Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Mama Said There'd Be Days Like These

SuperMomto3 asks: When you have to be creative with their learning, how do you keep up the energy to do so? You are asking a lot of yourself by homeschooling (mom, teacher, cook, cleaner, artist, etc) do you keep going when they just absolutely beat you down (and you KNOW you have had days like that toO!) :)

Heidi answers: What?! Me, have a bad day?! Nah. I am imperviously cheerful and energetic. I get hours of quiet time, but it wouldn't matter if I didn't, because I don't need any. A disastrous house (which mine never is, of course) just fuels my tank. Oh, and my boys are angels: quiet, respectful, obedient, tidy, always ready to learn. They never use words like 'poo-poo butt.' They never have dramatic, wailing meltdowns at the mere hint of the words 'piano practice.' When we are at the store, they walk calmly beside the cart with their hands behind their backs. They never escape down the driveway in the dead of winter with nothing but a saggy diaper and rubber boots. They never, ever complain about what is served for dinner.

Bwa-ha-ha-ha!! Did I fool anyone? REALITY CHECK: Many days, I have nothing left by bedtime. Sometimes I have nothing left by mid-morning. Make no mistake, raising kids is hard, hard work. Rewarding, amazing, wonderful, and hard, hard work.

Things I've Learned (in my short mothering career):

I set the tone of our day.

87% of the time life falls apart around me, it started with my own actions or attitude, not my boys'. I get distracted. I'm playing on the computer instead of following the routine. I'm talking on the phone. I don't pay attention to the boys' needs. I don't respond appropriately to misbehavior. I don't follow through with discipline or consequences. I stay up too late and am cranky the next morning. I run errands at lunch time. I don't spend adequate time training my boys in the behavior or tasks that I desire from them...

If I recognize my own shortcomings, I deal with chaos differently. I'm less likely to blow up at the children (children!) who are falling apart, when I, as an adult, can't even do what I'm supposed to do!

It stands to reason, then, that by following the routine, being present, and paying attention to our environment, I can set our days up for success. Am I great at this? No. Am I working on it? Yes.

It behooves a father [or mother] to be blameless if he expects his [or her] child to be.

My mom tells me that my dad's mother gave this parenting advice:

If a child is misbehaving, there are three possible reasons: He is tired, he is hungry, or he has to go to the bathroom.

I have to tell you that I've found great truth in this advice over and over again. The other day, Leif had a complete meltdown at my mom's house when we sat down to lunch. I thought it over and realized that he was likely very hungry and tired. I dealt with him very softly and coaxed him to eat. Once he calmed down, he devoured a bowl of soup and declared it (through teary eyes) to be 'licious.' Directly after lunch he had some quiet time in the playroom. And filled his diaper. The poor kid was hungry, tired, and had to go to the bathroom.

I need to pay more attention to the boys' eating habits, making sure they get healthy snacks throughout the day. At least one of my sons needs some regularly scheduled time in the bathroom. I also need to get the boys to bed at a decent hour and have a back-up plan for quiet time when stamina is low (theirs or mine).

In spite of the seven thousand books of expert advice, the right way to discipline a child is still a mystery to most fathers and... mothers. Only your grandmother and Ghengis Khan know how to do it.
~Billy Cosby

I need to have various coping strategies up my sleeve when all else fails.

1. Get back on track with renewed focus. Sometimes I have to slap myself and pull myself up by my bootstraps. Be confident. Be kind, calm, and firm. Take the bull by the horns. You know what I'm talking about. Wipe the slate clean and turn the day around with sheer will-power.

2. Make a drastic change in the environment. If we're inside, go out. If we're outside, go in. If we're out and about, go home. And my personal favorite, if we're home, go out for a drive. If everyone is going in opposite directions, snuggle on the couch with a good picture book. If we're getting on each other's nerves, put everyone in separate rooms to play (including me). If we've been battling over lessons, put on loud music and dance. If the house is about to cave in from the noise and activity level, send everyone to their bed with a book. If it's cold in the house, crank up the heat....

3. Hand the children over to their father. This isn't always an option, obviously, but I am beyond thankful that Russ has an office separate from the house where each boy has his own computer station. Sometimes Russ will take one look at me and immediately take the boys out of my hair for a while. Even 30 minutes makes a huge difference. Sometimes I go crazy and pickup the mess, clean house, or cook dinner. Sometimes I stare like a zombie at the computer screen.

