Wednesday, April 9, 2014

A Really Rambly Post on Parenting

From infancy children are given immense freedom, but without any responsibility (obviously one can't really expect a 6 month old to be responsible).  To keep from having to "stifle" their curiosity, we baby proof the whole house (we is a general term, and is not actually referring to everyone, and not even me most of the time), put up things they can't touch and allow them to roam the house.  Even though we did all this baby-proofing, they still can't be trusted to move freely around the house, because they are not capable of making ANY reasonable decision, or of obeying almost any commands.  So we follow them.  All day long we follow them around the house.  They are our whole day, and not in a fun way.  In a stressful, "oh look its 5 o'clock and the house is a mess and I have no idea what to do about dinner" sort of way.  

We also let them pick and choose what and when they eat (breastfeeding on demand with small infants is healthy and necessary to keep up milk production, that is not what I am talking about) as soon as they start eating "solid" food.  When we talk about them we give them amazing power "I try to feed him his vegetables, but he just won't let me feed him anything green".  Did you see that he just won't LET me?  That baby was just given control of an adult.  A baby will eat what you feed him, although you may have to be tough about it and let him go hungry for a little while, he won't starve to death.  

As they grow into toddlerhood they get a few more freedoms, such as picking their clothes, because we don't want to stop them from expressing themselves "creatively".  

But then it stops.  Until they are much older they don't get anymore freedom.  Once they are teenagers they start to earn new freedom, but from 3-13 they are at the same level.  They get more responsibilities (sometimes), but not many more privileges.  

What if we changed that?  What if babies were only given the freedoms that they could handle "responsibly"?  Back in the day (according to my internet research, so it could be faulty, if you are old enough to actually KNOW about back in the day, I would LOVE to hear from you about it!) tiny babies were mostly contained in strollers.  Basically mom would put the baby in the yard and only bring it inside if it was nasty weather or it was time for baby to eat.  Once the babies got a little older, they would be contained in playpens (more freedom than a stroller, but still contained) until they learned to obey.  

*In other cultures (both modern and way, way back when) babies are not allowed the freedoms they have today in the USA either.  Many times babies were worn while the parents did their work until they were nearly four years old, either by a parent or older sibling.  Because small children CANNOT obey to a level that allows you to do the things you need to do unless you are actively supervising them ALL the time.  If you watch the movie "Babies" you remember one of the babies was tied up in the middle of the room while his parents did what needed to be done.*

Since you can't keep a pre-schooler in a playpen all day (most would escape) it can be supposed that between 2-4 the kids started having freedom to roam around the house, helping mom and playing with toys, and learning to be more obedient.  By the time kids were about 5 they got put back outside, but told to stay in a certain area.  As they got older and could ride bikes, their radius of freedom increased even more, and they could go to the playground or a friend's house.  By the time they were teenagers and had the freedom that came with a car, they were (sometimes) ready to handle it.  

Mom got the house clean (a much harder task way back when) and sewed her families clothes, and ironed everything that got worn or put on a bed, and cooked three meals a day.  If we believe the television, she did it while looking reasonably cute too!  And *gasp* people turned out just as well as they do now.  

But we can't just let our children run around the neighborhood by themselves!  Without adult supervision they will be kidnapped and raped and murdered!  That was okay back then, but its a different world now, way more dangerous.  NO!  The only reason you can't let your children go to the playground by themselves is because someone will call the police, then they will bring your children back home and there will be a CPS investigation, which while I believe strongly serve a valid purpose (from what I can tell most removals are from parents abusing hard-core drugs), isn't really something you want to deal with, or that you should have to deal with because they kids wanted to go swing while you made dinner.  But anyways, crime statistics are back at the same levels they were in the early 1960's except your mass media overload neglected to tell you.  Sex and violence sells, safety and calmness - not so much.

