Back to Work

My first week back to work is behind me. It was a good week. Sunday night was hard as I was faced with the reality that I’d be leaving my sweet baby girl, who had not been away from me for more than just a few hours. I worried about how she’d feel and how well she’d eat (she’s been exclusively breastfed for the past few weeks and had a hard time with a bottle the last time she was given one). I knew I would miss her and the boys and all of our extra quality time. I knew my boys would miss me being home in the mornings and picking them up from school. I’d miss all the craziness and just being with them. But I also knew I’d be leaving them in good hands, and that for our family it’s the right thing to do, and so I decided to be at peace with it. And I was, and come Monday morning, there were no tears, just smiles.

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Working for me is both a necessity and a choice – at this point in our lives, I am needed to help support our family, but even if I wasn’t, I think I would still work. But there is a lot of judgement and guilt wrapped up in that truth. Just the other day I called our pediatrician to setup an appointment for Berkley’s 2 month checkup (and shots). As I was talking to the receptionist about the time that would be best, I began thinking out loud… “I work and so late afternoon would be best…” The lady replied, “You work?” Initially I thought she was inquiring what me working had to do with the time choice so I felt the need to elaborate. “I work and since she’s having shots, I want to make sure I’m home with her afterwards in case she doesn’t feel well.” To which she replied, “No, I just noticed that you have three really little ones.” The judgement in her tone was apparent. It sort of kicked me in the gut. I searched for a quick light-hearted response, but I was offended. I’m sure people think it all the time, but she said it and I heard it and it stung a little bit.

So why is it that I want to work? I’ve asked myself this question many times. I’ve felt selfish and guilty about it. The truth is that I’m not sure I have a really good answer. Nothing when you say it out loud seems a good enough excuse to not spend every possible moment with your children. But, whether it’s a good reason or not, I think it’s because I work best when my plate is really full. I need a lot of balls in the air. I function at my highest potential when things (to outsiders) seem to be busy beyond belief. In college, I earned my best grades when I had 2 jobs and 18 credit hours – straight A’s. At work, when I’ve got the most projects and biggest workload is when I find myself most efficient and productive. At home when I’ve got a to-do list a mile long I become energized and accomplished. And so when I look at my life and my different roles – wife, mother, employee, friend, home-cook/blogger/photographer, having all of those hats just feels right. I feel challenged and fulfilled in trying to be the best I can in each of them – and in that, I feel I am living as my best possible self. I really do. At this point in my life, I feel like being all of these things doesn’t take away from each role, but adds to them. Plainly put, I feel like I am a better mom to my kids because I work. This doesn’t mean that I don’t wish I spent more time with them or that there aren’t days I wish I didn’t have to go to work – I do. But I keep focused on the big picture and what I know about myself… and I know my decision to work is the best one for us.

Part of what makes it possible to be at peace with working is knowing my kids are well cared for in my absence. And they always have been. For years they were lovingly looked after by a lady named Elaine, who was tragically killed in a car accident last summer. Then we had Katie and Sarah who loved my boys and had so much fun with them too. We’re now so fortunate to have Blake’s cousin Jessica for the next few months, and we could not be happier!  We weren’t sure what our plan for childcare would be when I went back to work until just a few weeks ago. I had decided this time around I wasn’t going to stress about it – and instead I prayed. It’s amazing how God always has a plan and sometimes in letting go of the worry and trusting Him, some of the greatest things happen. Jessica seemed to have a had a good week with them all – only a few time-outs, and Berkley took her bottles well. She even ventured out of the house to an indoor playground with all three on Friday – hats off sister!  Oh, and my dishwasher was unloaded each day, which is like the best present you can give a gal – so thank you, thank you, Jess.

So what’s the first week really been like? Well first off, I’m tired. No other way to put it. Berkley was sleeping better, but not great. And even if she was sleeping great, waking up at 4:30am just sucks. I’m happy to report, however, that as I type this on a Saturday morning, I’m feeling refreshed because she slept for 6 hours straight last night! Fingers crossed that this one-day trend continues!

