Parenting SOS!

“Honey, put down the markers, we don’t color on ourselves…or the wall..or the floor…just paper.  PAPER!!  Is that so difficult a concept?”

“If your sister says stop, then STOP!”

“When we get in the car, we sit down and we buckle up.  I shouldn’t have to say that every time we go somewhere.”

“That’s not a sword, and we don’t hit people.” 

“You’re too old to run around the house naked.”

“If you don’t listen, I’ll throw away your toy.  I don’t even care.”

“I don’t actually like to yell, so if you don’t want me to why don’t you listen?”

“I know I said you couldn’t watch TV [Dear God, what was I thinking?]but you could mayyyybe earn it back if you would please just follow directions now.”

“Don’t lick that!”

“I’m sorry that your leg hurts; but it didn’t seem to bother you before I asked you to clean up.”

“If you don’t listen, there will be a consequence…I don’t even know what it is yet, but you won’t like it.”

“No, you can’t have candy for breakfast.  Eat what I gave you because that’s what we’re eating.”

“If I’m in the bathroom, don’t open the door!”

“Don’t worry about what your brother is doing, worry about what I asked YOU to do!”

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I used to have this idea in my head that parenting is more about being with my kids and loving them than disciplining them.  But somehow that’s not how it’s going for me.  Honestly, from the minute my kids wake up I feel like most of what I’m doing is giving them directives: “Get UP, Get Dressed, Eat Breakfast, Pack your library book in your backpack!”  When I’m not telling them what to do I’m telling them what not to do, as the list above reveals.

Occasionally, my child will speak soft, kind words, or try to tell me their whimsical thoughts.  And even THEN half the time I can’t even focus on that sweet moment because one of the other two is acting out.

Is this what parenting is?  Am I missing something?

I’m starting feel right now, especially with my middle child that I’m just in a never-ending battle.  Maybe I’m trying to get him to leave a friends house and JUST want him to put his shoes and coat on.  I like to think it’s a fair request in New England winter.  Yet we drag on back and forth, me taking away treats or fun things; he pushing back with angry words and stubbornness.

By the time we get home there’s something new to argue about, assuming we even made it the whole car-ride home without a clash.

And tonight, I’m sitting there praying with the big kids at bedtime after a whole bedtime saga, and he just says “stop praying, stop praying, stop praying” and I ended up downstairs after just crying because I feel like I’m failing at this.  Failing with him.  Like I must have been inconsistent or faulty in something when the kid was 18 months old and we simply can’t recover.

Maybe I let him have one too many muffins one day instead of firmly saying “no”, or maybe I yelled a bit too loud once and his little brain decided that he’d start fighting anger with his own.  I joke… but really…do you ever wonder if you have been parenting all wrong and you just don’t know how to get back on track?  I don’t even need to be on the track…just maybe parallel to it.

I don’t want to be the mom who spends the whole day saying no.  I don’t want to be the mom whose kids require twenty reminders to do one thing.  I want to give my kids fun things, good things. I want to be a light-hearted Mom who creates a home of peace.  But I’m not sure I’m that mom right now.

How do we let God hold our kids, yet seek Him to strengthen our own for the task He gave us as parents?  How do we encourage our kids to obey without nagging, to listen because we love them- how do we motivate them with less punishment, less anger?  Or maybe, how do we learn to admit that even with our mistakes, we’re really loving them better than we think?

I’m putting this out to you Moms- Dads- Grandparents- Aunts- Friends- What advice would you give to me and other struggling parents who think they might be losing it somewhere?  How can we discipline as needed without creating a negative atmosphere in the home?  Comment, post, text me if you must.  🙂  This mom is ready to listen.

What We Find in “Losing It”

This morning I had an appointment scheduled with a nurse at my new Endocrinologist office.  Trust me, I’d thought through the day- I was going to knock out three birds with one stone, stopping first at my doctor for 10am, then picking up my contacts while I was out, in time to mosey along to my three year old’s speech language appointment at 12:30.  No matter that I had an extra kid home sick today…I so had the day covered.