Somehow, without any real evidence to support it, we have decided that vigilant supervision and a child-centric life are the best ways to parent.  We go so far as to say that if you DON'T parent the "neo-American" (I made that up) way you are either neglecting or abusing your children.  We watched babies, with that little boy tied up in the house like a puppy and didn't really care, but if it were your neighbors kid you would be all over that phone getting the government involved.  

Friday, April 4, 2014

You Know Its Time For a Change When...

When one of the following conversations takes place, you know that it is time to change up your life a little bit:

Mom of the House:  Okay, time to get dressed!
Pre-schooler:  Where are we going?


Mom of the House:  Sorry guys, I don't have time for that, I need to clean the house.
Pre-schooler:  Who is coming over?

Both of these happened today, I think I need to make a new schedule ASAP!!!!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Mama's Priorities -OR- How I Will Probably Win the Worst Mother of the Year Award, But I Don't Even Care

Yesterday's post was pretty much a downer, but that is who I am right now, a downer.  But I think I have found a way to make my life easier to cope with.  No, I am not going to start drinking first thing in the morning LOL.  I am going to live my life with PRIORITIES!

I have always had a mental list of priorities for my someday family, but somehow lost track of them in all the mess of going from zero to three kids in less than a year.  My priorities list probably won't sit well with some of my readers (actually I deleted my Facebook, so who knows if anyone will even read this...?) because it is decidedly NOT child-centered.  I have always wanted children, and I have always wanted to be a "fun mom", but have NEVER wanted to be my children's friends.  I have done A LOT of internet reading on old fashioned parenting and have decided that the best way to train "my" children correctly is to demonstrate to them how to be an adult, not cater to their every whim and fancy.  This is NOT an exhaustive list, and only include things that are in my literally everyday life.  Some things, like friends and family, are fairly high on the list, but because I don't see them everyday and they are always prioritized highly, I don't have them on the list.
    1. My Relationship with God
      God should always come first in importance.  Many people start their day with Bible reading.  I don't intend to do that since I have to start my day with diaper changes and feeding the children.  Plus this is a very important area to demonstrate to the children.  So from now on, after breakfast I am going to sit down and have Bible time.  I am not making a huge commitment, I am just going to read the children a Bible story, then have them sit and look at Bible story books while I read a devotional.  Then I will read a chapter of the Bible outloud, followed by reading a chapter of "Leading Little One's to God".  Also at least most of the time, instead of listening to Oldies or Pop music, I am going to turn on Christian music.
    2. The Children's Well-being
      This is NOT the children's entertainment, or even the children's happiness.  It is their physical, mental, emotional, and social well-being.  Meaning that I need to make sure the children are safe, fed, clean, and dressed.  I also need to make sure that they get affection and know that they are loved.  This is an area that I already do pretty good in (except for the dressed part, sometimes it seems like a pajama day).  This area also includes training them in morals, values, manners and behavior.  I try really hard in this area, but I lack consistency.  Starting now I am requiring first time obedience or its a trip to the corner.  I don't actually believe that time-out is a valuable form of discipline for small children, but since corporeal punishment is not something I am allowed to use, it has to do.  I will not reason or argue with the children.  I will only yell if what they did scares the crap out of me (because when a small child steps into the street, its terrifying and I can't really help but scream).  I will teach them right from wrong.  I will not allow them to be rude, to me, my husband, each other, or other people.  I will teach them to say "Yes/no ma'am/sir" not "okay/uh-uh".  They will display table manners appropriate for their age or they can be removed from the table.  I will spend at least 15 minutes a day (I know it doesn't seem like much, but with 4 kids during the day that is one hour) having individual time with each child doing something fun.
    3. My Husband
      Although I believe that your husband should be more important than your children (abusive circumstances are an exception), the fact is that small children cannot survive without parental input.  Also the children are home with me all day,   For this I need to stop doing things that annoy my husband, stop complaining about my husband, and do what I can to make his life pleasant.  One thing that I really need to work on is not letting the children interrupt discussions with my husband, as that is teaching them rude habits, a self-centered attitude, and is placing their desires above my husbands.  Also included here is personal appearance.  Not in a vain, must be fashionable way, but in a wouldn't it be nice if Michael came home to a wife that had brushed her hair and wasn't wearing yoga pants way.
    4. A Clean and Tidy House
      Many people say that you can't have a clean house and kids.  I beg to differ.  Not because I have a clean house (remember my house hasn't been clean in at least a month and a half) on a regular basis, but because my mom did, and my friend's mom did.  If I am doing my job of training the children properly, then I can clean my house.  If I am not doing my job properly, then I am to busy distracting and entertaining the children to do this important part of my job as a stay at home mom.  From what I can tell from reading on the internet, mothers used to be a lot more hands off.  I have VERY fond memories of my childhood, and a great relationship with my mom, but I don't remember her playing with us on a constant basis.  She spent lots of time with us, and we knew we were very loved, but we played mostly with our siblings or by ourselves.  I am going old-school, and I am NOT going to feel guilty about it.  The children are going to have two choices: playroom or blankets.  If they can play nicely (not calmly, they can run and jump (not on the furniture) and yell and have fun, but they have to be kind to one another and to their toys) they can play in the playroom, and if they cannot, then they can come sit and play quietly or read on a blanket in the family room so I can get my house cleaned so we can all have a nice home to live in.  The baby will spend this time split between the playpen (I know, I am getting worst mom of the year award here!) and being worn on my back.  
    5. Fresh Air, Exercise, Learning
      These are things that I feel need to be done with the children.  It is important to me that the kids get lots of time outside.  Since I don't have a fence, or a visible backyard (big old detached garage in the way) the kids can't just go play outside while I watch them as I do dishes.  So they don't get as much time outside as I would like, but I aim for at least an hour a day, even if its raining.  As the weather gets nicer I am planning to have many of our meals outside so we can get more fresh air and sunshine.  In addition to time outside, I think it is important that they are learning about, well everything.  They are very small and don't know much about how the world works.  The main way that I work to impart knowledge to the children is by reading to them, which I need to prioritize more often.  My goal is to read to them for 45 minutes a day, split into three 15 minute sessions.

