* * It may help your chronological understanding to know this was written last Monday. * *
Although they are few and far between, there have been times over the past seven years when I felt like I rocked this motherhood-thing. We arrive for an appointment five minutes early. The kids walk through a store and don’t beg for everything in sight. They play quietly together, sharing and role playing with one another. They ask for chores to do. They sit together and learn from one another. It’s total bliss.
But most days—like yesterday and today, I feel like a failure as the kids resemble barbarians more than well-behaved children, hitting and scratching each other, calling one another names, pestering the other just to get “the rise,” (Daniel and I try to let them hash things out alone, at least until the blood-curdling screams come… or the actual presence of blood itself arrives.) while I go on preaching ’til the cows come home about “respecting and loving one another,” but to no avail.
Along with the sibling quarrels, there also seems to be a new attitude in the house, leaving me wondering its origin. Incessant testing of limits, back talking and foot stomping make an appearance on a regular basis… so not like my children. Where did my kids go? I’d like them back, please.
The tears I wiped from my eyes in church (last) Sunday as my little “angels” held the offering basket side-by-side…. Alice herding and directing Ian into the appropriate place as any mother hen would, causing the entire congregation to chuckle at their cute antics… were not tears of “Oh my children are so sweet. Look at my daughter helping her brother.” No, they were tears of frustration that I had choked back during the hymns after telling Alice for the 100th!!! time to put the book away during the singing, only to be met with her new, but now regular, battle-cry and pouty countenance.
This was after I had already endured 1.5hrs of constant!! bickering before church. (Daniel was running the projector, which meant he was at church quite early while I played referee and disciplinarian.) After the pre-worship-warm-up at home, I mustered my remaining strength and walked the kids into the church building for one reason alone—their offering-basket-holding-duty (otherwise, I would have stayed home), only to face yet another show-down about book reading during singing—a long established unacceptable behavior.
I. am. so. tired.
I may give up the fight altogether and let our foot-stomping, nose-turning-up-ing children have it their way.
Six months ago I would have said discipline and attitude issues were the furthest thing from our minds (maybe that’s where I went wrong—not proactive enough?). I remember being glad I didn’t have to deal with the constant fighting and attitude other parents of similar-aged children talked about. I was hoping I was the bless-ed parent whose children were naturally respectful, not to mention the bestest-of-best-friends from the get-go.
Apparently, mine are just late bloomers.
I can no longer say that I only listen to the other parents’ frustrations. I am there… in the trenches alongside all the those parents who I used to feel sorry for.
I didn’t realize how Draining it is. Drrrraaaaiiinnning…. with a capital “D.”
I go to Daniel on a regular basis, rocked to the core with desperate! pleas for help. “Maybe we picked the wrong discipline system. Maybe we eternally messed up our children by choosing not to spank them. What can I change? What am I doing wrong? How am I going to partially homeschool our daughter when it takes 10 minutes of “putting the smack down” to get her to brush her teeth? Help me. I’m sinking.”
We throw around half-baked ideas about smiling more to lighten the mood and changing our tone of voice, but neither of us is convinced it will make a stitch of difference. We’re running out of ideas… and rope.
I know I’m not alone. I know the feeling of second-guessing one’s parental techniques is universal. But what do you do when you feel like you’ve tried it all…. when you’ve hit rock bottom… or when you know you’re gathering speed as you plummet toward imminent impact…. when you feel like you’re getting absolutely. no. where.?
* * *
And then I stumbled across it this morning. Last night I was so discouraged I had no idea how to end this post on anything remotely positive. I left it alone and went to bed, knowing the ending would come… as they always do, but today I was given an ending I was not expecting.
Still feeling severely overwhelmed and discouraged this morning, I did a double take when I found this…
my first glimmer of hope in (what feels like) a very long time.
My kids together…. not fighting, not hitting, not screaming… instead sharing the prized birthday mints given to Alice. Albeit, it was 9:45am, and I’m usually not a fan of candy that early. But I let it go and grabbed the camera instead so that I would have proof in the coming days (or hours) that my kids possibly do love each other. (Never mind that Ian later proceeded to eat all the mints without Alice knowing it… next crisis.)
And THEN…. this evening as I was finishing off the carton on chocolate moose tracks, I saw this new note on the frig.
I snapped another picture as proof for the years to come that I guess I did something right in these early years… even though it’ll only get harder (or so I’m told).
My mind is still churning, trying to come up with effective and meaningful consequences, how to curb foot stomping and bring an end to “that look” that Alice gives me that makes me want to stick a fork in my eye. And I’ll continue seeking new ideas of how to mold and shape our kids to ultimately end up respectful, caring persons.
But thankfully, my hope has been renewed. Amidst all the other garbage that comes my way on a day-to-day basis, something good is actually happening in my children. I’ll keep plugging away, one hour after another; and if you, Oh Reader, have any grand suggestions, I’m all ears!