As I laid in bed late Sunday night, frustrated and angry at myself for the poor mothering choices I'd made that day, I decided that a time of positive reflection was needed. I put on my thinking cap (which looks an awful lot like a dunce cap these days) and I did just that... think. Afterall, problem-solving is part of what I do on a daily basis, so surely I can come up with a way to rectify this cycle of never-ending fighting in my home. At the end of my thinking, all I came up with was this:
In order to not completely suck as a mom, and to feel somewhat ok with the choices I make in parenting on a daily basis, I basically need to do the opposite of what I originally feel in each situation. If they fight with each other and this causes me to instantly want to yell, then I will whisper instead. If they are intentionally disobedient and I want to act like a 6-year-old, I will choose to act like a 60-year-old (and play deaf... tuning them out entirely?? Wait, no...), meaning that I will let the little things roll off my back while using wisdom (novel concept) to deal with each indiscretion and hopefully turn it into a life lesson. (All in all, think before you act.... followed up by a quick "DUH!") I fell asleep feeling as ready as I ever could be.
Good Morning, Monday!! Rise and shine! Get at me, kids, 'cause it's gonna be a ggrreeeaaaattt one!! My personal goal for the day?
Be a ROCKSTAR Mama!
(But I'll settle for slightly less than awesome... just so I don't aim too high and feel disappointed later.)
As with all intentions and goals, they shall be tested.... and tested they were. However, I utilized some of my problem-solving skills that I had summoned up from that thinking cap of mine and found that I received a decent amount of success. A little step to some, but a big step for this gal is keeping the bathroom door open while I scurry around getting ready in the morning. It's soooo much easier for me to shut the door and not have little mouths drowning me in questions while I'm still uncaffeinated and trying to rub the crusties from my eyes. BUT on this glorious of Mondays, I chose to leave the door open (quite the metaphor for opening up my early-morning heart to my little ragamuffins, eh??) I let them jabber on about whatever came to their minds (which was quite extensive.... I'm baffled at the amount of thoughts they've already had in the 10 minutes they've been awake!). I listened (somewhat attentively) and offered the usual nods and "uh-huhs" that go along with listening (somewhat attentively). Then I kissed them good-bye and left for work.
I returned home 9 hours later to children that hadn't been completely awful for their Daddy while I was away. But here comes the problem.... I have laundry that HAS to be done. In my house, if the kids aren't given 150% of an adult's attention, that's when wasp spray gets dumped into the pool, seven-year-olds climb out their bedroom windows and onto the roof, and sister's end up cutting holes in their clothes and pealing the paint off walls (all of which happens in a normal week at our home!). So what was I going to do? I'll tell you what I WASN'T going to do.... I wasn't going to let my goal fall by the wayside just because I don't have anymore clean clothes to wear. Instead, I brought the kids into my sacred space (my bedroom), barricaded the baby in with a wall of pillows that would make the Chinese envious, and I turned on some cartoons with odd-looking characters and music that caused me to develop a twitch. Excited to lie in my bed and snuggle into the loads of feathery pillows, both kids gave me a good 8 or 9 minutes of calm in which to fold about 1/10th of my clean clothes before kicking each other and pulling their fists back, ready to strike.
"Children that can't stay calm through a t.v. show certainly won't stay calm while we play our new board game,"
I whispered. Each kid gave one more kick before moving back to their separate corners of the bed. And I chose to let the small kicks go, keeping in mind the bigger picture of playing our new game, dedicated to teaching the kids how to love one another.
If I send them to bed for kicking, then I lose the opportunity to teach them how to love each other during the game.... pick your battles, Woman!
Forty-five minutes, three loads of folded laundry, and two obnoxious cartoons later, we were ready to play our game. From the start, Cameron was ready to do typical big brother things to annoy his little sister.... and naturally, they worked. And then Taylor was ready to scream his name at the top of her lungs (despite the sleeping baby just beyond the Great Wall of Pillows). But Rockstar Mama stepped in and whispered the rules of the game, which included "children who intentionally tick off the other players will be sent back to Start on the board". Well, THAT got the attention of the competitive little ones surrounding the game! As we played, Cam and Tay were given the opportunities to define love, show love, speak love, and find ways to offer love to those who are hurting. By the end of the game, we were huddled in a circle talking about the children they sponsor in South America, followed by watching YouTube videos of September 11th.
The following day, my son offered my daughter first choice of seating in the car.... and to those of you that know my children, this is a HUGE battle won!
Love, Children. Not in the poor example you see from the crazy woman in front of you, but from the examples of fire-fighters running into a collapsing building to save complete strangers. From kids in other countries that love you, simply for sending them drawings and stickers in the mail. From the kid on the playground that reaches out and shares his sandwich with the one nobody will talk to. Show love in everything you do, to everyone you meet. And don't spend time worrying about if the other person deserves your love or not. Because they do. They all do. Just like you deserve my love. I'm sorry I withhold it out of anger, when I'm tired, or just because I don't know how to love you sometimes. You deserve better. Promise to love each other and to love those you meet, and I will promise to follow the Perfect Example of Love and do better at offering it to you from now on... and yes, Cameron, even on those days that I'm "bleeding".