When I arrived at work Monday morning I was surprised by a decorated office complete with streamers, balloons and roses. I work with the greatest group of people who are not only my co-workers but my friends and they always make the hard times easier. I got to eat lunch (with adults) from some of my favorite spots – welcome back Chipotle Friday, oh how I missed you!  I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the fact that I also got to pee by myself all week! It’s the little things, people. I’m fortunate enough to have a locking, private office, so pumping was made pretty easy too.

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So yes, it’s been a good week. I’m looking forward to figuring out what our new normal is and then thriving in it. No doubt there will be bumps along the way, but I love my life and my sweet family and trust that things are as they should be. No worry here – just faith.

Managing the crazy

Sometimes I feel like being a mom is like running a factory. It takes strategy and efficiency and planning and meticulous execution to keep it all running on time. And by on time, I don’t really mean on time (because that rarely happens anymore), I really just mean running… barely. Oh yes, motherhood, one of my two full time jobs. Just because I’m not home with my kids during the day doesn’t mean I shirk any of the other mom responsibility. Nope. The daily housekeeping, laundry, dishes, meal planning, grocery shopping, hauling in and putting away all the purchased groceries (as I was reminded of this weekend when I brought home a huge haul from Costco and the hubs wasn’t home to help – holy freaking cow), packing lunches, sports, team mom duties, oh my gosh it goes on and on and on. And somehow all that “stuff” has to get squeezed into my nights and weekends. And throw into the mix that I’m 27 weeks pregnant, not sleeping well and beginning to waddle. However, I’m pretty certain that I should relish in the “easiness” (haha) of just 2 kids, because come 12 weeks from now, it’s really going to hit the fan… but back to the now.

So how does one keep the factory running? It’s a good question, and while I don’t think I’m coming anywhere close to Six Sigma certification, the place is running. I’m churning out clean (well most the time), loved, fed, clothed and healthy little boys into the world each day. But to say it is easy would be a lie. It takes hard work. It doesn’t allow for many “I just don’t feel like it days.” It means coming to “work” whether you feel like it or not, through sickness and fatigue and all out exhaustion. Because once you get the machine running, it takes effort every single day to keep it going. Sure, I could decide on any given Tuesday that I just don’t feel like loading and running the dishwasher. Which would be fine on Tuesday. But come Wednesday when there’s no room for the dinner dishes and I’ve got no clean sippy cups, Houston, we’ve got a problem. This means that at some point I’m going to either run the dishwasher twice in one day, hand wash the darn things or live with a continuous sink full of dirty dishes until the weekend. And it’s easy for husbands to forget this ripple effect. I can’t tell you how many times while complaining about the monotony of the nightly dishes that Blake tells me, “it’s okay to not do them every night.” And then I give him one of those wife stares… and he thinks I’m dramatic… and I think he’s delusional (and perhaps were both a little right).

There is no doubt more than one way to skin the proverbial cat when it comes to running a family. And while I don’t claim to be an expert (at all), I am sometimes asked, “how do you do it all?” And so here is my two cents on a practical approach to managing the crazy:

