Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Explosive Emotions

Monday night Baker and I finished Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets so I promised him the movie last night. We had a pretty calm day. Baker cleaned the downstairs bathroom after a small amount of whining; played nicely with his brothers and friends; and set the table for dinner with no complaints (his friend was over, so that may have helped). He was a bit fussy about dinner, but overall good. So, our friends left and we proceeded to watch the movie. At 8:30 pm when it was over, I told both him and Jamie to head upstairs. Instead of listening to me, they started fighting with each other. Then Baker stated he was hungry (knowing full-well our rule of if you don't eat dinner, you don't get snacks later).  Food became an issue. I finally got him upstairs, while Glen carried Jamie to his room. As Jamie screamed in the next room, Baker announced he was thirsty. I got his water and he proceeded to look directly at me, then tipped the glass out onto the floor. I was already a bit annoyed and stressed and this action just sent me over the edge. Mommy Dearest appeared and there was a good hour of yelling, fighting, and crying all around. Amazingly, Emery managed to stay asleep through it all.

I never wanted to be one of those moms who explode at their kids. When Baker was little, before Jamie came along, I could count on one hand the number of times I even raised my voice. Now, with three kids, I feel so frazzled sometimes that it seems like the day is spent yelling. There are lessons I want them to learn and yelling to get your way isn't one of them. Yet, they are learning that one very well. When I make requests calmly, I'm often ignored. When I raise my voice, they respond. Even Emery yells at his brothers or the dog. So, how to break this viscous cycle? I'm not sure.

I start every day thinking I'm going to try not to raise my voice. Most days I do okay until about 4 pm (4 o'clock mom voice, as my friend calls it). I get to a point where the frustration of repeating myself multiple times for every little task becomes unbearable. I get to the point where I feel my children do not appreciate anything that I do for them. I get to a point where I am so angry I can't keep my calm. Maybe I should take up meditation? Therapy? A vacation? Valium?

Part of the problem is feeling pulled in so many directions. The kids require so much care and upkeep. So does the dog. And the house. I have a bunch of projects around the house. Bills need to get sorted and paid. Laundry and dishes pile up at an amazing rate. I'm involved with church.  I like to spend time with my husband. And my friends. And myself. I have books to read, pages to scrapbook, and a blog to write. I know there must be a way to better prioritize things, but it can be so overwhelming sometimes. And that leaves little time to sort through my emotions or examine what I'm doing as a parent.

I was very upset with myself last night. I walked away from Baker and asked Glen to deal with him. I calmed down and went back upstairs. I laid on the bed with Baker, snuggled up, talking things over. I apologized for how I behaved. At least that is one positive he'll take away. He'll know to say sorry when he's done wrong, because his mom can apologize to him when she is wrong.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Spoiled Rotten

Recently (ok, it's been a month, but things have been busy) we went to see my great-aunt in Kentucky. I think her entire house's square footage would fit in half my first floor. My great-uncle built the house from leftover items when he worked construction. The first floor has a small dining room to the left and living room to the right. The kitchen is on the other side of the living room and it has a table in it, but the room is very narrow. The master bedroom with a bath is beyond the dinning room and there is another small room with stairs to the attic. The attic has two bedrooms, a full bath, and a large family room with a door to balcony deck. The house is nestled into the land. It is a warm, cozy house that I love to visit. When we were trying to figure out sleeping arrangements for my family and my parents, I started to think about the fact that my relatives raised seven children in this tiny house. There are pictures everywhere of children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. They regularly get together for family meals and there is a warmth and a closeness there that is seldom seen these days. In some ways, it is like stepping back in time.

Most of my relatives worked in the coal mines. My Uncle Sam chose to leave coal country, head north, and work construction. I know they struggled at times raising seven children in rural Kentucky. Partly because of economic difference and partly because of generational differences, I know my mother and her cousins never had the wealth of stuff that my kids have now. I often ponder who is better off?

No one wants to raised spoiled children. We want our kids to be grateful for what they have and to appreciate how lucky they are. We also want them to have it better than we did. It is another one of those fine lines we have to walk. Giving them opportunities we didn't have without giving them too much. I don't think I've navigated this line too well. When I was growing up, my parents didn't have a lot of money. My mom always did her best for Christmas, but there was always the day-to-day disappointment of "no, you can't get that" and I think I was aware early on that it was an issue of money. I knew we didn't live in the nicest place and I didn't have the "latest" fashions. I think in some ways, I've tried to compensate for that with my boys. Instead of having sons who are appreciative of what my husband and I do for them, I have three boys that take things for granted. If they leave a toy out and the dog chews it, their response is either , "daddy will fix it" or "we'll just go to the store for a new one." They love art and I love fostering that. But, they leave the caps off their markers, break their crayons, let the glue sticks dry out, mix the Playdoh up until it's gray, and waste tons of paper. I keep threatening not to replace the art supplies if they get ruined. But, how can you not let a child color? They leave their toys outside to get rained on and don't care. Even if I threaten to take things away, it usually isn't a big deal. They have so many toys, they won't even miss them.

And so, I'm in a quandary. One part of me wants them to feel secure and not be worried about money or not having enough of anything. I rarely felt that way growing up and it's not a feeling I want my children to experience. On the other hand, I do want them to realize there isn't an unlimited supply of money, that things have a cost (and not just the monetary cost), and that you don't always get what you want when you want. I'm planning to scale back. I used to buy them souvenirs for every trip we went on, no matter how big or small the trip. Our last trip to NYC, I almost bought them "I Love NY" t-shirts, but then stopped myself. I didn't get anything at the museum gift shop. They didn't ask or complain about these facts.

I'm planning to go through their toys and get rid of all the ones they don't really play with. Realistically, there are four or five things they consistently play with. The rest just gets dumped. We'll put them in the yard sale and put the money towards our charity bank or bring them somewhere to donate. My parents usually give them change when they visit. A few months back, I started having them split where the money goes. Some goes in their banks, some into the family charity bank. It is a small start, but it is a start. It sounds cliche, but there are things more important than money. My great aunt and uncle raised a large, loving family in a small house with little means. They probably don't remember the things they didn't get, but they will always remember the love and laughter in that house. I want that legacy for my sons.