[I’m reposting this one because I need to read it again. And again. And again.]
Mama Said There’d Be Days Like This
Originally published March, 2009 [when the boys were 7, 4, and 2]
Q: 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.) How do you keep going when they just absolutely beat you down (and you KNOW you have had days like that too!)
A: 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 children 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.” ~Homer
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 childrens' 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.
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?