  1. First off, I don’t do it all. No one can. Some of the things I do may be more visible… because I blog about them, but it’s impossible to fit it all in. What I do is prioritize. I’ve thought about what’s important to me and my family and I make an effort to make those things happen. What causes you the most stress if it doesn’t get done? What can’t you live without? For me, eating home-cooked meals (even on practice nights) is really important.  So I plan my week’s meals on the weekend, go grocery shopping once (assuming everything on my list actually makes it in my cart, ha!), write the weekly menu on a board in the kitchen (to keep me honest and help me remember what I need to pull out of the freezer), sometimes make an extra meal on Sundays and go for the 20-minute options that I pre-prepped the night before on practice nights. It’s a lot of effort, but it’s important and so I make it happen.
  2. Figure out what’s not that important to you, and cut yourself some slack when those things don’t get done. Maybe it’s okay that the kids want to pick out their own (unmatching) outfits for school. Or that they leave the house with bed head. Or that the house isn’t picked up each night. Think about it, own it, don’t stress about it, and use the extra time to focus on what is important to you.
  3. Do things now. You’ll never think back and say, what a bummer that I already folded and put away the laundry! But it is highly likely that on a Sunday evening, when you opted to ignore the dryer buzzer (not once, but twice) and the clothes are cold and wrinkly that you think, why didn’t I take care of that earlier! This is a personal challenge of mine that I’ve been working on for the last 6 weeks. Let’s just say I’ve been successful 4 of those weeks, and the feeling of accomplishment was awesome. You’ve got to cut the procrastination, because in the end, it takes less time to handle things in the now than kicking the can down the road all week long and dealing with the side effects of the undone chores.
  4. Decide what days you want to tackle your chores, and then don’t worry about it on the other days.  For me, this means that I just do laundry on the weekends. Yes, there ends up being a lot of it come Saturday, but I’ve found that once you’re in the mode of doing it, it’s easier to keep it going… rather than trying to find the motivation every single day. Sure, sometimes I run a load during the week. But it’s just because I want to get ahead for the weekend, and I don’t feel a sense of obligation to do it. I’m sure the luxury of this choice will eventually be gone, but for now, I’ve made sure that we’re stocked with enough socks/underwear/practice attire for a full week and I just let it chill till the weekend. On weekdays, all I ask of myself is to cook dinner and do the dishes. If I’m feeling spunky, I pick up the house – sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t. This is one of those lower priority things that I don’t stress about if it doesn’t get done (and so please don’t stop by unannounced during the week unless you don’t mind wading through the sea of toys and promise to check your judgement at the door!).
  5. I know planning is not everyone’s thing… but having a plan makes the crazy much easier to handle.  Whether it’s a meal plan, a grocery list, or a to-do list, a little forethought goes a long way. For me, planning out what I’m going to make for dinner each night is the only way I’m able to sustain cooking on a nighty basis. Before I wrote it all out, I’d forget to thaw meat from the freezer, I wasn’t efficient with my prep (if I need onions chopped tonight and tomorrow, might as well chop them all tonight!), I would grocery shop multiple times a week – mostly when I was hungry… and would wind up with a much larger grocery bill than necessary. All things that are frustrating and made weeknight cooking a much bigger chore than it needed to be.
  6. It’s really all a mindset.  I’m a firm believer in being intentional with your thoughts. I feel that if you spend all your energy saying you’re overwhelmed and out of control, you sort of make your own bed. It’s hard to not be those things when that’s what you tell yourself. However, if you focus on getting things in order and think I’ve got this, you probably will. Yes, there will be days where you feel overwhelmed, but it doesn’t mean you are overwhelmed. Make those feelings a blip on the radar of a life where you are in control. Yes, my boys get the best of me at times. Multiple times a week, as a mater of fact. But I don’t dwell on being overwhelmed – I make it a temporary feeling. I remind myself that my attitude on the situation is my reality and I choose not to live the life of someone who is a slave to their kids and their home. I take control. I figure one of these days my boys will behave and things will get easier and so I will keep my eye on that prize.

So now that I’ve got a system to help keep things running, I’m about to tip over the apple cart with a third child. I guess that’s just my MO – always chasing a challenge. I’m hopeful that even with the changes coming to our family, I’m able to find my sanity long enough to keep the factory running. Maybe not as smooth as it is now (haha) – simply running will be just fine. And because I know me, I will. Things will change, I will regroup and then get another plan in place. And then my kids will do everything in their power to throw me off my game, but I won’t let ’em! 😉

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Time

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I’m not too fond of the excuse “I don’t have time…”. While I’m sympathetic to the fact that most of us are stretched too thin and time is our most precious commodity, I think what erks me about it is that people make time to do the things that are a high priority for them. As someone who strives to get the most out of each and every day – being a good wife, quality time with my kids, a full-time job, cooking dinner every night, the kids’ extracurricular activities, blogging, the dishes, the laundry, etc., etc. – hearing “I don’t have time to do this/that/the other” just kind of hits me wrong. The more accurate statement, in my opinion, is that doing this/that/the other is not a high priority for some, and so it’s an active choice to not devote time to it. And that’s okay. We can’t do it all, but own your choices.

