Tuesday, November 18, 2014

the donuts made them do it ... and other parenting myths

Welcome back to post number three in my series on parenting. If you missed posts one and two you can find them here and here.


I am currently voice texting as I clean my bathroom, wiping circles of Glass Plus on the mirror with one hand and holding a cell phone right in front of my lips with the other. I will probably have 4000 spelling errors to correct when this is all said and done, but hopefully no bad words to edit out ... (if I were cleaning out my refrigerator that might be a different story. Mwuaahahaha.)

So today's post is going to be about ... drumroll, please ....  toddler tantrums and why they happen.

Quite a deep subject to address in one little blog post, but I'm going to attempt it nonetheless.

This post was inspired (in part) by scenes I have watched play out over the years in many venues :  in grocery stores, in parks, in department stores, in libraries, on playgrounds, you name it. The backdrop may change, but the scene remains the same : Little Johnny or Little Susie is not getting his/her way, and Mommy is trying to quietly intervene. Gentle warnings are issued and perhaps some bribery, but within mere moments it seems, Johnny/Suzie has morphed into a monster. Where previously a small wisp of a child was playing or shopping or reading nicely, a demon now appears to have taken over -one whose screams of rage can be heard for miles around. Despite every effort of Mommy to gain control, Johnny/Suzie must now be physically removed kicking and screaming from the premises, while onlookers look awkwardly away ... or perhaps stare in disbelief.

I hope this does not sound like I have no sympathy for these situations, or that my children have been completely exempt from such behavior.

Quite the opposite is true.

While I am not saying we should accept these situations as parents, I am saying we should - in the toddler years - expect them.




You read that right.


We as parents should expect that our children are going to misbehave.

We should expect that our children are going to : push the limits, push our buttons, push their siblings, push against the guardrails of life.


Because contrary to what popular psychobabble might tell you, children do not arrive in life untainted little angels, halos perched firmly in place, only ruined incrementally by all the little demons they come into contact with upon leaving the thresholds of our homes.


Our children ... brace yourselves ... are born sinners.


Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child, a very wise person once said several thousand years ago... and not a lot has changed since those words were penned.

Oh, you don't believe me?

Have a baby.

Watch that baby grow.

Soak in every blessed moment of innocence you see in those first fleeting newborn moments, and then watch in wonder as that sweet little bundle of joy turns into a toddler with a mouth. We've had eleven children, and I've witnessed it eleven times - without exception - one of their very first and favorite words in life was ....




NO !


Before that child ever entered a preschool classroom, before he/she ever came into contact with another human being outside his/her immediate family members, he/she knew how to push and shove and scream and throw fits, in an attempt to get his or her way.


Nobody had to teach our children to be bad – it came naturally.


Now I know there are some new moms reading this right now, who would say "oh no, not my little Johnny ! My sweet innocent little baby never ever hit anyone until he saw someone else hit. He was as pure as the wind driven snow, until I sent him out into the big bad world."


I would submit to you that either little Johnny was storing up all of that sin nature for the moment he could best put it to use ... or that you are not being quite honest with yourself. (Kids aren't the only ones prone to lying!)


Because no matter how angelic or sweet natured our little ones start out to be, eventually human nature catches up with all of us. Blame it on Adam and Eve if you like, but it's there.



We've got issues. All of us .



No No no Nonanona no Hayden



Okay, I kid you not - just as I was waxing eloquent on the sin nature in all of us, Hayden decided to prove my point. The above sentence somehow made it into my voice text, just as I was simultaneously reaching for tiny fingers attempting to grab the contents out of the toilet bowl...  so if my previous paragraphs are not proof enough of the nature of kids, perhaps the devilish grin on this face will do it for you.




Any hoot, where was I? Ahhhh, yes - the demons within.


This post is not going to be fraught with easy answers for how to make your children mind.

Rather, my aim today is to maybe get the wheels turning for moms who possibly want to blame their children's bad behavior on any of the following:

other bad children

lack of sleep

too much sleep

a recent sickness

gluten, sugar, preservatives, wheat, Twinkies, lack of vegetables, too many vegetables

immunizations

ill fitting clothes

a "phase"

or any other combination of the above.




Perhaps you think I'm joking. I wish that were true.

I mentioned earlier, that my real life experiences were part of the inspiration for this post. The final trigger came not from something I personally witnessed, but rather from the testimony of someone else.

