Digging-in instead of Peacing-out
Have you ever had those parenting moments when it's been a long day (yes), the house is a mess (yes), you are dead tired (yes) and sick of all the drama the kids are raising (yes)?
It feels like it's nearly every day. Those bittersweet hours at the end of the day are just the worst. Matt sometimes just puts his head in his hands and says "can't we just fast forward?".
Last night was like that. We'd actually had a pretty good day (yay for swimming lessons!) and dinner went down without too much complaining (yay for bribery with ice cream #noshame) and there was lots of time left for the kids the play in the bath, which they love. Off they went, filling that sucker up as high as they could (groan).
As Matt and I are milling about and trying not to look like we're avoiding the obvious housework ("ummm, yes, I actually really do need to organize these sheets of scrap paper. Jeez"), we can hear Piper in the tub pulling her best "bossy boots" attitude. She's a first born, I have to keep telling myself that, but it drives both Matt and I crazy (being a third and fourth born, respectively). After a calm warning, and then hearing the same attitude still (reminder, our home is 900 square feet. You hear everything happening in the tub), I tell (command?) her that her time is up, to get out, dry off, brush teeth and head to bed.
Tears, gnashing of teeth, more tears and then stomping off, hair all askew.
So. Many. Eye-rolls.
Another amen, please?
My gut said to just let her go to bed, wet and angry and probably fairly confused. She was being a big-sister turd, and could use a night to think it through. But then I remember that I know my kids, and I know myself: we were all gonna be miserable for it. With a sigh and another eye-roll, I made a plan.
When my gut rolls so far one way ("let them rot in their prison and think upon their misdeeds!"), then my instinct sometimes chimes in and tells me to roll in
the opposite direction. Like, a very sharp left turn: it's gonna take all my time, and attention and effort.
I felt, more strongly than other nights when I do let them rot (guilty), that this was my time to dig in: not in the argumentative way, but in the enriching way, like turning and churning tired soil. The kids needed some evening "compost", some rich and vital nutrients that help them flourish. Instead of peacing out, which was all I wanted to do, I decided we needed a good and long story time. And I wasn't thinking about a dozen of those (laaaaame) early readers that they so love, I opted for a real book. The only problem was that I had packed pretty much all of the good books. Luckily, I had put a couple books on my Kobo e-reader that might work. Turns out the only book that came remotely close was the first book in the Harry Potter series.
Now don't start lecturing me on my kids being too young for that book, I know they are. But this wasn't about age-readiness in reading, we needed squishy-close-snuggle time and Harry was coming along because, well, Harry was the only one available.
After a talk and a cuddle, and us all apologizing for having lousy attitudes, the kids and I climbed into their bed, filled it with pillows and started reading. We could have been reading Les Miserables (the other option on my Kobo), I actually don't think it would have mattered. We were all up in each other's grill, breathing in our (thankfully) clean smells and bodies pressed close. We read and read and read. Piper read right along with me, and caught every word I missed. Digory got his back scratched just about the whole time and I got to practice my various english accents. We were all having our tanks filled. (Matt was blissfully cruising the internet, interruption free, for all the cool boat gadgets without me breathing down his neck = his tank filled, too.)
As we were reading in that tiny little bed, meant for one child, I figured this might be a lot like our boat adventure: we'll be in each other's face without an option of storming away, and we'll have to make a choice over and over on what is the best way to shut the day down. It might not always end in two hours of reading Harry Potter, but there will have to be those times when I dig in and cultivate deeply into the kids' needs, and leave my own aside. I won't always have the option of peacing-out of parenting and discipline. I'm sure sometimes I will, or Matt and I will have to resort to the dreaded "tag-team" parenting, but I can see the value in sowing deeply into what the kids need, even at my own expense.
Don't get me wrong: I am not a fan of the martyred-mother: I strongly believe in self-care and pursuing your own passions outside of home-life, but the fact is, that my kids need me now. I can spare an evening to feed their little spirits, to show humility and compassion and forgiveness, despite the fact that they might have well deserved a night of silence, I probably deserved a quiet night, too. And I found my quiet night, surrounded in a squishy little nest on the lower bunk, with my little kiddies sprawled all over me, utterly rapt in a make-believe story.
I think we all made amends yesterday. I would have never admitted that after a day of full-on kids, that I actually needed to spend more time with my kids (I homeschool, yo - I see my kids plenty!). These rich moments are one of the reasons we are going on this adventure: to dig deeply, not miss a moment or opportunity to remind our kids over and over "we love you, we love you, we love you".