Over the last couple of months, blogging has lagged a bit on my list of priorities. I’m sorely behind. I’ve got recipes and stories to share, but I have been needed more in my other roles and so I haven’t made the time for it. At the end of the each night I face a decision – do I sit down and write, or do I spend time with my husband who is home more now… or go do prep for tomorrow night’s dinner… or pick up a little more around the house… or go to sleep. And more often than not lately, the alternatives have won out. So I have a camera full of food pics, a note pad full of recipes and a brain full of kiddo stories that are just hanging around, waiting until I make the time (or get the energy) to share them.

When I started blogging, I said that I never wanted to do it out of obligation. I never wanted to feel like I had to meet some expectation for how often I post or what I write. I wanted it to be just about me. And I’ve stuck to that. But what I didn’t anticipate was having a never ending supply of material but having the constraints of a mommy schedule and priorities that have made it hard to make the time to share.  I want to write about my boys playing tiny tot football and my husband winding up their head coach. I want to write about how I set a goal for myself to cook a home cooked meal on practice nights when I need to have dinner cooked in 20 minutes (which I’ve successfully done the last 6 Tuesdays and Thursdays!). I want to share those recipes to help other busy moms faced with the same weeknight dilemma – and I will, at some point. But the funny thing about time and choices, is that I had the time tonight and chose to write about this instead. So again, no excuses.

And not to get off on too much of a tangent, but perhaps what rubs me wrong isn’t so much about the semantics of the time excuse, but perhaps it excuses period. I think we live in a world where people spend so much time making excuses for themselves and their actions – rejecting ownership – falling victim to their circumstances, that it’s downright annoying. Like so many others, I didn’t come from the storybook childhood, but I had choices. I made choices. Some of them were good and some were bad, but the ones that counted got me to where I am today. No excuses. I continue to lead my life that way. Life is unfair. We don’t all have endless supplies of time or money… and some sort of misfortune falls into all of our laps. But I refuse to go around proclaiming “I don’t have the money to do such and such…” (no, it should be I choose not to spend the money I have on such and such) or “I can’t to do such and such…” (no, it should be I choose not to learn how to do such and such, or darn it, I don’t want to!) or “It’s too hard” or “No one will help me” or “I don’t have time”. It’s all the same really. It’s an easy way out. It stops us from examining the real reasons for our circumstances. It’s a good enough answer that keeps us from our full potential. And it’s something I’m probably guilty of from time to time. But I’ve never let a bit of hypocrisy keep me from speaking my peace, so I won’t stop now. 😉

So think about it the next time you feel an excuse about to roll off your tongue. Be honest with yourself (and others) about your priorities and your reasons. Own it. It will feel good and authentic. I promise.

 

 

Simply put… it’s chaos

I found myself in a conversation with co-workers today (who don’t yet have kids) trying to explain a day in the life of a parent. A parent with two rowdy, active (and sometimes gross) little boys.  It was not too long ago that I sat in their shoes, outside looking in at the mysterious world of parenthood. I thought I knew what I’d be getting into, but I don’t think it is humanly possible to anticipate the way having children will turn your life upside down. It’s in these moments that the contrast between the kid-free lifestyle and mine is stark. Here are people who meet up with friends whenever they’d like, workout after work, and live lives that revolve solely around them. I used to do that too. And then you have parents, who rush home from work to get kids, play with the kids, prepare a meal, discipline the kids, feed the kids, read them books, bathe the kids, brush their teeth, put them to bed and clean up all the toys (and dishes… and laundry). And then, if we’re lucky, there is an hour or so that can revolve around us. Unless of course, the kids won’t go to sleep or stay in bed, or heaven forbid you can’t get Disney Jr. off your TV, in which case, even less of the evening is yours.

Now let me be clear on a couple of things. This is not to imply that people without kids are not busy, do not have responsibility or do not have stress. I know that they do. That’s not my point. And second, don’t mistake my realist account of an evening with children to sound as if it’s the most awful thing in the world to do. Quite the contrary. There is no amount of free time that can compare to the smiling faces waiting to greet you when you arrive home from work, arms open wide, yelling and grinning ear to ear, “Mooooooommy!!!” Five days a week it is one of the best moments of my day.

