How to ruin your day in three digits or more

I feel the need to document some really poor parenting.

For the past week or four I have noticed that my kids frequently yell at each other. They are short, angry, stomp around, accuse, and to be quite frank, have exhibited some very poor family togetherness.

Wonder where it comes from.

(For the sake of honesty and to ensure that I don’t paint them as hopeless riffraff, I will say they also like to play hide and seek and build reverence forts together on Sunday. But that’s about 20% of our family time.)

So last night for FHE I printed off some questions and taped them to the back door. Things like, “Was I kind? Was I patient? Did I speak with Love?” etc. etc. For FHE we role played getting along and talked about asking ourselves these questions when we talk to one another in anger.

This is the part where I freely admit that these children have learned this behavior from me. Me me me me me. I am the one who is short and sharp and irritable and stompy and rude. I’m the one who blows her top when they don’t jump to my command or forget to take a water in their lunch. I’m the one who chases them out the door throwing a coat at them instead of lovingly calling them back in to remember.

Part of my problem right now is finding balance. I’m working four or five days a week subbing at the schools (which BTW feels like seven days a week) and it’s taken a toll on my patience level. I can be so kind at school to the little kids but when I get home my hair frizzes, my mascara starts to sweat and I become Seriously Stressed-out Mother.

Back to last night’s wonderful FHE. All weekend I’ve been thinking about this lesson and working on these skills in order to prepare for Monday night. I felt a difference, I felt more loving, I noticed my actions and tempered my manners.

And then this morning I woke up and made the classic motherhood mistake. Ready for it?

I stepped. On. The. Scale.

And just like that my day was ruined. I couldn’t think of a nice thing to say to anyone. I was instantly obsessed with the fact that I had snarfed down six (count ’em) chocolate chip cookies yesterday afternoon, after a weekend of pizza and sugar, and the results were not good.

And just like that, all I could do was yell.

On my behalf, I will say that the bombing in Paris really upset me–follow my logic here–and on Friday I began to think that for all we know America is next, and what if they take out the pizza places first? What if I can’t get chocolate chips and butter? What if life as we know it changes and I’m forced to grind up my wheat and mix it with a little toothpaste just to get a sugar fix?

So you can see that the scale wasn’t wrong and the folly of my not-so-logical weekend eating binge kind of all caught up to me all at once.

Enter yelling at my kids.

They left half an hour ago and all I can do is sit here wondering how in the world I can ever apologize to them.

But this requires more than an apology. This will require more than celery sticks and chicken broth and learning to abhor carbs again.

This reminds me of Moses, when he talked with God and learned a bunch of great stuff, and then God left him and Satan came tempting him? My sister Koni used to talk about this idea of a circle of light that comes through learning and then testing to see if we can keep the light we’ve gained.

Today Satan came tempting me after a weekend of feeling that light, knowing that I can help my little family use loving words and it will bring a feeling of happy to our home. Satan came and jumped on my shoulder and I piggy backed him around all morning. I should have stopped to pray. I should have taken a moment to ask  for help.

I didn’t.

But I will. I will be a better mother today. And tomorrow. And forever. They need me to give them a safe place and words of love and darn it, cookies or no cookies, I will do it.

 

When Jesus can’t convince them, throw some marshmallows on top.

I’m quickly realizing that Harrison (8) is an easy child. He has never given us a problem at school, preschool, or church, knows how to speak the local language without any difficulties, and does not wet his pants.

I love that kid.

As for the rest of them, I think fate was trying to trick us into this parenting business and yesterday I felt like a big fat failure.

June has been doing great at preschool–until this week. I went in yesterday and the poor teachers were beside themselves with frustration. Having lived with June for over three years now, I know that there are moments when I would rather stick my head in the toilet and give myself a swirlie than deal with all her strength and willpower. One Two Three Try Not To Kill Her seems to be the method that works best around here.

This sudden burst of bad behavior has come as a total shock to her teachers. She’s eating puzzle pieces and throwing the game boards around the room, refusing to listen to anything and wreaking havoc on anyone and everyone. It’s bad, and the language barrier doesn’t help.

The thing is, I know what’s wrong with her, but I have no idea how to fix it.

Last week June came home and started telling me that one of the little girls in her class won’t play with her. She loves this little girl, she wants to be friends with this little girl, but this little girl has suddenly decided that she no longer wants to play with June, she wants to play with someone else.

Honestly, my daughter is three. Do we really have to start in on the little girl drama this early?

I know she’s acting out because she wants this little girl to pay attention to her, but she isn’t old enough to realize that this kind of behavior isn’t going to win her anyone’s friendship. She thinks she’s being funny and silly to the other kids.

I stood there yesterday and listened to the laundry list of her misdeeds, feeling red in the face and embarrassed to have created such a little beast. I could feel the tears stinging the back of my eyes like a thousand hot little needles; can’t these kids do anything right in the German schools? What am I doing wrong here?

I assured the teachers that I understand better than anyone just how difficult she can be, and told them I wouldn’t bring her back. I think they were expecting me to argue with them on her behalf, because they got much nicer once I offered to keep her away (also all the stupid tears probably made them think I’m a big ninny who could use some outside help, which is right). They insisted I bring her back every day, that we would work on it.

After talking with my neighbor (who is smart and wise and wonderful), I think I’ve got a plan. Today June only gets to go to school for two hours. I am taking in a big bag of marshmallows and a small empty container. Every time she is good, she gets a marshmallow in the jar. At the end of the day, she can eat her earned marshmallows in the car.