I stuck my oldest on the bus, packed up the boys and drove to my Southington appointment.  Except when I got to the office there was a sign on the door that said they were closed on Thursdays. Weird.  “Well, maybe just the doctor is out, but they have a nurse here…”   So I asked the lady at the opposite reception area…you know…just in case. 

(As I type this my rational self is shaking her head- “Seriously? The sign says “CLOSED” and you’re going to plow right ahead and confuse the poor receptionist there instead of admitting you made a mistake?)

She basically reiterated what the sign said- and to just heap some extra shame on myself, I asked her what phone number to call to sort this out with my doctor only to find out that (you probably guessed it) the contact number was ALSO on the sign.

So I called the number and apparently I was supposed to go to the New Britain office.  Oh.  The lady seemed as perplexed as I was: “I booked that appointment with you…why would you go to the Southington office?”  

  1. Maybe because I have three children and only 2 functioning brain cells.
  2. Maybe because this is the only office I’ve been to so I just assumed despite your phone reminder.
  3. Maybe because OH! there’s a Starbucks over there…
  4. Or maybe I because I just screwed up.  

I resented her question, but she quickly realized that I was flustered and kindly assured me I could call back and figure out a new appointment soon.  So I dragged the kids downstairs, determined to salvage the trip by at least using the bathroom, but found that it was being cleaned.

Back to the van! I looked up directions pick up my contacts anyhow.  Just to be safe, I checked their office hours.  BLERG! – turned out the eye place was closed on Thursdays.  Sensing a disappointing pattern here, but still determined to be productive in the 2 hours till my son’s appointment, I decided to find a place to have the oil in my van changed and also use the bathroom. (This is absolutely rational-people logic.)

So I found an oil place- full service- very nice people.  The guy told me all their names and said, “If you need anything you can just say, ‘Hey Valvoline Guy!'”  Great.  Valvoline Guy.  I can remember that.  One problem…it was some express change so you stay in your car the whole time while they work.  This was fun for my boys but now I was seriously second-guessing my brilliant decision to over-hydrate.  

In the end, the oil was changed, the kids got a fun meal, my bladder survived, and we made it to the speech appointment no problem.  Not the worst day of my life.

But this wasn’t the first time this week I’d made a massive mistake.  Saturday I was beyond excited to drive up to Danbury CT to hear a Noble Peace Prize winner, Leymah Gbowee, speak at PeaceJam (a gathering of mostly youth and college students).  She’s absolutely amazing, uniting Christians and Muslims and helping end a civil war in Liberia.  Well, an hour or so, a parking garage and some trying to get directions later…I realized that the lecture had already happened the night before.  I missed it entirely.  I was devastated and was ready to hop back in the car and cry my hour drive back home, but I ended up texting a friend who was helping with the Jam.  She told me they were in the gym doing some cool dance and open mic stuff and I should totally join.

Ah yes.  The college campus gym. Directions?  So I awkwardly followed some girls and walked completely out of my element into this gym full of students, where my friend was leading a group in a dance to Bob Marley’s “One Love”.

Next thing I knew I was reliving a former Zumba nightmare trying to follow along to an African Dance.  (How come college kids have so much energy and so little social inhibition?)

 

And perhaps around this time I started asking God, “Hey there…what’s going on?  If I missed this awesome lecture and drove over an hour, I assume there’s something I’m supposed to get out of this detour.

(Order the book via email at: amezetovic@winooski.k12.vt.us)

Well, this was one reminder that God sometimes works in our detours and even our ineptitude to accomplish His own plans.  I ended up meeting a Bosnian woman who had come to America 20 years earlier as a refugee.  She has since written a book of poetry about her experience, and currently works at a school teaching ESL to a student body that is 40% refugees.

I plan to connect with her more in the future and hopefully understand a bit more about refugees and how to help.