But the other side of those blissful instants is that kids are a lot of work. Nothing is simple. My earlier laundry list of nightly activities may imply that it’s like a checklist that you move along, neatly marking through each completed task as if it happened on time, as scheduled. But it rarely, rarely does. Because one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned about being a mom is that when you have kids, you are no longer in control. And I’m not talking about behavioral issues here where the kids are making the rules and think they are the boss. No. It’s control that you give up yourself. When we sign up to be parents we start living by rules (that while they are not dictated by our kids) are in their best interests – we adhere to a schedule, eat dinner at a reasonable time, make time for naps, clean up our language, baby-proof the home, turn our once nicely decorated houses into a place with juice-stained carpet that looks like a toy store threw up all over it. Like it or not, kids pretty much run your life. (Note – run, not ruin).

So let me explain what the nightly routine yesterday really looked like. Playing with the boys meant pushing them on the swing longer than I planned, but they were having so much fun I didn’t want to stop. It meant starting dinner late and being interrupted a dozen times because the boys were arguing over yard toys. It meant disciplining Brogan after he took two deck chairs to the very back part of the yard (after I told him not to) – and then listening to him say “they’re too heavy” to bring back – oh and him freely peeing in a random hole because duh, mom, your supposed to pee in holes. It meant feeding them dinner on the porch enjoying the beautiful weather, but being interrupted because a neighbor passing by excited the boys out of their chairs to go have a chat. And then a yellow jacket landed in my mashed potatoes. And then flies were swarming the boys plates. And no one finished their meal. And then it was time to take daddy his dinner to the gym. But that meant changing their clothes (that were absolutely filthy), and changing a diaper – of a two-year-old whose favorite game is to turn over… or kick… or run away… or all three when it’s time for a change. And then we finally got in the car – 30 minutes late. We delivered the food to a hungry dad, hung out for 10 minutes and hopped back into the car. We got home, started baths late. And then bath time was interrupted by Brogan figuring out how to use the blinds above the tub… and then noticing that he could see the rocket he lost on the roof from that window. And then Beckett (of course) needed to see it too. And then the blinds when up, and down, and up, and down. And miraculously, they were (sort of) clean and we finished the bath. And then snacks meant cheese sticks and pretzels (that of course got spilled all over the floor) and waters (that of course got spilled all over the floor). No time for books. Skip ahead to bedtime and they go down pretty easy… and I’m only called up twice with “Mommy, Beckett’s out of bed!” So I finally start to relax and realize I can’t find the damn remote and the TV is stuck on Disney Jr. blaring Sherif Callie. I literally thought I might have a nervous breakdown.  But I didn’t. I composed myself. I realized the remote upstairs would work the cable box in the living room too. But wait. If I go upstairs the boys will see me and they’ve actually been quiet for 5 minutes (although I was sure they were not yet asleep). All I wanted to do is watch Modern Family, but that channel, my friends, was 304 channels away and so for fear that my very last nerve may die if I attempted the 300 plus clicks on the cable box, I turned it off. And then I ranted on Facebook about it. And then I sat in silence until I was certain the boys were asleep and tip-toed up the stairs to steal the bedroom remote and watch my shows. And they were funny.

And so to my friends without kids who are curious what it’s like to be a parent, simply put – it’s chaos. But while it has its challenging moments, it is the most rewarding, most awesome experience ever. I am blessed to have been given these spirited children who prevent me from even thinking about having a dull moment. The chaos doesn’t compare to the way they love unconditionally, the way that need you or want you. Or how you see them learn and grow every day right before your eyes. It is one of the hardest jobs and greatest honors all rolled up into one.

The journey is a little bumpy… and impossible to fully plan for. It is truly chaos – but I really love every single day of my crazy life.

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Mother’s Day

Mothers Day – a day where moms everywhere get to kick up their feet. A day where they are fed and pampered – where the world revolves around moms and all of their desires come true. Well I’m sure that’s how mother’s day went down for some, but for me, mother’s day was spent… being a mother.

This is one of the last weekends of Blake working in the restaurant business, and obviously, today is a busy restaurant day. So the Sundays off that we’ve become accustomed to fell by the wayside, and from early in the morning till late in the afternoon, I got to play the not-so-glamorous mother on mother’s day.

