Parenting Doubts

butterfly

 

*  * 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.

reading

hamper

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…

sharing mints

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.

Note

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!

 

 

The Introvert at Bastille Day – Part 3

Sadly, my living room still looks pretty much like it did in the last post. But thankfully tonight was the last of four nights spent herding, I mean “guiding,” three classes of 4-year-olds through kindergarteners through 20-30 minutes worth of crafts and rewarding myself with a large bowl of ice cream afterward.  The only casualties of the week  have been one missed training run due to exhaustion and forgetting a friend’s birthday. This evening, I finally had time to sit down, breathe, and dream of making something for dinner tomorrow evening that isn’t already frozen in a box. Painting the living room is the LAST thing I’m contemplating, so I’ll edit instead. Part 3 coming up.

*     *     *

Welcome to Bastille Day.

gazebo

But first, a lesson on parking the car—”Indiana-style.”

parking job

It was fun.

French actors

It was yummy.

Deep Fried Pickles - yum!
Deep Fried Pickles – yum!

It was like a fair with community service demonstrations, but without farm equipment, animals and rides… and with a wine and beer garden. (Ok—not so much like a fair after all.)

K9 1

K9 2

With authentic, awesome! French music

French Axe

And French games.

Petanque Tournament
Petanque Tournament – similar to bocce

Even though we were steeped in French culture, we felt right at home.

need a nerd?

French Daniel

french dress up
The curly hair was actually appropriate as well.

The evening ended with a beautiful lantern parade and an impressive! laser show, which I couldn’t photograph well due to my cheap camera.

evening 1

evening 2

evening 3

It was not the raging college party which I was dreading. I met some new people, very briefly. I could handle that. Afterward, we helped cleanup, and I was even happier to have a job to do, walking around the deserted park, cleaning up trash and taking down decorations. I can handle this, I thought… even if I have been awake for over 20 hours (minus the not-so-restful snooze in the car).

As we rolled into the driveway of Daniel’s boss’s house near 1am, I knew personal space wasn’t going to be a problem. I don’t know how many bedrooms the house had because I’m generally not one to snoop, but there was plenty of room, even with 10+ people there.

Sunday morning I opted to go with the coders to the company office for the day just because I was curious and feeling the extroverted vibes. And what did I find at the office?

chocolate fountain

A chocolate fountain. I was told they break it out on Ship-It days. (I won’t bore you with the explanation of Ship-It Day; but next year, I’m voting for a trip for  Ship-It Day instead of Bastille Day.)

All in all, it looks like an awesome place to spend your day, using the treadmill desk after one too many dips in the chocolate fountain, or just lounging on the sofas like I did all day long… perfect. I did get “super” extroverted and ate lunch with the men and later spent quite a bit of time talking with a very! nice gentleman from the Netherlands. He also presented the group with a box of Belgium chocolates, so naturally I was drawn to him.

my view
My view for the day. You’re seeing less than 1/2 the table of coders.

So then I’m sitting at the supper table at 8:30pm, surrounded by eight ravenous men, feeling oddly at-ease. Why is this? I wonder. Have I actually transformed myself into an extrovert to be so at-ease with seven strangers? The men sit and say little for quite a while. The gentleman from the Netherlands does most of the talking, which wasn’t all that much. Then one of the guys comments in geek-speak, which sparks another comment, followed by more silence.

And then the light bulb goes on—these men obviously feel no need to fill the space with words. They’re content to eat without extra fluff. Could they also be introverts? Is this why I’m at ease? Or is it just that everyone is too intent on eating to care about conversation?

The group dwindled to four of us. Then they start more personal conversations—about gluten-free diets, experimenting with home brewing, etc., and I’m more certain than I was before that they are, indeed, introverts, more comfortable talking with a small group of peers than a large group. I’m in good company, I decide. They understand me; they don’t judge me because I am quiet. This is good.

Oh, and the green beans!!!! The green beans were Uh-ma-zing!

green beans

I’m not a huge fan of green beans (I eat them mostly to set a good example for my kids), but even I had a second helping for lunch the next day… Incredibly Amazing.

On Monday, the office was going to be more crowded with all the staff coming in in addition to the sprinters, so I chose to stay at Daniel’s boss’s house—alone. The house, as I mentioned earlier, is quite large and the yard borders a golf course (maybe that gives you a clearer picture). The development where the house is situated is huge! with lots of roads running haphazardly here and there, many times ending in dead ends. Daniel and I had taken a walk the night before and with almost every turn we took, we would review how we got there. It was confusing.

But I was tired of sitting all day like I had on Sunday, so I chose to do the most adventurous item of the trip on my alone day. I put on my running shoes, left the house I wasn’t sure I could back into (code on the front door), without a cell phone/GPS in the humid 90 degree weather, and wandered around the neighborhood while trying not to look overly lost. I did study the map of the development before I left which was very helpful (thank you Google maps!), All in all, it was the absolute worst run of my summer, but I didn’t have to knock on someone’s door asking how to get back to the boss’s house. So I’m considering it a success.

I spent a long, leisurely lunch on the deck with the green beans from the night before… heavenly in so many ways.

my lunch view
My view at lunch

And I sat in that huge, empty house until almost 7:30pm feeling more alone than I have in years. It was a good alone, a quiet time to think and re-group. But it was in those moments that I realized several things.

I continue to like being home with my children. Even though sometimes they are ridiculously loud and suck up huge amounts of my introverted energy, they fill the house with laughter and songs, which also rejuvenates my spirit.

Also, it was good that I came along. It certainly was not the emotionally taxing, socially-energy draining trip I was expecting, but it definitely had enough push out of my comfort zone to make me excited to return home.

The final thing I decided (and this is obviously a personal preference) was that a big house would make me very lonely. I like hearing my kids chatter in their rooms while I fold laundry in the living room, or hearing them play in the basement as I concoct my supper creation.

All in all, my life is great, blessed in so many ways. It took a four day trip ¼ of the way across the country to remind me of that, but I’m thankful I had the opportunity.

And if you ever happen to be near Fortville, Indiana around the weekend of July 14th and you happen to see a large pink elephant, drop in and have some fun celebrating Bastille Day.

pink elephant

P.S. Several of you have sent me the link  6 Things You Thought Wrong about Introverts, and I thought it was a great (concise) article about introverts and the way we are (wrongly) perceived by extroverts. Lest you think otherwise, I do love being with people. I wouldn’t call myself shy—especially one-on-one, and I may talk your ear off if we hit the right subject. But I do need to re-charge by having alone time, especially if I’m “in deep” with new people and situations. And just to add another great link, check out 10 Myths About Introverts.