A picture on Instagram last year, and the words that accompanied it, were probably the biggest factor in my thinking when it came to this message.

A young mommy of several small children had posted a picture of her child passed out in bed, exhausted from a day of "fit throwing, temper tantrums, etc." And the reason for this bad behavior, according to this very sincere mama - was that he had had too much gluten that day.

According to her, he "knew he shouldn't have eaten those donuts," but he had tasted the poisoned apple so to speak ... or rather the poisoned donut… and as a result his little system was overwhelmed and he had zero control. It was not his fault, you see, that he displayed such horrible temper tantrums, causing great grief to his family and those around him. It was those derned donuts!




I'm taking a big risk here on A Perfect Lily... I do know that.

In today's post modern society, where actions and accountability are lightyears apart, where words like sin and disobedience and choices and discipline and standards are ancient and archaic and old fashioned and just so last-century ... this little post is going to probably offend some.

Because we are SO MUCH SMARTER these days, donthca know ? We've figured this whole human nature thing out after all these years, and it is not our kids' fault that they are misbehaving, it is the derned donuts.

or preschool.

or teachers.

or playmates.

or candy.

or bedtime (too early).

or bedtime (too late).

or the babysitter.

or the other parent.

or the nintendo.

or the dog. (he ate the homework, so why not blame the other stuff on him too ??)


But guess what ?

You could fix every single one of those things I just mentioned - and then some - and you are still going to have a child who lies. Who throws temper tantrums. Who says no. Who refuses to leave the library when it's time to go.

Why ???

Because we are sinners.

Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child.



Nobody had to teach them to be that way, nobody had to demonstrate it for them, they didn't learn it on the playground- they were born with it.

And until we as parents recognize that it's there without any outside help, we will not deal with it correctly.

We will keep playing the blame game until they leave our homes one day - and we may even keep playing it after that.

But as a seasoned mama to eleven sin-prone people, I am here to tell you that the problem isn't without ---- it's within.

And until we as parents are willing to face that truth, we will continue to look for the demon in the toy box. Or the refrigerator. Or the playground. Instead of recognizing the sometimes difficult truth, that our children have an incredible capacity to do wrong.

ALL BY THEIR LITTLE LONESOMES !




I remember 26 years ago when I had to face this truth with my firstborn son.

Somehow my blond haired, blue eyed little angel of an infant had - practically overnight - morphed into a child I hardly recognized. He went from being our sweet little cherub, to a fit-throwing monster, whose ultimate goal in life (it appeared) was to cross every boundary we put in front of him.

If we said it was black, it was white. If we said don't touch that, he touched it. If we said stay in your carseat, he wanted out. If we said it's time to get out of the car, he refused to budge. If we went to a store to shop, he wanted to run and hide. If it was time for dinner, he wanted to play. If it was time to play, he wanted to eat. If it was time to get up for church, he wanted to sleep in. If it was a day when I could sleep in, he wanted to get up and play at the crack of dawn. LOUDLY.

I kid you not, I started looking for demons in our toy box. I read a book on that subject (pretty sure it was called that very thing) and I blamed his behavior on the Ninja Turtles. We threw them out with a vengeance. Someone else told me about the evils of sugar, and we stopped spooning it onto his Cheerios. If the Gluten Police had been around back then, I am absolutely 100% certain I would have dumped every box of cereal and pasta and bag of bread in our house faster than you can say Paleo Solved All My Problems. I was that desperate for a cure.

It took a trip to Costco with a very straight-forward friend to wake me up to the fact that my child had not somehow mysteriously become infected with a demon overnight ... he had simply turned two.

We were leaving the store and headed back to our car, when my darling boy stood up in the shopping cart with a twinkle in his eye and an I-dare-you-to-stop-me grin on his face. I told him to sit down nicely, because he might fall out if he didn't (just speak softly and reason with your child was my motto), when he very loudly and defiantly told me NO !!!

I smiled at my little cherub, who quite honestly still managed to look adorable with that wicked smile on his face (don't ALL firstborn children look adorable to their star-struck parents???) and looked at my friend for affirmation. She was a mommy of three, so surely she could relate. Surely she thought my little boy was every bit as darling as I did, and this little display of rebellion was just as innocent as the little cherub who was displaying it.