Apparently kids don’t come out of the womb knowing that this is the day they should take it easy on ole mom. Oh no. Despite the “happy mother’s days” this morning, they spent the entire day needing things.  Mommy, I’m hungry. Mommy, come wipe me. Mommy, he’s messing with me. Mommy, restart Frozen. Mommy, come push my on the swing. Mommy, I’m hungry again. Mommy, I’m cold. Mommy, I’m thirsty. Can you believe it – the nerve!

And so while I didn’t get breakfast in bed, or a pedicure, or a nap, I really think I got something better. I got to spend the day being mommy to two precious boys, who (while they drive me crazy sometimes), are the sweetest little guys around. I got to gain some perspective too. In the midst of me feeling frustrated about the lack of pampering going on, I reminded myself that I am so, so, so lucky to be a mom – their mom –  in the first place. And at the end of the day, so long as I am a mom, there may not be many days that revolve around me and I’m okay with it.  I’m okay that they need me to care of them. I’m okay that they want my time. I’m still not okay with the back-talking, meltdowns, or fighting, but I supposed we can’t have it all. So Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there. Let you be reminded of why you get to celebrate this day in first place – and remember that last I checked, moms don’t get the holiday’s off. 🙂

P.S… if you’re feeling sorry for me, just know that when Blake got home, he took over kid-duty, did the dishes and put away some laundry. It really was a good day.

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The Yes Mom

I decided to conduct an experiment with my oldest today.  I had this thought while the boys were napping… what if I didn’t say “no” when they wake up… what if I agreed to all the requests made of me for the entire evening?  What if, rather than “not now, buddy” or “in a second” or “maybe later” or “I don’t feel like it,” I just said “yes.”

If I haven’t said it lately, parenting can be draining. It requires a lot of energy and patience and selflessness.  And so when you’re already at your wits end just trying to keep the peace, keep them fed and keep the house picked up, anything extra can be too much.  Especially when you have one that’s relentless.  Mommy, can we do this? Mommy, can we do that?  Over and over and over again.  The easy answer is no.  Sometimes there’s a good reason and sometimes I’m just lazy (or selfish) and just don’t feel like it.  But each answer of no comes with a tinge of guilt.  Because, even when I can’t muster the energy to deal with it, I recognize that his requests are a cry for my attention.  He just wants me… to spend time with him… to pay attention to him… to put him above all the other things I call important.  When I really thought about it today, it made me want to cry.

So I figured, what the heck. When he wakes up, I’m just gonna say “yes”.  I’m going to get over my nightly routine and just live in the moment. Tonight, there will be nothing more important than him.

When he awoke, he called down to me. I went up stairs, walked into his room and he was all smiles. I told him I was soooo happy to see him and we hugged.  Then he asked, “you want to play up in my room with me?” …. “Yes.” And so we sat at his art table and colored. “Can you get my (washable) markers and play them with me?” “Yes.” And so I went down stairs, got the markers (and grabbed my camera, cause that’s what I do) and we colored some more.  “Can I take pictures with your camera?” Gulp. “Yes.” And I handed him my camera (with specific instruction on how to handle it and how careful he must be). He took photo after photo and was so proud of what he captured.  “Will you play tractors with me?” “Yes.” “Will you play outside with me?” “Yes.” “Can we watch a movie together?” “Yes.” “Will you read me a book?” “Yes.” “Will you read me another book?” “Yes.” My yeses went beyond the things he wanted me to do. I said yes to things that would cause a mess, get on my nerves and were just plain unnecessary (Me: “Do you want milk or water for bed?” Brogan: “Both” Me: “Sure”).

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DSC_0530Brogan’s picture of me.

Funny thing about saying yes all night… I went into it thinking that doing all of this would take up the whole evening, but it didn’t. Turns out, I spend almost as much time saying no, and then dealing with the pleadings or hissy fits that follow my no, as I did when I said yes and engaged with him. Another interesting by-product… he was really well- behaved.  I was doing so much giving of positive attention, that he didn’t have to do anything that drew out the negative attention. I had filled his love cup so much all night that when I needed something of him, he was willing to give too. I saw it in the way he shared with Beckett, the way he cooled down after getting angry. And so when I had to stop playing with him because it was time to cook dinner, it was no big deal.  When it was time for him to take a shower… no big deal. And when it was time to go to bed, no big deal.