I also told her this morning that the only person who matters is Jesus, but she looked at me like I’m some kind of idiot who knows nothing about playing princess. I guess that lecture doesn’t hold as much weight when you’re three. Maybe next time I’ll throw Jesus and Santa in together and see if it makes more sense.

I hate this post

We were driving in the car yesterday evening talking about our day when Rex quietly said from the back seat, “Mommy, the kids at school were mean to me today. They were kickin’ and pinchin’ me…and well…they were not very nice kids.”

I almost had to pull the car over and vomit. This is my worst nightmare for Rex. I know he’s quirky and different and has the most massive imagination in the universe, and I know those qualities don’t usually win a kid the “most popular” vote. He’s not interested in soccer or sports, is a very young 6-year-old who still wants to build houses for his animals all day long.

I tried to press him for more information but he’s not good with this kind of verbal communication. He just changes the subject to things like snipes or frogs. I did ask if he told his teacher. “Yes,” he said, “but she didn’t understand me because she only speaks German.”

I feel like bulldozing my way into the school today and throwing a few little German kids around. My first thought was yank him; if kids are being mean to him he’s out of there. It’s one thing when a kid deals with a bully and has the power to tell an adult, but when the adults have NO IDEA WHAT YOU’RE SAYING it’s a totally different ball game.

Unfortunately, he can’t live here in my house and hide from real life. He’s got to learn how to make a place for himself in this stupid world and get along with other kids. If I didn’t love him so much I would home school him until he was twenty.

Lucky for me he got a rash on his face last night and we called the neighbor (a good friend and pediatrician) for a quick consult. A little cream and I put Rex to bed, then decided perhaps we should ask the doctor for a little advice.

I am so, so glad we asked. First he wanted to know if we’re seeing any effects from school in his home life–regression, violence, major melt downs, overreactions or bed wetting etc. So far Rex has been really happy here and we haven’t seen any kind of outbursts. That gave me great peace of mind. Then we talked about kids in the quirky category.

According to our doctor, if you got 100 6-year-olds together you’d find that a good 20% of them are at Rex’s bus stop on the route to maturity. We talked about how much childhood has changed just in one or two generations, how quick we are to expect children to put down their toys and grow up. Our society has high expectations and demands more emotional maturity than many kids are ready for. I hate that about society.

His best friends are Harrison and June, they love each other and play constantly, especially he and Junie bug. I wish you could see what Rex can do with scissors and an old box, or with a silly piece of string. He comes home from school and explodes creativity all over my house every single day.

For the record, creativity is super messy.

How do I help my boy? I am going into the school today to talk/pantomime to his teacher to see if she has any suggestions. German or American schools, he’s going to come up against this regardless.

When he said his morning prayers today and actually prayed that the kids at school would be nice to him I almost cried. He usually just prays for his animals. Perhaps this is the Lord’s way of teaching Rex to ask for help with his problems. Oh, the refiner’s fire is so uncomfortable.

Heaven help me help him.

 

The Animal Fair

Thursday. Three days on my own with the kids and I’m nearly finished with my list of projects designed to keep me occupied until December. In light of my current Too Much Time To Fill state, I developed a plan B: field trips.

Tonight I decided to take the kids to a local farmer’s market. How hard could it be? Three kids, one stroller, a few tents. Cake.

More like Cake Fight, actually.

We parked alongside the road and unloaded the burdens into the stroller. Have you ever tried to push a stroller through sage brush? A double wide stroller? Yeah. Not made for sage brush. We nearly lost Harrison a.k.a. Indiana Jones on the way to the gravel road where the tents were set up (he was hiding from the bad guys). Did you catch the gravel part? Ever tried to push a double stroller through gravel?

Aside from the 60 pounds of childhood flesh and the gravel, it was a nice night. Saw a few cute booths, sampled some great tomatoes, all in all that first four minutes went really well. Then Rex wanted out of the stroller. Why not? He’s being so good. Lies, all lies. Oh how quickly the storm clouds billowed in.

I decided to be the nice fun mom my own mother and Jason would never approve of and get the kids each a little souvenir. Junie got a new bracelet because at nine months (today) she just loves jewelry, and Rex picked out a hideous stuffed dragon at some cheap-o stand. Harry? He wanted his face painted. Sure!

As soon as Harrison sat down Rex started messing with the paints. As soon as I told him no he started to melt down. Picture a banana popsicle in the middle of the asphalt on a hot August day. That’s about how fast Rexy unraveled. As soon as Harrison was finished (Tiger Harrison, he informed me) Rex wanted to be a mouse. A yellow mouse. Since Rex and his loud little voice (yes, it carries just like mine) were about ten notches above adamant, I decided to practice survival parenting and gave in.

She only managed a pink nose and whiskers before he really lost it. “I want to be a frog!” Weeping, wailing, throwing the dragon. We were like a tiger/mouse/dragon circus with a miniature fat lady perched in the stroller chewing on her bracelet.

Somehow we made it through the sagebrush wilderness and back to the car, despite our mouse’s smudged whiskers and the tiger that stalked us through the bush. The June Bug? Perfect. Never made a single peep. Hey, we put on a good show, who wouldn’t be entertained?

I think our next outing will be a little closer to home. Like the backyard. I think we could handle that.