Though we often feel foolish or frustrated when plans fall through, when we go to the wrong place or at the wrong time, there’s always something happening.  Maybe it’s just a perspective we need- a letting go once again of our control, learning to appreciate what’s in front of us anyway.  Or maybe God is orchestrating something in our detours that we never would have known to “plan” to begin with.

 

 

 

The Week My Compassion Broke

You know those blog posts that start with a problem and end with a cute little moral, a “you-can-do-it” pep talk, or at least an inspirational quote with a gorgeous panoramic picture?

I know you’re starting to feel a little warm and fuzzy at the thought, so I’m going to go ahead and snap you out of it and dump ice water on that thought.  Yeah, this isn’t that post.

This is the post where I tell you how the stomach bug attacked my six year old, while he was at a birthday party by the way, and then proceeded to take the rest of us out one by one like an invisible, icky sniper.  You know how this goes…the cleaning of things you haven’t cleaned since…well…the last stomach bug, come to think of it.  The indefinite holding of the breath hoping no one else will get sick. The way you simultaneously feel deeply sad for your pitiful child, but also think, “How could you do this to me??!!”

The sick feeling you get when you’re not actually sick but your mind thinks you are.

And then the actual being sick when you start bartering with God, asking yourself where you went wrong in life and why you never appreciated normal digestion.

So we finally got past all that in just under a week and had a deceptively blissful couple days of reprieve.  Then Monday two out of 3 kids woke up with ear pain that ended in infections for both.  (Side note: Minute clinic offices are really not big enough for two upset sick kids and a three year old that rivals the energizer bunny.)

So here I am today…and I told my husband my compassion is broken.  They broke it.  Not their fault.  No.  But sickness is like a megaphone that takes alllllll the whining and the tantrums and the baseline drama and amplifies it a gazillion times.  (That is a highly accurate statistic.)  If my sympathy is like a tube of toothpaste, we are down to that last little bit that you can only access through complicated origami folds.

My son asked to play a game today and I flat out told him that I simply didn’t want to.  Sorry.  Not happening today on broken compassion day.  And when those sweet sick little kids tried to get out of bed last night or complain about one more malady, I walked them briskly back to bed while attempting to defend my right to personal free time.

Not only is my compassion broken, between kids out of school and sheer delirium, I can barely remember what day it is.  I keep drawing confusing lines on my calendar where I put the right event in the wrong square.   My son’s birthday is today and I forgot to buy the poor kid a gift.  And based on the straggling few forks in my silverware drawer, I’d say I’m massively overdue to clean dishes.

So how do you play into all this?  Well….  I think you know exactly how I feel because I believe at least 72% of you have just gone through the same thing.  So I promise…I won’t try to cheer you up….I won’t try to pat you on the back and tell you it will get better…I’ve lost my compassion, remember?  But go ahead and share your worst sick stories with the rest of us…maybe we’ll all feel a little better after all.

 

 

Dear Anarchist Sons

Dear Anarchist Sons of Mine (age 3 and 6 respectively),

Where to start?  Your attention spans are short, so I’ll begin by saying the important: I’ll love you in and out, through and through till the day I die.  This, however, is because my love isn’t a book or a toy or a paper…that you can shred and destroy like a pack of vindictive lions.

I don’t actually love things being destroyed.  (Surprise!)  So let’s just cover a few examples of situations I don’t like, shall we?

Do you remember when we made that “fruits of the Spirit” tree for our wall?  You know…the one with fruits of “love”, “joy”, “peace”.  I suspect you remember because you stripped that tree, probably while I was in the bathroom.  And I don’t really take it personally, but I do find it more than coincidental that the fruits you unceremoniously ripped off were “joy” and “gentleness”. Could we not rip all things paper…including books and cards?  Ahem.  Moving on.

 

 

 

 

 

Let’s talk broken toys and Christmas presents.  I’m not even so surprised that you break them…but don’t have the decency in your little hearts to wait till the New Year at least?  By the way, you don’t need to turn your whoopie cushion into a “frisbee”…if you want a frisbee we can get you something made surprisingly exactly for that purpose.