    6. Productive Entertainment
      Next on my priority list is the hobbies and interests that result in some positive outcome.  Examples of this would be sewing, baking and gardening.  They are things that will teach the children good ways to spend their free time.  Children need to learn that their are better ways to use their time than watching TV or some other screen-centric activity (I say as I blog :P)  
    7. Children's Entertainment
      Yup, way down towards the end of the list is entertaining the children.  I am putting my foot down.  I am not an entertainer.  I am a nurturer, I am a cook, I am a maid, I am a teacher, I am an example, and I am an adult.  I do not enjoy playing imaginative games with the children, because somewhere along the line I lost a good portion of my imagination.  I want to spend both quality and quantity time with the children, but that can be done in many, many ways that do not involve me playing with cars or Barbies.  I eat meals with them, I read to them, I do puzzles with them, I run around outside with them, I snuggle them, I tickle them, I take walks with them, I pray with them, I color with them, and in the evenings, I watch Gilligan's Island or I Love Lucy with them.  I spend a lot of time with them, but I am not going to play with them on a regular basis anymore.  As they get older I will play board games with them.  I might even have a tea party or something that boys like to do (I can't think of anything at the moment...) sometimes, but if you want to play Barbies or cars, find a friend/sibling or use your imagination.  The reason this is on my list at all is because of two things:
      1. It is important to me that they learn to entertain THEMSELVES.  I have started limiting the toys that they have at any given time, because I want to have them actually use the toys not just throw them all on the floor and step on them.  I am hoping to build enough trust that I can leave them with some art supplies, puzzles or workbooks and know they are not just going to tear them up or color on the wall or some other awful thing.  I want them to have attention spans and not have a constant need to be entertained.  I don't sit them in front of the TV very often (one old TV show a night, and a kid's movie on Friday afternoon) and I almost always watch with them and I always require that they sit still and actually pay attention.  I fast forward the commercials and am teaching them that they are designed to make you want things you don't need.  I take the batteries out of all their battery operated toys because not only do they drive me crazy, but I don't feel that they are beneficial for the children's growth.  I care A LOT about the quality of their entertainment, but on a day to day basis, it is a low priority activity, because i am not very involved in it.
      2. It is a higher priority than the last thing on my list.
    8. Lazy Entertainment
      Bottom of the list is the stuff I do while sitting on my butt that serves no practical purpose at all.  Wasting time on the internet, watching TV, playing video games, etc.  These are things that are not being a good example of an adult, and are literally just a waste of time.  From now on, my goal is that the children do not see me zoning out in front of a screen.  If I have time to zone out, then I have time to clean, read a story, call a friend, or bake some bread.  I want to teach them to be the best adult they can be, and to do that, I need to be the best adult I can be.  
I am going to work to come up with a schedule that fits my priorities.  I am also going to write up a list of rules for the children, which will be meaningless to them since only Hadlee can sort of read, but will serve as a reminder of what I want to teach them, so I can be more consistent with my discipline.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Rachel Sucks At Life

