him ‘it’s too much.’ Too much noise. Too much work. Too little space. And especially too little peace and order.
So yeah, it was pretty obvious that something wasn’t working. I had just enough courage left to (1) ask myself the question my mentor often asks-how is that working for you-and (2) ask my husband for help. Answer to question one was a resounding it’s not! My current parenting strategy is not working. In fact, I’m not sure what my current parenting strategy even was this week! I know it involved a morning movie because I wanted peace and quiet….
…and slightly ignoring them as I transformed my front porch into an herb garden…
…and ignoring them a bit more as I worked on giving my blog a facelift…ya know, the blog about parenting mindfully. So yeah, there’s that.
Anyway, answer to question two was a kind but painful observation from my husband: I go heavy on the side of empathy and gentleness and second chances with the kids at the expense of consequences and actual discipline (boy are those 2 of the yuckiest words for me.) And that perhaps the result is children who don’t actually know where the boundaries are emotionally or physically. And a mom who doesn’t either. And a whole lot of confusion and frustration for all. Bleh!
I’m incredibly privileged to be a part of a text-based support group of moms, so I reported my painful discovery-in-the-making and said that I would like to grow in the area of showing gentleness AND firmness with my kids; flexibility AND boundaries; ‘what can we learn from what you just did’ AND discipline. I also shared how I often view my husband’s fatherly energy as bad or scary because it’s so firm and, well, not MY way and will surely end in therapy.
We’ll fast-forward to the part where Micah spent the next hour using that powerful and kind, firm and loving father energy to parent our boys, and how I spent that next hour taking deep breaths in the dark while I held my cup of tea and reminding myself of all the ways I trust my husband as a dad and that his father energy is something my sons need, not something I need to shield them from. *I’ve written briefly about this in the past here. This isn’t blind trust or a way of embellishing his abilities or deluding myself; he has worked very hard at fathering and I trust his skill. It just feels scary or wrong to me sometimes because it’s not MY way. But apparently MY way hasn’t been entirely working lately.
I went to bed feeling exhausted, defeated, and out of non-crazy ideas.
I woke up at 5 am remembering the words the children’s great-grandmother, Mama Joan, shared with me this past week:
Start where you are.
Work with what you have.
Do what you can.
It was like a compass. A road map out of the pit of parental paralysis. So I made a list of all my perceived problems.
Then I listed all the possible solutions I could come up with- even the crazy and taboo ones.
Then I came up with a baby step plan for the day. It served as my field guide to the day and I took notes throughout so I could learn from it.
The day ended up looking like this:
- I played soothing piano music all day from my phone, which I carried around with me. Yes, I was trying to recreate a nursing home vibe.
- I taught the 3 big kids how to swallow pills and we all began taking an herb for relaxation that had just arrived in the mail and came highly recommended. Stay tuned on that.
- I split up their chores. While one completed a task, the others played in their rooms-happily at that!-and I would spend time with the one. Uninterrupted, quality time.
- I banned all Halloween candy, explaining it wasn’t working for us. Even though they get one piece a day, I wonder if the added sugar is adding to the crazy, so it’s out.
- I banned all media for the same reason. Sometimes it serves me, but lately it has not. The added noise, the fighting over what we watch, the baby grabbing the remote. Nope. Done.
- I realized we were facing a full moon, which always heightens my son’s aggression, so it helped me care for him.
- I gave us all a 5 minute buffer of silence and solitude in between tasks (“good job with your chores. Now we’re about to start school, so you’re going to sit in your rooms quietly for 5 minutes and prepare for school”)
- I called them down one at a time to give them their school assignments.
- I had the kids do school in separate rooms, holding all questions until I came to check on them. Then I gave each private instructions while the others played quietly.
- We left the house at the time of day that tends to be most stressful. We went to a farmers market and playground AND THEY ALL PLAYED LIKE LONG LOST BEST FRIENDS.
- I regularly checked in with each of them and asked their stress level from 1-10. They ALL said it was “the best day ever” and their stress was a 1.
- I shared my own evaluations (“I feel more peaceful. I enjoy spending time with you. I’m glad I’m not yelling. I’m so happy our experiment is working.”)
- I moved Silas to the guest room so he and Sam have some space at night. Bedtime tends to foster lots of fighting as they share a room, so for now, we’re done.
I realize there is much more to work on and that it will no doubt evolve, but man was this a victory. It showed me that I can be creative and firm and loving and flexible all at the same time, and that we can interact as a family in a kind, respectable, not-doomed-for-therapy kinda way. I also made some valuable observations this will help me as we move forward:
- Micah’s father energy is something my children need, not something I need to compensate for. I could not believe the change in the boys after his talk with them. It brought me to tears. I’m still baffled how that works, but it DID! I even heard the boys saying to each other how much they love dad and how ‘he’s the best.’
- If I fail to plan I plan to fail. Need structure to our days. Even if it’s just bare bones, we need structure to keep me/us from falling apart.
- I thought this plan would feel taxing and like triple the work, but it didn’t. It was smooth, flowy, and peaceful. I had better interactions and conversations with my children privately and together and I really enjoyed their company.
- Bickering kids is a huge trigger for me and I’d like to work on that. Stay tuned.
Phew. This was a hard one to write and share. All that vulnerability and the risk of hurting my pride and my idealized image as a mom! But I’m committed to growing up and getting real alongside my kids, so I suppose this is the way forward. It sure seems more preferable to the alternative (which involves me eating Halloween candy in the pantry as my kids fight and I check out of momming completely!)