Then there’s the messes and so many smells.  You know who you are.  I mean, it should be enough for you that the bathroom is perpetually vaguely scented of urine and the massive amounts of soap you use.  (One squirt, really…it’s quite effective.)  But on top of that, I’m finding gifts of partially processed foods:

…writing on the wall and table (as though we don’t buy you reams of paper):

 

…and whatever paint/glitter love child this is:

Also…I’m not sure if this is a boundary line or security measure, but in either case there’s a more effective and less gluey method here…I’m 98% positive.

 

 

 

 

 

Then there’s a few simple…let’s call them “etiquette” matters.  For one, your diaper isn’t an appropriate holster for your toy gun.

Two, thought I appreciate your budding artistic skills, please save your anatomically awkward “naked sunburnt man” pictures for home and not for your teacher at school. Please. For the love.

Third: Sweet boy, I know that you are just showing me the two fingers that are particularly messy, but the world simply won’t understand.  Let’s work on getting non-middle fingers messy next time.

Finally, I love your building and creativity.  You guys amaze me with those brains.  But you and I both know that behind those brilliant designs and charming smiles are two boys with no intentions of cleaning up anything.  Except for those random moments when you do clean and I’m tempted to take you to the ER for brain scans.

So…I hope this letter has been informative and convincing.  Next time remind me to talk to you about 101 ways to NOT torture your sister.

With Greatest Love,

You Worn-out Mom

 

 

 

 

The Secret Life of a Stay-At-Home-Mom

Mom. It’s a wonderful role.  But when you stay at home any number of days with your kids, sometimes the daily things become a bit monotonous.  We say children have active imaginations, but I’d like to think we stay-at-home Moms and Dads let our imaginations do a little makeover to our lives from time to time.  I mean, come on, if our husbands (or wives- not trying to overstereotype here) get to slip away into their fantasy football and video game world and play pretend, why not us? 

Go with me here.
I’m not just mom, I’m parking lot vigilante.  Double-parkers beware!  I may not actually swoop in with super-human strength and move the vehicles that violate the most fundamentally understood parking rules, but I will use my super typing skills to vent to the whole FB world until justice is served…er…until everyone knows that justice SHOULD be served.  
I’m not reaaallly a grocery shopper- I’m just masquerading as a grocery shopper to accomplish my ultimate task of buying things that are not on our grocery list.  Diet coke?  Not on the list- but we have company coming at the end of the week and I’m going to get it anyway.  (PLUS I’m going to hide it in my secret stash so no one will drink it before our friends are here.  muahaha.)  Aldi is my store of choice for secret purchases- with such low prices on food, and such random- limited-time-general merchandise, who knows what I might sneak into our “grocery” budget:  flower seeds, a shoe rack, kitchen mat, compost pail, paintable sugar cookie kit, a hand tiller. Oh yes.  
I’m not realllly cleaning house.  I’m conducting highly complex scientific research.  I intend to get results on the following:  How many days one can go without cleaning the toilet before it becomes obvious; How long it takes an average vacuum cleaner to die from exposure to Christmas tree pine needles;
Chart the most time effective soaking method of dirty pots and pans based on the composition of food that is caked on (sometimes in the name of science I must leave pots and pans soaking for days- trial and error, you know);Whether or not one can “use the force” to mind control children into cleaning their rooms, etc.  
I’m not putting the children to bed- I’m practicing my ninja skills.  If I’ve already put the first kid to bed, I can practically tuck and roll out of the second kids room to get downstairs without the first kid seeing me.  I haven’t quite perfecting hiding on the ceiling, but I can sneak out of a kids bed without waking them up, and I’m learning to avoid the floor boards that creak the most.