4. Similar to #3, send the two-year-old to grandma's house. I really, really like this strategy. Again, not always an option, but greatly appreciated on occasion.

5. Drink copious amounts of Dr. Pepper. This one works well in conjunction with any other coping strategy.

6. Directly in opposition to #5, make sure I'm taking good care of myself by eating right and getting enough sleep. (Hence the pot of tea every afternoon to replace the Dr. Pepper habit.)

7. Have a personal mantra. It depends on your personality. For many people, this could be a Bible verse which they can repeat to themselves. Lately, I've had the chorus 'I get knocked down, but I get up again, You're never going to keep me down...' running through my head. I find that being silly helps me recover more quickly.

8. Find something to be thankful for. It can be a little thing, like appreciating the fact that we don't have a carpeted dining room after one of the boys spills a bowl of spaghetti. It can be the absence of something, like being thankful that we aren't all in bed with the stomach flu. It can be a big picture something, like reminding myself that I am living my dream life and there isn't any place I'd rather be.

9. Laugh. It's better than hiding in the bathroom crying.

When my kids become wild and unruly, I use a nice, safe playpen. When they're finished, I climb out.
~Erma Bombeck

This is when I think my readers could help out with combined wisdom. Tell me (please!):

How do YOU keep going when the going gets tough?


Kara said...

Don't have any great words of wisdom to add, but I wanted to thank you for yours. I just came off one of those days and it's nice to hear that I'm not the only one who has them. And it's nice to be reminded that there are things we CAN do when everything seems out of control.

Anonymous said...

I think you got it all, what am I to add? It's so true you have got to begin with yourself.
Calm. In case of huge tantrums for some unknown and generally completely unproportionate reason, I find it best just to go out to the garden for a couple of minutes, look at some pretty flowers and just take a deep breath. It really helps. I can go back and calm the kid(s). They feel I'm calm and understandng instead of being furious because their troubles seem unimportant to me.
Sleep. Tired Mom=cranky Mom= cranky kids=rotten day.
A cup of tea can do wonders. Every afternoon, during nap time I take off just 20 Minutes an sit down and have a cup of tea. Just that. No multitasking just a cup of tea.
Organisation. I always try to be a bit ahead with my work, so when there's a day when everything goes wrong at least I don't feel submerged by all the things to do.
Patience. Don't yell even if you want to. It won't make the kids do what you want them to, and it doesn't make you feel any better, on the contrary.Take time to educate and explain. Let them help you with your work. A two year old can hand you clothes pins, a four year old can help with the cooking or set the table (don't use heirloom dishes though...)

I wished I was as perfect as I pretend to be ;)


K-Sue said...

I think you have covered it pretty well. Notice there are various coping strategies, not one-size-fits-all.

Christi said...

LOVE your "Tubthumping" mantra - a frequent play for me on the iPod.

Mine is "Keep calm and carry on".

I love your list of ways to keep it together. Most frequently, I have found that it is MY ATTITUDE that is directing the boys. Just as you said, when I am ill, grouchy or distracted - they cannot deal.

Thanks for sharing!

Deidra said...

My nest empty and I read your posts about your family each day with joy. My mantra was (and remains) "This too shall pass." Not in a way that says: I can't wait for this to be over. But more like: These moments are slipping away, never to return. Granted, there were days when it was just best for me to give ME a timeout. But when I remembered that each moment with my children was a gift - an opportunity - from God, I was more inclined to breathe deeply, dig in, and love. Love my children, my life, and my God for giving me both.

Jessica Stock said...

I am so glad I read this today. My kids, three and fifteen months, are going through a phase- they don't sleep, they don't want to play, they only want to hang on me all day long . . . I am getting really overwhelmed with it. Thanks for these suggestions, I will put them to good use! (I have a question: did you have a "schedule" when your kids were little? Should I be keeping their days more structured? It goes against my personality to be really routine, but maybe that's the problem . . . or, maybe they need more free time to just learn how to play? If you have time, this is a question I have been searching for an answer for! Thanks!)

Luke Holzmann said...

Love the photo [smile].

Sometimes a quick, five-minute power nap is enough to reset me. ...sometimes it's not.

Unfortunately, I realize some people don't nap well.


Whitney said...

I'm a new mom (one son, 7 months old), but wow, even he can just wear me out. And he's a good baby 90% of the time.

I LOVE that picture. I see that as my future. :-)

Anonymous said...