But the words that came out of her mouth were not the ones I expected to hear.

"You better deal with that right now Patti, because what you think is so cute at two is NOT going to be cute at sixteen."

Dear friends - her words hit me upside the head like a sledgehammer.

They were not pleasant to hear.

What I had been downplaying and accepting and blaming on other things for so many weeks (maybe months) was not cute to someone else. And had I let that bad behavior continue unchecked for the duration of several years, had I continued down the path of "he's tired" or "he had too much sugar today" or "he's picking that up from the playground" or "it's just a phase he's going through" ... I shudder to think what that very strong-willed little boy would be like today.

That wake-up call caused me to sort through all the parenting philosophies that were floating around in my twenty-two year old brain, and forced me to seek out wisdom from those around me who had been down this path before. I began to read books on parenting and boundaries, and started to implement strategies to help my strong-willed child by helping to mold his will (not break it, but shape it) so that one day he would be just as driven to do good as he was to push the limits as a toddler. I prayed and asked God to give me grace and help and wisdom in parenting, and I asked Sam to pray with me as well. I watched families around me who had well-behaved children, and I talked to those moms and gleaned from their experience. I was careful what I listened to and who I listened to, and I made up my mind that even if being a strict parent was not popular, I was going to stick to my guns. I read the Bible. Shocking, I know. But there I found profound and time-tested wisdom on training up a child in the way he should go, and I determined that no matter what Dr. Sears or Oprah or the latest child psychology books said - if it contradicted the word of God, I was not going to embrace it.

I made up my mind that I was going to stop playing the blame game, and face the facts that the perfect little person God had entrusted me with was just as flawed as the rest of us. I stopped looking for someone or something to blame for the sin nature that resided within my child, and I began to trust that time and loving, consistent discipline - along with lots and lots of prayer - was going to help my son blossom into a kind and generous and well behaved young man.

Which, I might add, it did ....


jason today, with his wonderful family :)


And now it is nighttime, and a new generation of little people are calling me over to a rousing game of Boggle . Tune in next time when we discuss How To Play a Family Game and Still Remain Friends.







Lots of love,

Patti xoxo


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

How to keep your house clean while living with children ... and other life mysteries revealed





This is the second post in a series I am doing on parenting. You can read my first post here. 


I'd like to submit my written excuse as to why I am late on publishing this second post … I had such a great post in my head all week but it never quite made it to the keyboard. You're never gonna believe this, but I was actually… parenting . I hope you agree with me, that parenting well should take priority over writing about how to parent well (if I had to choose ... which I did ...)

And lest you think I've gotten to the place this week where I could do both the parenting thing AND write about parenting ... I'm actually voice texting this post as I watch my two youngest take a bath.

And you don't even want to know what I accidentally just voice texted into this post. It sounded nothing "are you kidding me, who is freaking pooping in the bathtub?!".  I promise. 





Anyhoot ... This post is going to be about keeping your house clean in spite of the fact that you have children living in it. I've read some funny quotes about how difficult that can be ... something like "keeping your house clean while raising kids is like making a smoothie with the lid off". Or something like that . And honestly, the statement is a little too accurate to be funny to me.


hayden, doing what hayden does best



However , the cold harsh reality is this : we really don't have a choice. I mean, what's the alternative? Never clean your house ?

I have met people who have chosen this route, and as you can imagine, the results were disastrous. Sure, you might be able to function (as long as there is a clear path between the piles of laundry and toys and garbage leading to the front door) .. but what a chaotic way to live . I'm not saying you should have floors so clean you can eat off of them - but isn't it a nice feeling to know where clean underwear can be located? Or where your kids' homework can be found ? Or that a friend stopping by doesn't feel they have to spray the toilet seat with Lysol before sitting down ? I rest my case . 

Let's get this cleaning post started.





GET IN THE ZONE


This is my first strategy when it comes to keeping The Rice Ranch clean - in spite of the fact that we have eleven people living here. 

This method is based on the phrase "divide and conquer", and it was motivated by the knowledge that one person (namely me) cannot possibly run this ship myself . I probably just totally mixed my metaphors there, but you get the idea : many hands make light work. And also keep Mommy from turning to liquor.

Here is our strategy in a nutshell : The Rice Ranch is divided up into "zones", and each member of the family is in charge of a zone. Smaller children might team up to take on a zone, whereas our teenagers can each handle a zone themselves. And because a lot of effort is needed to keep the kitchen clean, three teens are assigned to that zone.  

