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Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Parenting is Hard

This has been a bit of a different week.  We got our first real snowfall of the 2017, yay.  It is beautiful to look at while I am having my quiet time each morning.  And the kids are having a blast playing in the snow.  It helps that it's nice and warm.

Our front door is currently broken, so the kids have to ring the doorbell each day after school. Yesterday I went to answer it and one of our neighbors was with my kids.  Carolyn informed me he accidentally took the bus home and there was no one at his house.  I was a bit stunned and unsure what to do.  This boy is in second grade, it is March, and his first grade brother knew to stay at school.  I did not have a phone number to reach his parents.  Everyone came inside and I asked him if he had a phone number for either of his parents and he said no.  My kids worked on their after school routine as I tried to figure out what to do.  We've only been living here less than 3 months and we have interacted with this family only a few times.  After a little while I texted another number, who luckily had the mom's phone number.  I called only to get voice mail.  A few minutes later she called back and said she would be home in 30 minutes since she was at work.  Then she texted a few minutes later to say her husband would be home in 10 minutes.

While I sorted this out, I sent all the kids outside to play in the snow.  The boy did not have snowpants, so we dug out our extra pair we happen to have.  I sat down to fold some laundry, which happens to be just out of the line of sight of our swing set.  When I finished, I went to check on the kids and the neighbor was gone.  I asked my kids where he went, if he said what he was doing.  They boy said they didn't know and he hadn't said anything.  Then we saw the garage door open at his house and a car home.  But his backpack was still at our house and no one was anywhere to be found.  Carolyn and I took his stuff to him and the dad acted as if all of this was no big deal.  He informed me they have a key hidden in the backyard "in case something like this happens."  I informed him that his son did not know any phone numbers to call to get in touch with his parents.  He seemed surprised by this but not too concerned.  The mother later wrote of his going home, saying he's always been a bit of a wanderer.  Debriefing the whole situation last night I actually said to my husband "everyone does things their way, I'm glad we don't do it that way."

At floor hockey tonight I talked to a couple other moms with sons in the class.  One has a son in James' class and we're going to attempt a play date soon.  We all lamented how difficult it can be to stop siblings from fighting with each other.  They have a bit of a different experience with two boys that are 4 years apart compared with my kids.  Somewhere along the line I mentioned that we don't really watch tv other than sports and the one mom looked at my a bit stunned.  I talked a little about what I did when the kids were little and they seemed stressed just thinking about it.  But here's the thing, parenting is hard, and we all just choose what kind of hard we want to do.

I chose to have things really hard when the kids were little.  We stayed away from screens completely until Carolyn was about 3.  After that we slowly introduced some computer time and when sick we would let them watch some Curious George or other PBS shows.  I emphasized time at the park, we ran around in the basement, and we had lots of cuddle time to read books.  The kids cooked with me from a young age and I let them make messes with art supplies.  Most days were really exhausting, but I committed to limiting screen time because I knew in my gut it would pay off.  And honestly, I feel like we are already seeing the pay off.

In our house, we don't fight often about how much time the kids get playing Wii or PS4.  We don't often discuss what the kids would like to watch on tv.  There are no favorite shows because we just don't watch anything often enough.  Any behavior battles come from things seen at school or read about in books.  That seems to be much easier to combat.  Our kids are perfectly comfortable working a computer, chrome book, or iPad.  But they don't rely on these things to entertain them and that makes our house a happier place.  I got asked today how I get my kids to stay in their rooms until 7am on the weekends.  This was after I mentioned that they are in bed by 7:15pm most nights.  And honestly, I don't know why it works.  Perhaps because we started the rule from the time the kids were old enough to read their clocks.  Our kids need a lot of sleep, so we've always emphasized the importance of good rest.  I enjoy knowing that I'll get to stay in bed until 8 if we have nowhere to go.  I won't hear the tv blaring but I might hear a radio on after 7.  I might hear the kids playing together.  I might hear nothing because the kids have slept in or have chosen to stay in bed reading.  Or I might hear nothing because one or both kids are snuggled in with me to start the weekend off by relaxing.  That's just the way we've set things up.

Every house has to figure out what works best for them.  Once you figure out what works for you, try your best to be consistent.  Because, in the long run, that consistency is what your little one is craving.  Even when they resist, that resistance back from you is what they need.  Sure, some mornings I'm too tired to walk James back to his room so I let him come snuggled earlier, but then I usually get up later.  He knows that we value rest and he can count on us for snuggles when he needs to feel connected while resting.  Plus, I know he's growing up fast and these snuggle sessions will only last so much longer.  But I'll have shown him the importance of rest and hopefully, some day, that will help him to feel more peaceful.

For post 3 from my tough times blog, go here.

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