You are so right when you said it all begins with you. I have definitely found this to be true. When I am focused and grounded everything around me works better -- including my kids!

Thanks for your blog! I read it everyday and always enjoy it.

Skeller said...

This is a BRILLIANT post, filled with humor, humility, godliness, and wisdom.
Thank you.
I got nuttin' to add. ;-)

Anonymous said...

How uncanny! This entry bears so many similarities to one I've oft seen posted on the WTM boards.

From Mental multivitamin:


really.truly said...

This is such an encouraging and honest post. Thank you!

I wish I had realized this a couple of yrs ago....but, the way I react to my boys makes all the difference in how quickly a bad moment could turn around. I've also finally realized that they are little sponges....our children are always watching us, absorbing how we handle each situation. Just in the past week, I've found that my intentional gentle reaction is causing the boys to bounce back from tantrums quicker(make sense?)And to be more forgiving with each other. It helps the day go along smoother.

BTW-My boys were eating pasta on our coffee table(don't ask!)while I was reading this. AND they did spill it on the rug beneath.:)

Heidi said...

I appreciate the feedback, everyone!

Jessica~ I'm the wrong person to ask about routines with littles. I was just in survival mode at that point. :) My guys didn't sleep well, and I can't function without sleep...

Luke~ I'm one of those who can't power nap. And I'm sooooo jealous of those who can!

Andrea~ Hey, I'm in good company, then! :)

Susan said...

This is a great post Heidi. I've been known to put a movie in for some quiet time. Or books on tape for the kids. A midday cup of coffee helps sometimes. But like you say, it really begins with me. Sometimes I just need to sit the kids down and say I'm sorry. I haven't been a good mom today. Will you forgive me. And then we can start fresh.

Anonymous said...

How do I keep going? One thing I do is steal five minutes to read your daily blog!
You are the "I" in my daily "GIFT" acronym (God, Inspiration, Focus, Thanksgiving).
I have a 3yo girl and 1yo boy and my beautiful young mother passed away Jan 11, so I am struggling. Not saying that for sympathy but just to let you know that your posts are a blessing to me.
Thanks for the encouraging post, I feel like you are one of my "mommy friends" even though we have never spoken.
(If this is a repeat post, I apologize, I've had some technical troubles commenting.)
Please keep it up!

Anonymous said...

P.S. What you said about deviating from routine, and the children's behavioral issues starting with our misstep is so so true! But I'm slowly learning to give myself a wide berth and strive for progress not perfection. (I'm sure that mantra sounds familiar to you.) Disclosing your imperfections has endeared you to many.

Jilly said...

I totally agree with all your coping strategies. Since I don't have grandparents around, I hire a teenager to babysit from after school until supper time once a week in the middle of the week, when I'm the most tired.

Also, when we have a bad moment and I lose my temper, we stop and talk about how we're having a bad day, and we breathe out all the negative energy and start over. Now sometimes my four year old will say, "Please lets not have a bad day, mommy." when things are going downhill. Since he has my temper, I think its good for him to see me reign myself back in, so he knows how to do it, too.

Heasleye said...

Wonderful post! I think you've hit the nails on their heads! This was very timely for me and confirms a lot of my thoughts and hopes. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

~LoVeD THiS!~
Thank you for being an encouragement!

Anonymous said...

'couldn't help but notice the edit on your "It all begins with me" subhead.

I guess you noticed the similarities (in tone, content, etc.), too.


Heidi said...

Andrea~ I didn't reference MMV when writing my post, but thought it considerate to change my subhead when I saw the same title there, considering her post was obviously written first. I saw no reason to change anything else, as I was writing from personal experience. No similarities were intended. Feel free to email me at heidi (at) poetsgarden (dot) com if you have any further questions or concerns.

Jennifer said...

Brilliant! I love this post... and those quotes are so perfect.

When it get's really ugly inside, I leave the kids and sit on the front steps... alone. I need fresh air and a new perspective. Take a deep breath, pray and re-enter the chaos. : )

Darcy said...

I loved this post! My husband lost his job in January so the struggles and tough days seem to be piling up on each other. I appreciate your suggestions. When I have a bad day it tumbles onto my two kiddos and that isn't fair to them, they need the stability of a peaceful mom right now.
In line with some of your suggestions- My son LOVES the "move-it" song from the movie Madagascar so I pull it up on you-tube so we can dance.
I also think doing something that is unexpected to the kids. If they are having a tea party, I suprise them with cocoa to go in their cups, not a big deal, just fun for them (and an excuse for me to have some too;)

Darcy said...