I’d be lying if I said I was committing myself to be a 100% “Yes Mom.” I’m not. I know myself well enough to know that I can’t sustain it.  Grandparents can because they do it in small doses; I can’t on a daily basis. (And by the way, it totally clicked to me tonight why kids act better for the grandparents – because they say yes!!) But what I will do is say yes more often.  I’ll try to remember that what he really wants (and needs) is me and my attention. I’ll keep in mind that it wouldn’t kill me to snap out of my routine and just have fun with my kids. I will commit myself to try harder.  After all, he is only young once… and one day, in the not too distant future, I’ll be wishing he wanted to spend time with me.

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What kind of “not”?

Today was a rough day with Brogan. He tested every limit, he pushed every button. He didn’t listen, he defied, he lied, he hit, he back talked, he kicked, he screamed. He got me to a place I rarely go – a place of absolute rage. We’ve had a good run of positive reinforcement induced pretty good behavior, and December brought us a “Santa scared straight” good little boy. But today was so bad that it necessitated straight punishment. He was sent to his room (and told to stay in)… and he walked out. I closed his door (and told him to keep it shut, or he was in there all night)… and he opened it…. and then proceeded to dump his entire hamper in the hall. I told him he could only get out of his room to eat dinner, and it would be back to his room for bed after that. But, surprisingly at dinner he was quiet and polite and ate really well (and I calmed down), and I said to him, “I’m going to give you a second chance, because I’m really proud of your attitude and for eating such a good dinner. But, you need to settle down and be a good listener or it’s back to your room.” Well, it only took about 3 minutes before he was running around like a mad man again. And he really crossed the line when he, who was unprovoked, intentionally head-butted Beckett. I scooped him up and took him to his room, plopped him in his bed and told him he was there for the night. No bath either. I stormed out. A couple of minutes later (like clockwork), he asked me about a drink and snack. The angry person inside me told him no snack. No way. But then he cried and said he was so hungry and his tummy was grumbling, and please, please, please can he have a snack. So I caved. But in an effort to maintain some sort of control, I gave a caveat to my gesture, I told him if he was not in his bed when I returned with his snack that I was NOT giving it to him. And then he looked at me and asked, “what kind of not?” What kind of not… That’s one of the moments as a parent that is like a cold bucket of water over your head. What kind of not… let’s think, the kind where I mean business or the kind where I’ll cave. The one that’s for real, or the one that’s an empty threat.

I know better. I know better. I can’t go around setting ultimatums that I know I won’t keep. And I know  I’ve done it as soon as it leaves my mouth. I also know that if I say it, I should mean it, even when I don’t want to. He needs to know when I say he’s “not” going to get something, he’s not. Parenting fail. But the problem is that when you lose your cool, it’s really hard to do all the right things. The adrenaline gets the best of you. The thought that “I’m the parent” get’s you thinking all no-nonsense and black and white and you say things that you “should” say. But I should know better than to say those things.

And then my husband (moments ago) sends me this article, Parenting Your Strong-Willed Child. Wow. Pretty much everything that I did today I shouldn’t have. The power struggles… pushing him into opposing me… not discipling through punishment… not offering him respect… I could have really used this perspective about 4 hours ago. The good news is that the things this child psychologist suggests jive with my soul. Not to get all corny on you, but I think there are some things when it comes to parenting techniques that feel right and some that don’t. Spanking, which I’ve done and still do occasionally, doesn’t feel right with my soul, but I do it because frankly I just don’t know what else to do, and I feel like it’s what you’re supposed to do when you have a really disobedient kid. I feel like sometimes I parent like I’m on stage being judged by society and so I must “do the right thing.” And while the tide is shifting and spanking has turned “taboo” – the evil stare in the store with your screaming kid affirms that there are many still in favor of corporal punishment. But I digress.

I need to stop parenting like I’m supposed to and start parenting how Brogan needs me to. And then when I figure out what Beckett needs, I need to become that parent too. I need to control my anger and my thoughts that I’m the parent and what I say goes, period, and start doing a little more listening. I need to stop feeling like I need to punish him for all of his transgressions. Maybe I don’t.

And so starts another chapter in the How the Hell to be a Parent handbook. I’ll let you know how it goes.

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