I have not blogged for a little while because I am sucking at life.  When I just had Miss Baby this parenting thing was a piece of cake.  My life didn't really change at all, except there was a sweet little girl added to it.  When Little Guy got to our home in October things got a lot harder.  He is a great baby (if you ignore the high pitched screech thing he does when he gets mad, or the biting he has been doing lately) and on his own isn't any trouble at all.  I don't know if it was "sibling" rivalry or just an age thing, but as soon as Little Guy joined our "family" Miss Baby started acting up a lot more.  At this point my life changed a little.  It was less pleasant than before, I yelled more than I would like to (Miss Baby is smart and would always decide to do things she isn't supposed to when I was in the middle of a bottle or diaper change with the baby), and I felt a little more stuck at home.  I had no problem having Miss Baby tag along with me wherever I went, but having two kids that need to be held to some degree makes simple trips a lot less fun.

Then on Valentine's Day Spiderman (I am not good at this nickname thing LOL) - a three year old little boy - joined our home.  And since that day, I have sucked at life.  My house has not actually been clean since he got here.  Dishes and laundry get done, but I could count on one hand how often I have vacuumed in the last month and a half.  I spend a good part of any given day yelling at the various children.  I get flaming mad over stupid little mistakes, and I don't think I have ate anything with food value in the last 2 weeks, because I am constantly craving the comforts of salt, sugar and fat.

Spiderman is not a bad kid.  He is actually a pretty good kid.  No behavior problems, semi-obedient, eats well, sleeps well.  BUT he is three.  Miss Baby is two.  Hadlee is four.  And Little Guy is 11 months.  Hadlee and Spiderman fight like cats and dogs.  Miss Baby and Spiderman fight like cats and dogs.  I change somewhere between 15-20 diapers a day (all three of the youngest kids are in diapers, the two in the middle should be potty trained but like I said, I am sucking at life).  Little Guy is into everything.  Rules that the girls had no problem following before are now questioned and broken constantly.

And I am trapped at home all the time.  We literally cannot fit all the car seats in our car.  My husband started a new job today, and he is now driving 3 hours a day to commute.  Our car got bad gas mileage and we owe a lot on it so we couldn't afford the miles on the car.  So we traded our 2008 BMW for a 1989 Toyota Camry.  And while I now I will feel a lot less ridiculous when I park at Goodwill, we have no way of going anywhere as a family without first borrowing a car.  It is also a stick with an old clutch and no tachometer, making it horrifying to drive if you have to stop on a hill.  To get to town I have to go up a hill with a stop light at the top of it.

Basically I am depressed and overwhelmed and as I said earlier, sucking at life.  I am pretty sure I will "fall pregnant" in the near future, just to add one more thing to my overflowing plate.