We have a dry erase board hanging in our laundry room that details who is in charge of each zone, and what is expected to be done in each particular zone. We have tweaked and tweaked and tweaked again to make sure that too much work isn't falling on one or two children ... because we have a large age span amongst our kids, we try hard to make sure the tasks are age appropriate. But you would be surprised what small children can do, if given instruction. 

Here's an example of a few zones, and who does them, and what they do....

Downstairs Bathroom : Noah (age ten)

Clean every morning after breakfast. Make sure there is toilet paper, wipe down the sink and countertop with cleaning spray and clean the mirror with windex. Clean the toilet bowl with a scrub brush and wipe down the rest with lysol and a paper towel. Sweep the floor. Keep tidy during the day.


Kitchen : (Abigail, Jonathan and Tyler)

Rinse dishes. Empty and load dishwasher in the morning and at night as needed. Wipe down counters and put food away. Sweep floors. Help clean up at breakfast, lunch, and after dinner. (Mom deep cleans the fridge, but be willing to help.)




And so on, throughout the house.

Every morning after breakfast, our children do their zones. Each child has a zone they are responsible for vacuuming or sweeping - that way our whole house is vacuumed and swept every day, making for beautiful wood floors and clean carpets on a regular basis. It takes each child maybe five to ten minutes max to do this, and we save a ton on carpet cleaning. The carpets in our house are cream colored, and they look brand new. (Downstairs are all wood floors.) We have a "no food or drinks" in the carpeted rooms policy, and absolutely no shoes allowed on the carpets. Violators will be tarred and feathered. Just kidding. Sort of.




I realize many of my readers have small children, as opposed to teenagers AND small children.

I'm going to use this space to vent for one teeeeeeny tiny second if you will allow.

I have people tell me all the time that "things are probably way easier for you because you have teenagers."

I have never actually laughed in anyone's face when they said this. But I have been sorely tempted.

I have also noticed that the people who say these things.... have never had teenagers.

What I am about to say is in no way meant to be a slam against my teens - they do soooo much to help around the house, and I do realize what a blessing it is to have built in babysitters when I need them . And I also realize I have some of the BEST teens on the planet. They are kind and courteous and thoughtful, and they love our family and love Jesus with all their hearts. I couldn't ask for better kids.


However ..........




Teenagers are bigger.

I don't know if everyone realizes this.

And bigger means .... they wear bigger clothes. Three teenagers living in the house wearing bigger clothes, means exponentially I have a lot more laundry. And while they may not burp up their food onto their clothes (well, not daily), they are still messy. AND (I have found) they like to change outfits often. (Yes, even boys do this as teenagers.) AND I wish I could say that the outfits they wore until twelve o'clock, when they decided to go play basketball and get all sweaty and smelly, could be folded up nicely and placed back in the drawer for future use ... but that ain't happening here. Teenagers make a LOT of laundry.

Bigger also means teenagers eat more. A lot more. Now I know that we grow 'em skinny at The Rice Ranch, and I know our teens do not eat what, say - gigantic sized teens - eat. However, they do eat more than they did when they were 7, 9 and 10 ... and that means Mom makes a lot more food.

Bigger also means .... dare I say it ? ... bigger problems. When our kids are little, they can be told "no" and given consequences immediately if they disobey. But teenagers (can I get an amen??) have bigger mouths. This is NOT to say we allow backtalk or sassiness here in our home. But still -teenagers can reason ... and "discuss" ... and defend ... and excuse ... and all of this takes up a lot more time than it did at age five. For example, I've never stayed up til midnight talking to my five year old about the deeper things of life. Like what having a good attitude and a servant's heart truly means, and how to avoid pitfalls on the internet, and how to keep yourself pure in a very ungodly and unpure world. Those conversations just don't go down (yet) with my 5 and 7 and 10 and 12 year olds. But they are a regular occurrence here with my older kids.

So I said all of that to say ---- please think again before you talk to a mom with teenagers about how "easy" her life is. I'm beyond grateful for my hard working, wonderful teens, and I realize they do SO MUCH when it comes to helping out. But "easy" is not a word I would ever use in the same sentence as teenagers. Unless I was talking about how easy it is for three hungry teenagers to demolish a plate  of cookies in one setting.