Then there’s always the days of being a run-of-the-mill magician.  For instance, when I attempt to sneak a grape off my son’s plate and he catches me as I pop it in my mouth and start chewing- I use slight of hand to steal ANOTHER grape from my daughter’s plate and convince Luke I’ve somehow returned his original grape unscathed.  Kids trying to steal my cell phone?  Now you see it…now it is magically under the couch cushion and a distracting tv show is miraculously on.  When Char then has a melt down about the TV being turned off?  I send her to her room for a few minutes (or much longer- the trick changes every time)- and shaaaaazam!!  She is restored to her usual happy self.  If I need 5 minutes alone time?  I don’t have a magical box with a secret panel, but I do have a bathroom and a door lock.  It’s practically the same thing.  
One day I’ll finish perfecting my alter-identity…which I’ve told Jeff will require red or blue highlights for my hair, and another tattoo.  It’s a shame alter-identity purchases can’t be snuck into the grocery budget.    
       
Well- life calls- I guess it’s time for me to go back to being “just a Mom”…wink wink.  

Summer Stalling…

Summer is here and somehow having no schedule is just as stressful sometimes as keeping up with the weekly school routine.  At least for a person like me who does not plan things out ahead of time. I have a few things penciled in here and there, but otherwise I wake up in the morning thinking- oooooh boy- gotta figure out something to do to make the day enjoyable for the kids (and me too).   Which is how we wound up making recycled soda bottle “bowling pins” the other day.  But that was the only brilliant idea I’ve had so far, and you can’t make those every day.  Nor can you wear a deflated pool floatie everyday, as I’ve tried to explain to my son.

Which is probably why I’ve become obsessed with our library summer reading program- if I read five books with my daughter a day I, errrr…um… I mean she earns a “book buck” each day.  (Up to six bucks a week.)  We read a ton of books as it is because my daughter has loved a good story practically since she was in the womb.  But now that there is a reward attached I am hyper vigilant about it all- “five books!  We have to read five books!”  And then I have to log them- and there is the breakdown.  Because this year, for the first time, we have to log all of our books into an account on the computer.  Before I could generally note the books we read and write them all in last minute before we turned in our log at the library each week.  But with the computer, the books are logged virtually by time and date entered…so of course the day came when we meticulously counted our books to log, and I forgot to log them on the correct day, thereby forfeiting a precious book buck.  (At least I think…the system may not be quite as strict as I’ve given it credit for, but my obsession breeds paranoia.)  Now I find myself at 11:45pm frantically entering books so we can make it all the way to the $15 Time Machine gift certificate we have our eye on.  
I’ve also been checking my phone frequently to see if anyone has texted to do something with us.  (I don’t write this to imply we are friendless and miserable, just that I’m a dimwit and don’t plan things with our friends far enough in advance.) But this, too, has been complicated by the summer.  No, OK really it was complicated by me jumping into the pool with my cell phone in my pocket- which isn’t ideal for receiving texts.  But the summer is the root problem.  I tried all the tricks I know- leaving my phone overnight in a bag of rice and everything.  I got the thing working again- but it has never been the same.  So my brother gave me an old cell phone to use, which was great till I dropped it on the floor at the airport.  Now the phone works but whenever I get a text it sounds like a muffled cannon has fired instead of making a perky “beep”.  I expect to start having dreams about the Revolutionary war any night now. 
Meanwhile I’ve made actual war on the bugs in the house- we have no ants inside this year (which I’ll naively attribute to my cinnamon barrier at the exterior door) but we have earwig bugs and those awkward beetles that blunder around looking comically ridiculous….until they crash land onto your shirt.  Then they are just annoying.  But the earwigs are the worst- I haven’t figured out how to outsmart their tactics yet.  Also some sneaky bugs are chewing up my veggies- but once I set up my garden spy cam its game over for them.

As I ponder what I’ve written, it seems clear that we need a couple more hobbies this summer- at least until swim lessons start.  Any fun, cheap summer ideas from other Moms or Dads out there? 
  

