The daily battles with not only myself, but with the kids, need to be selected – and carefully. Some days, fatigue sets in early, and clouds my judgment. Things that normally might not bother me, do. Couple this with four active and stubborn kids and it leaves me feeling like I am just out to survive the day. Waiting, waiting, waiting for that sun to go down so they can go to bed. Only to sleep a bit and then I get to do it all again tomorrow. If only you know completely, before having kids, just how much psychological warfare is to be used, so you can equip yourself, prepare yourself. I am unprepared, unmatched, and outmanned most days.
I think I would have laughed if someone told me 10 years ago that raising kids was like ‘this’. Even now I sometimes catch myself looking at the scenario – I mean really looking, and thinking, ‘wow, why do I actually care so much if she does not want to do ____/wear ____/eat ____? ‘ Motherhood is a strange existence sometimes. One minute you are consoling a sick/injured/tired child, the next you are on full scale debate as to why we should eat vegetables, or the values of doing a base in lego. There are no professional development days as a mum. Most of the ‘experience’ you gain is your own passage of motherhood time. There are no powerpoint presentations to help you prepare, there are books, but they generally make me feel as though I am doing far worse than I thought.
I have found, in the last few months, that choosing my battles has been helpful. It is so consuming fighting them on everything. So, I have let some things go, and am trying to focus on the more important ones. I have tried serving dinner for lunch (works quite well) to stop the ‘muum, how much more do I have to eat?’ or ‘muum, I don’t want to eat this ____ because it is Wednesday’ (reason varies, can be anything from day of the week, to “the moon is too bright”). I have also started trying to get them to make their beds and clean their rooms. Caitlyn is the only one that does it consistently. Emma sometimes, but only if she can’t find something and has exhausted all other search avenues. Hayden, well, he rarely cleans his room – I usually have to stand there and direct him. He has any number of excuses; and clearly he puts a great deal of thought into the excuses – which is frustrating as it only takes him 10 minutes to clean!
I have also started to try and let them sort out their arguments. They have guidelines from me – so no kicking, punching or physical stuff, and the name calling can’t be anything that you would not want to be called. I thought that was pretty fair/reasonable. Until Caitlyn took it to a very finite literal meaning – she called Hayden a ‘stupid smelly baby boy monkey who will only eat bananas’. I said – ‘Caitlyn would you like it if I called you that?’ here response was along the lines of ‘don’t care as I am not a boy’. Sly. Sly tricks aside, they are getting better at compromising, sharing and being kinder to each other. They still fight, but they are a little more aware of how their behaviour affects others now I think.
Regardless of their in-house bickering, they still pull together to work as a team and steal food (or should I say acquire). The other day, in a space of about 2 minutes while I was ironing something (right there is the moral – don’t iron!!!), the girls climbed on Brendan and then on Caitlyn with Emma at the top to reach the Oreos that were way up the top of the pantry. Genius. Except they got caught. By carelessness – cheeky bravado where they thought they were home free. They were in the cubby house, where I imagine so much ‘stuff’ goes down; and had hidden the packet for putting in the bin later. The tell – Caitlyn eats Oreos by splitting them, scooping off the white cream, and then she will line up the biscuits. She started doing this to taunt her siblings by being able to make something last longer. But she left a biscuit pile from her theft. She was busted. She gave them up instantaneously – which she normally does not do. So of course I was worried there was/is something bigger that they have not told me yet. Nothing so far.
But I had to decide whether or not it was worth getting all bent out of shape about. They are kids, and they wanted the biscuits and were creative about it. I know they did not ask, and they made a mess, but is it worth losing my shit over? I don’t think so. I had a giggle about it (away from them) and still told them that it was not a good thing for them to do. I didn’t punish them in as much as take something away or make them do something – I just told them I won’t be buying Oreos anymore. That was punishment enough apparently. Brendan is horrified that he may never taste an Oreo again, Emma is optimistic, Hayden is wary because this is a new game – one where mum isn’t yelling and ‘carrying on’ about ‘grown up stuff”.
So, I am trying to review each incident as it comes. Really look at it, process it, and then think about what is better in terms of dealing with it. Because I think I have no filter sometimes, and just go nuts about everything they do or don’t do because I don’t want them to be the naughty kids, or the kids that don’t eat vegetables or something on a day because of one weird arse reason or another. I am trying to have a process where I don’t exhaust myself arguing about essentially nothing because of the fear that I am not doing enough or being strict enough as a mum. I want to enjoy them and the time with them, I don’t want them to remember being 4 or 8 or whatever age and having their mum yell at them. All. The. Time. I don’t want to be the ‘cool’ mum who never yells or never does anything to upset them, as that is not my idea of a mum either, but I am trying to find a happy medium. I care too much for these kids to let them do what they want when they want. They have to follow some rules! As much as I hate doling out punishment, I can be darn stubborn, so they know that it is going to be adhered too. They also know that mum’s ‘no’ is negotiable sometimes, so they will barter and bargain. It is handy sometimes to be a bit of a softy.
So, on the dinner menu this week for at least one night will be a breakfast item. In exchange, I get bowls and plates to the sink after every meal, a table wiper and no arguing at the dinner table. If there are any breaks in contract, they lose the dinner item. Normally I would be a little hesitant in having a non-dinner meal for tea. But, in all honesty, it is a simple meal, and they eat it, and clearly feel a little rebellious. Win-win. Now to resolve more things like that!