OKAY, rant over :)



FIVE MINUTE CLEAN-UPS

This practical idea, gleaned from one of my favorite large families, has helped me SO much.

I have lots of friends who can function in chaos. There can be dishes piled on the counter and laundry piled on the couch and they can plop down comfortably on the couch to read a magazine without a second thought. I'm not one of those people. I am totally an out-of-sight-out-of-mind person, and unfortunately that also means that if everything is in sight, I am losing my mind. I can't think when there is clutter all around me.

To combat this (because if Mama aint happy, nobody is happy), we have regular "five minute clean-up" sessions in our house. No matter what everyone is doing (well, except maybe using the bathroom), if Mom calls out "five minute clean-up", we all drop everything and straighten things up.

This goes beyond assigned zones - we just all pitch in for five minutes to bring our house back to order, and then we resume what we were doing.

You would be amazed how much can happen in five minutes, when lots of people are pitching in to help. Toys get gathered up quickly and placed in their proper baskets, dishes get tossed into the dishwasher, pillows on couches are plumped (is that a word?) and chairs and barstools are straightened. Order is restored.

This is not a deep cleaning job, but rather a "tidy things up" effort, and we don't prolong it. We may have three of these a day, or we may have one, but these quick bursts of energy really go a long way to keeping order and sanity in our home.





A PLACE FOR EVERYTHING AND EVERYTHING IN ITS PLACE

This is pretty self-explanatory, but I'm going to explain it anyway. Because maybe you are like me : without a plan, I default to messy. I am not a natural organizer, and I have a hard time remembering where I put things on a regular basis. (This is why I have a Caleb : he keeps a running inventory of every single item that ever entered The Rice Ranch in his head. No joke.)

I like things tidy. (Did I mention this ?) But if I am not careful, I will "tidy things up" by stuffing important things into soon-to-be-forgotten crevices, keeping them virtually hidden for years. Things like, oh, I don't know : keys, wallets, credit cards, library cards, checks, bills, iPads, cameras, you-name-it. This may or may not have caused significant "discussions" to take place between the owners of said items over the years.

I have to stop for a second and confess something here : I'm still working on this one. It helps that we have built-in cubby holes over a little counter top desk in the kitchen. This is the place I generally "stuff" stuff. If anyone is looking for something valuable that can fit into one of the cubby holes, chances are Mom put it there. However ... sigh ... I still have lots of hiding spots (apparently) for all the things people leave lying on counter tops. Probably not a day goes by that someone isn't calling out "Mom, where did you put my (fill in the blank)", sending me scurrying frantically around the house, opening drawers and searching through cabinets for whatever is missing.

The upside of this, is that I've been forced to organize things, so that the number of potential "hiding spots" in our house could be reduced to less than a dozen. For the most part, our cabinets and closets and garage have been designated for specific uses, and if something is lying on the floor or counter top we can say "put this where it belongs" and it has meaning.

Mail that comes into the house either gets trashed (if it's junk mail) or filed in the cubby hole (if it's something we will need during the next week, like a coupon) or given to Sam immediately when he comes home (if it's a bill.)

Toys go into specific clear plastic tubs that are stored on shelves in the garage ... action figures in one box, dollhouse furniture and barbies in another box, legos in another, and so on. Sports equipment is stored in several large rubbermade containers in the garage, stuffed animals all make their home in a large tub in Abigail's room, as well as a toy box with a lid in the garage, and all miscellaneous toys go into one small basket in the family room.

When the children are done playing with one type of toy (like legos), they have to clean those up before getting down a new set of toys. This not only keeps the house (relatively) clean, but it makes playtime fun for our kids. They don't have to sort through a big pile of things shoved into random buckets to play with all the Rescue Heroes - they're all in one box on a shelf.

(By the way, if you've never read "The Messy Room" by Stan and Jan Berenstain, I encourage you to do so. That simple children's book changed my life over 25 years ago, and I am still using the wisdom found there today :))




Okay, well it's nearing dinner time here, so time to wrap this cleaning post up.

I'm sure many of you have time-proven tips on keeping a tidy home while raising children... I would love to hear your ideas in the comment section !

Stay tuned for part three, where I discuss How To Stop Small Children From Destroying All The Pretty Things in Your House. 





See you soon !!