From A Stay-at-Home Mom, With Love

Dear Husband,

Sometimes when you come home from work I seem frustrated.  Sometimes I attack you with too many complaints about screwing on the soda lids so darn tight, or I greet you quickly between throwing sauce on a pizza and sending one of the kids to timeout.  I don’t want things to be tense and chaotic when you come home- or in general- but maybe if I give you a window into what is going on inside my maze-like mind you will be better able to understand  (even though I still ought to respond better):
First of all- I’m SO grateful that you work to support us.  (That’s an understatement.)  As much as I feel that I have more than a full time job at times with the kids, I feel extremely blessed to be home with them- to see our kids growing up in small and big ways… to be able to plan my own weeks (around the whims/needs of the kids of course)…to be able to go outside to the park in the sunshine when I know you are stuck at a desk inside…to be able to sit for a few minutes to check e-mail or facebook without someone looking over my shoulder to see if I’m on task…and to be able to snack and grab a coffee at will.
That said, when you come home to see the kids I know they are getting to that cranky twilight zone.  I know that they can be needy and testy and whiny.  I know that it is hard to come home to that and suddenly have to turn on Daddy mode when you’ve just finished a long day of work.  But it is at this very moment that I have often lost every shred of patience that I have with the ever mounting whines and tantrums.  I have had just one trip to the bathroom that wasn’t a group fieldtrip, and may have almost resorted to using the monster puppet to scare our son into the carseat so I could get Charlotte to school on time.  The tantrums and stubbornness that you are experiencing for an hour and a half before bed, I have been dealing with off and on all day.  And most days I would kill for that half hour commute you have both ways- because a car to myself is a rare moment of calm and bliss.  Even though I pray for more patience than I sometimes show, I think, in an unspoken expectation, I rely on you to come home and be fresh off the bench- ready with superhero patience when mine is giving out.  So is it natural for you to be frustrated when you come home to grouchy kids?  Yes.  But I sometimes get annoyed at your frustration, as natural as it is, because I desperately need you to outlast my own weakness.
Then, when you are with the kids on your own- whether I go out for a girls’ date or to get some alone time at the grocery store- you should know that I have this expectation that you will spend some time really, really playing with the kids.  This may seem unfair- I know you need your down time too- but truth be told, I feel guilty every day for the amount of time I don’t actually spend with our kids.  I’m WITH them all day, sure, but I find I’m spending so much time cleaning, or keeping on schedule, or trying to sneak in a few minutes to myself, that I don’t make enough time to really see them- to really play- to really be present with them.  And I bring this guilt to the table when I leave them with anyone, including you- and somehow it makes me feel better to think that while I get a break from the mom thing, they will be getting all the attention that I would want to give them if I were there. It frees me to know that I’m not the only person that is filling them with attention.  But I may take this expectation too far.
Finally, I get controlling about too much- I probably over critique everything from how fast you can change a diaper to what kinds of foods you are giving them.  I am not overly organized- I do not have a specialty or degree in this, but this Mom thing is essentially my life right now.  It does not justify my actions, but I tend to get a little snippy at times when things don’t go the way I always do it- because on the day to day stuff I kind of run this place.  Not without you, obviously, but during the day it is all me.  And maybe that goes to my head a little bit- or maybe I feel a little better about myself if I think I am the clear expert at how many carrots vs. chicken nuggets should go on their plates, how to efficiently diaper, and how to best deflect our son from locking himself in the van to “drive” it himself.  But I know that what I really want is for us to be a team, and that I undermine that every time I tell you how you should do things, instead of creating dialogue.  
In short, I really want our kids to see us as a team- and I want them to grow up knowing that we each love them and interact with them in our own special ways and through our unique personalities.  I get frustrated sometimes- but it may just as often be related to my own feelings of shortcomings as it is to something you did.  I love our kids and I know they love each of us and look to us to fill them and acknowledge their perspective and their daily triumphs, joys, and sorrows.  I know that our roles with them won’t be exactly the same and their really is no clear “fair” when it comes to parenting.  But…  
I love those crazy kids…and I love you too.  Always.  
Sincerely,
Your Stay-at-Home Wife