Back in Control

I am the mom of least resistance.

This is to say, I’m pretty hands-off with my kids. I’m a bad helicopter. I embrace the philosophy of “free range” childhood.

Maybe to a fault.

(Bad Helicopter would be a kick-ass band name.)

I don’t think it became a fault until Michael was born, because then it became less “free range” and more “benign neglect”.

Three-on-one is hard, yo.

And that’s what it is most of the time.

But I’m tired of not being the one in charge. My older two children act without asking. On Saturday morning, that’s okay. I’ll take that extra half hour of sleep, thankyouverymuch. But every single day, especially in the evenings? And mornings? Oy, mornings are fusterclucks of the highest order.

(I gave up swearing for Lent. I vowed to put a $1 in the swear jar each time I uttered a curse word, including Lord’s Name In Vain, and I’m going to donate it to charity. So far Animal Friends is getting $12. Which I guess isn’t too bad — for me — but this Lenten sacrifice is making it hard to write this post.)

It’s just not cool anymore. I’m so tired of yelling — and I yell A LOT. So much so that Michael is learning to yell. Not good. So I am reconstructing boundaries, and installing schedules. This is a work in progress. Here are some of my goals.

1. To get Flora to calm down. Because I am such a reactive parent, she is a very reactive child. I need both of us to be able to step back and take a deep breath instead of losing our sh– I mean, crap. I, obviously, have to lead by example here because she’s 7.

2. To get into a groove. I have schedules for the girls, for mornings and evenings during the week. I typed them up months ago, and I showed them to the girls. And then they ended up in the piles of paper that spring up around my house. Dan dug them out and laminated them, and bought grease pencils. And they ended up in the arts & crafts drawer.

So they just got posted (on Wednesday), and as the girls do the steps, the they check off the boxes. Again, to be obvious, Kate needs a little assistance with this because she can’t quite read on her own yet. The thing is, though, Kate is actually a little better about these steps. Flora gets distracted. Easily.

3. Ask before they act. Flora knows how to turn on the TV, Wii, Blu-ray player, and even surf through streaming Netflix. She has a DSi that she enjoys. My children know where snacks are, how to open the refrigerator, and pour their own beverages. If they are getting a yogurt or some cheese for a before-dinner snack, that’s all fine. But when they are raiding the candy stash instead, it’s not fine. And the screen-time restrictions are tough, tough, tough to enforce. But Flora is not allowed to watch TV, play Wii, or play her DSi unless she is done with her homework.

4. A cleaner house. My children know how to clean up after themselves. They know how to make their beds, put away their toys, clear the table. They need to be reminded to do these things, quite often, but night time treats and/or TV time is on hold until they do them. Heck, they even had to help me sweep up the kitchen floor the other day, and then we went upstairs and read three books before bed. Honestly, they didn’t seem to mind.

5. Follow through. I have thrown out candy (because they didn’t ask), turned off the night time show (because they didn’t ask), and started bedtime early (because they aren’t listening). It is hard when they whine and cry because I don’t really like the whining and crying. It gets on my nerves. But they are (slowly) learning (again) that there are consequences to their impulsive actions and/or not listening to mommy.

Did you ever find yourself in a place where the lunatics were running the asylum? How did you retake the reins?

(Aside: I want to make clear I’m not here to disparage my husband or despair that he doesn’t do enough. He does plenty. Do I wish he were home some of the evenings he’s seeing patients until 8 p.m.? Sure, but that’s not the situation right now.)