Oh, and I forgot to add the good bit of advice from my MIL- mom to 4and a preschool teacher for 15+ years- She said to ask myself when I was getting irritated with something- "is it a big deal, or just a big deal TO ME?" It is a good self-check because usually it's just a big deal to me, and I am making too big of a deal about it! That realization usually helps me to snap out of it!

Heidi said...

Darcy~ I love that you mentioned doing the unexpected. I'm gonna think on that a while. Maybe I'll do a post and have everyone chime in with ideas for that...

Heather said...

Thank you, Heidi, for sharing... I needed these simple, yet oh-so-valuable, reminders today :)

Anonymous said...

From Tera in Salem~
Heidi, how appropriate today. I have just spent the last 20 minutes venting frustrations to my husband where I admitted that one of us needed medication to get through these long winter-homeschooling days - either me, or my almost 8yr old ;-)

I've been totally at wit's end lately. These are good suggestions and reminders. Thank you for sharing, and I will pray that the Lord will give me more strength and patience.

SuperMomto3 said...

This was the greatest post, I just laughed and laughed!! It was just like being in my own house! And here I thought your house was calm and quiet all the time! HAHAHA!

Thanks for all of the great advice, I do agree 100% with the fact that the MOM sets the tone for the day!! We have a crazy routine (daddy is home some days, working others) but I always make sure Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner is at the same time everyday. It helps to create some sort of structure in the day (and it also prevents "hungry" meltdowns most of the time). Thanks for the motivation and great advice!

Anonymous said...

Heidi -
you're post was perfect! I really enjoyed reading it. I agree with everyone else that Mama sets the tone. Sometimes that's hard if we're genuinely just having a rough day, you know to buck up and put on that smile to work through the day.

I have twin 7yos, a 4.5yo, and a 21 month old. Up until just about a year ago, even the olders had a quiet time. It was about an hour long. That was such a needed time for me. In fact, it's still needed but now I do school during the time the little one is napping so I don't get the quiet time anymore. I wish I could get that started again. I've heard other hsing moms say a daily quiet time for all is imperative.

Heidi said...

Rachel~ I had the same problem with quiet time... I needed naptime for the youngest in order to get the bulk of our schooling done for the oldest. I'm having a hard time figuring out how to work that back into our day. The 2 yo no longer naps, and he is the one least able to entertain himself or stay in his crib quietly...

carole said...

Great tips. I love the quotes, too. As silly as Bill Cosby was/is, I think his quote is right on: there's no formula for raising kids. It requires a lot of prayer, to be sure!!! (and Dr. Pepper helps a lot, too ... today I said to Will, "I feel really tired!" and he said, "Well, you should take a nap or get some caffeine." Very matter of factly. Gotta love it.)

jillian said...

Thank you for your brilliant post. The visual was great! Some days I feel we struggle with behavior more than anything else and your suggestions were wonderful. When the going gets tough, i get some fresh air and it seems to change my perspective.

KatolinFamily said...

Thank you so much for this post today. My toddler seemed to be a crab tonight and now looking back at the day, maybe it was because mama was a crab! Your reminders and encouragement are awesome as are the comments from everyone else. It is great to know we are not in this alone!

Threebusybs said...

There are a couple things that I do for myself and my 3 babes when the going gets tough.

I talk with my Granny in heaven.

We stay home and reconnect. Will we stay in our jammies and just play, read and snuggle. That is one of the best things about being able to stay @ home mama.

I have no idea really why this comes into my mind but...Dory from Nemo plays in my head "just keep swimming, just keep swimming, that what we do we swim...." weird huh. But I will actually catch myself humming while I gettin' through tough days.

I sound a little nutty but I'm really not.


Sarah said...

I think I remember sometime ago hearing that advice of hungry, tired or needing to potty. But had completely forgotten it. So thanks for the reminder. I've stopped several times in the last few days & considered if any of our problem my have their root in that piece of advice.
And most have & with the aid of food or rest we are better, mine are older so I hope that they can just go when the need arises.

I think that good or bad, no matter the situation how we act or react can set the tone as to how they recieve it. So I try to speak as clamly as I can even though I might be screaming on the inside.
(it's hard)

Hip & Holy said...

Thank you so much. When things go awry, it's hard to think clearly. You just did that for me. I may print this out and frame it in the classroom ;)