For the past couple of weeks, I’ve grown increasingly convinced that I’m a horrible mother. Things had been buzzing along smoothly for some time, and then one Sunday, my husband’s grandfather died. I wasn’t close to him, but Brian had fantastic memories of his Grandpa Rollie, and he didn’t get his last chance to see him. He’d been planning on going to visit him that morning while the kids and I were at church, but instead, he got the call. It was too late.
Thus began the tailspin. I consoled my husband. We attended a viewing and a funeral, with 4 kids. Brian took time off and spent a lot of it with his dad and brother, reminiscing and sorting through old photos. It was a long, odd week, and everything got completely out of whack, as things are wont to do when someone we love dies.
Things haven’t really righted themselves since then. To make matters even more exciting, we are currently experiencing the dumbest of all wintry winters, and it needs to stop. The kids have been inside for far too long, and at this point, they are basically bouncing off of every available surface. Their voices are far too loud, their patience (like mine) has worn so thin it might as well be glass; scratched with a diamond and shattered into 9 zillion pieces at the slightest tap-tap-tap. The dogs never stop barking at people walking by, packaging being delivered, kids respectfully knocking on bedroom doors, the wind. My nerves are frayed and snapping, and my voice has been pathologically screechy and it yells far too much. School got completely neglected with all the chaos and we’ve been unable to get back into that routine thus far. All these things add up to me feeling like the worst mother on the planet.
Yesterday was horrifying. I can’t even pinpoint the exact things that were bad, but everything was. The kids fought constantly. I was exhausted. The screaming never seemed to end. Everything was a fight, argument or a full on, blood-curdling fit (hello, Fiona). Somehow, today, I decided (without thinking overly hard about the logistics of it), that things were going to be different, immediately.
The second any shenanigans started today, I doled out chores. I explained simply that we are not going to be doing the screaming anymore. Oh, and by the way, the disobedience and plain ol’ meanness isn’t going to fly, either. So, I sat and played drill sergeant most of the day. I kept them all busy almost constantly until dinnertime. It worked out fabulously and my house looks pretty amazing. They were too occupied with their tasks to fight, bicker, scream, or be ridiculous. I thought I’d share some of what I had them do in case you’re looking for ideas for jobs your own kids can do. You’re welcome!
Fiona (3 1/2 years old):
- dust wood furniture with a rag and some Murphy’s Oil Soap
- pick up toys
- wash her own bowl and spoon after snacktime
- wipe the cabinets with homemade tea tree cleaner and a washcloth
- clean the walls with a magic eraser
Eli (8 years old):
- clean out art/craft box
- sort out some things in the playroom
- load of laundry start-to-finish
- clean off school bookshelves (they accumulate lots of ‘stuff’)
- clean his room
- vacuum his room
- scrub his bedroom walls
Brianna (10 1/2 years old):
- Clean her room
- Clean up the kitchen after making pancakes
- Unload the dishwasher after dinner (I was going to let them be done, but she went and got Really Loud again.)
- Clean and vacuum the living room/dining room
- Whittle down Sabrina’s toy collection upstairs, organize it, take the rest downstairs (It was especially important to get rid of a certain little truck she could ride around on. We looked over at her this morning only to find her perched on the couch like she owned the place, holding the remote control, and looking VERY pleased with herself.)
- Empty laundry baskets that had become catch-alls for random stuff (socks to be matched, hangers, clean diapers, RANDOM)
- Organize some things in the playroom (ex: put all the dress up stuff in 2 bins)
- Take 2 bags of donation stuff out to the car
I’m sure there’s more. I had them doing very specific tasks and then checking in with me frequently, if I wasn’t already helping them figure out what to do with their organizing and such. Peace descended upon the house, and once again, all was right with our world. The kids may have thought otherwise, but what do they know? ;P
Equally as important as giving them something to do was taking away some things. After the day we had yesterday, I removed all the goodies. The extras. Things like video games (which they only get to do once a week or so anyway), tv, listening to music on the tablet, playing games on the tablet, etc. When things get like this with them, I find that I have to be very clear and specific and there can be no wiggle room. Things have to shape up and they have to stay that way consistently for awhile before we can revisit the extras. I’m in NO hurry to return them.
Today was a success. I’m praying that tomorrow is another one, hopefully with some schooling getting done, too. Deep breaths, magnesium, chocolate and coffee. And prayer. Those are my tricks and I’ll be utilizing every last one.