The last few months have been a bit chaotic for our family, to say the least. Pregnancy while working full time, Shawn's surgery, a multitude of house guests, and then the birth of our son: we've been busy and full of transition. We've been in survival mode, all of us working hard and making sacrifices in order to keep our family strong. In times of survival, we've found it works best to keep things simple, to pick our battles, and to be empathetic towards one another. We've learned to overlook certain things in order to see the bigger picture.
Eventually, however, the fog begins to clear and we are suddenly able to see our situation in all its chaotic beauty. We had that moment last week, Shawn and I both sitting with our heads in our hands as we watched both of our girls throw temper tantrums in the front yard while literally fighting over the water hose. We looked at each other and knew: it was time to take the power back. The house, the kids, the routine, the discipline: everything was a bit out of sorts. While we've been working hard at just getting by and making it through the day, things have gotten a little too out of control for our liking. Brees went on strike from potty training, telling us point blank that she was DONE using the potty, forever. She started throwing epic temper tantrums every time we asked her to get dressed, choosing to instead wear princess dress up outfits all day every day. Those pink tutus are cute for the first day or so but this has been going on for weeks. Isabelle was rolling her eyes and pouting and whispering under her breathe so much that I began to wonder if she had developed some kind of tick or something. They've watched more TV in the last few months than I care to admit and had Pop Tarts for breakfast on the regular. There was storming up the stairs and multiple doors slamming. We were running late because we spent so much time arguing over who was wearing what, where's your book bag, these shoes don't fit anymore, etc. And they were acting out in all their unruly glory knowing full well that we were too tired and busy to really call them out on it. In other words, they've been living it up, kid style.
And it's our fault. And we know it. The first step in fixing this kind of chaos is to call yourself out and come to terms with your tired approach to parenting. The second step is to give yourself a break and know that you're not a shitty parent just because your daughter can recite an entire episode of Dora. It's okay, you're doing your best here, no one ever died from eating gummy worms for dinner. The third step is to have a good laugh about the crayon drawing on the bathroom wall and then decide to turn it all around. Together. Shawn and I stayed up late one night talking it all through. Actually, who am I kidding here, River kept us up all night and we used that opportunity to work out a plan for how we would take the power back.
We held a family meeting the next morning, all five of us present, and laid the cards out on the table. We assured the girls that we love them, that we understand the emotions they must be going through with all the changes our family has endured lately, and that we are going to reinstate all of our normal policies and procedures because we love them and want them to have the familiar sense of routine again. It would require some hard work and discipline to get back on track, but, together we would make it happen.
1. Brees is no longer allowed to throw tantrums regarding her clothing choices each morning. I ordered her a hanging clothing organizer for her room that has a pocket for clothes for each day of the week. I will allow her to help me choose her outfits for the week and then we will put them in the organizer on Sunday night. If she throws a tantrum when it's time to get dressed, she will have to follow our time out protocol.
2. The TV has been turned off. TV time must be earned through chores, good grades, and good behavior. If rules are followed and expectations are met, the TV will be turned on to parent approved shows at parent approved times.
3. Sassy talking, eye rolling, feet stomping, and door slamming are not acceptable behavior. Respect must be shown to all members of the family: parents AND children. If anyone in the family exhibits this type of behavior, they will be disciplined accordingly.
4. Potty training is back on in full force. Brees was almost completely potty trained when River was born with the exception of a few accidents. I understand that her regression is a completely normal reaction to her little brother's arrival so we are taking our time and giving her lots of praise and encouragement.
5. Chores have been reinstated, our family calendar is back on the wall, and my daily reminder checklist is back up on the kitchen chalkboard.
6. Isabelle will start doing her homework in our office instead of at the kitchen table. This will help eliminate the frustration she feels when the little kids are making too much noise while she is concentrating on her work and will allow her to have some time to decompress after school.
7. Shawn and I promise to put River in his bassinet in our room after he falls asleep rather than holding him in the living room. This will allow us to spend some one on one quality time with the girls in the evening, giving them the attention they so desperately need and deserve.
We promised the girls that if they could give us a solid, 100% effort for the week, we would reward them with a trip to the zoo on Saturday. We were not after perfection, we just wanted to see positive changes and good attitudes. The girls embraced this challenge wholeheartedly, both of them visibly relieved to have their normal routines and rules back in place. There were a few tears and tantrums but, overall, they nailed it. And the whole house felt it. We all slept better, relaxed more, and yelled less. And best of all, we were able to visit the zoo on Saturday as promised!!
Of course, on the way home from the zoo, Brees pissed her pants, Belle mocked me, and River cried so much that we had to pull over 3 times in just 20 minutes. But, it's okay, we're a work in progress. We are starting a new chapter in our lives together and learning the fine art of coexisting. With consistency, patience, and grace, we will restore harmony in our family one day at a time. Until then, cheers to the beauty of imperfections!