The web is full of funny, quirky blogs about how differently parenting used to be. I love reading them and I used to think “Oh I wish it could be that way.” Well this summer I just discovered, on accident, how to make that happen. All you need to do is adopt a 6th kid who is also a toddler and have a teenager go through a major surgery. If you are middle aged as I might be, you will be tired as hell. With this exhaustion, you will forget that you are supposed to be on a helicopter. That baby will crash and burn.
What I’ve discovered is that the morons that I live with actually have the ability to, wait for it, RISE TO THE OCCASION. It’s utterly amazing.
I’ve spent the past summers where the kids wake up and they each have a little jar full of popsicle sticks that each have a chore on them. Once they finish the chores, they can have 90 minutes of TV. (This was not my original idea friends). It helped me get the house clean and helped me to monitor the TV time. Loved it.
It’s July and I haven’t gotten the jars out. Just couldn’t muster up the energy. And you know what has happened? The kids just help me clean. (well, 4 of them) When the dishwasher is done, I say “Can you please empty this?” and then……they do it. Without complaining. Who are these strangers?
What am I doing about controlling the amount of electronics they consume? Almost nothing. Yes, you heard me. And they don’t seem to have lost IQ points yet. When I just feel like it’s been enough I walk through the house and yell “Turn them off. Everything. Go outside. Be a real kid. Make something. Play a game. Use water.” And strangely, they do. Just like I did when I was a kid and my mom told me to do something and there wasn’t some freaking stick, or incentive, or magic clown party in the back yard she organized to entertain me.
This summer my sons ride their bikes everywhere. To the pool, basketball courts, 7-11. It’s great. Please keep in mind I live in a city and they have to cross a major road to even leave the neighborhood. This used to stress me out. In addition, Mesfin broke his phone so naturally he’s not getting it replaced until I feel as if he’s suffered enough. (He will currently tell you he’s suffered like a POW). At first I was concerned to send them out without a phone. And then, well, I was really busy and just plain forgot I was supposed to worry they were being kidnapped. Did your mom know where you were in the 80’s? Yeah, not even for 5 minutes. I left the house when I felt like leaving, rushed home at 430 to do the list of chores she gave me and was there to greet her at the door when she got home at 515. Then I left again. Twice I’ve driven by where they said they were going to be, and I’ll be darned if those little stinkers were ACTUALLY there!
Iris fell off her bike last week. She was crying. Her arm hurt really bad, but to my clearly professional eye, it looked just fine. “We should go to the hospital!” was her immediate response. Well now, to my defense, I have been in a doctor’s office at least 3, if not 5 days a week for the first 4 weeks of summer. So I responded with “Well, usually we cry it out for an hour and if it still hurts, then we go to the hospital.” I didn’t make her wait quite that long (ok, 40 min.). We get to the urgent aide, register, sit down, and you know what happened? She stopped crying. Her pain had gone from a 10, down to a 5. I’m beside myself.
I text Jon: “So she feels better. I HATE doctors and hospitals. So far we’ve only done triage? Do you think it would be socially acceptable if I just run out the door before they call us?”
And since he’s also regressing as a parent, he responded with a yes.
I’m about to get up when they call her back and I decide, oh ok, if I don’t have to wait and X-ray can’t hurt. If you haven’t figured out how this turns out…….it’s BROKEN. At the elbow. Near the growth plate.
Faye spent a few days in the hospital for an infection this summer. Prepared meals? None. Play dates arranged while 25 miles away in a hospital? Nope, not this time. Home for 16 hours and leave a list of chores? Sure did. The house was actually pretty clean and I was struggling to find things for them to do, but it felt like sort of a moral failure to NOT have them do some work.
Here’s the truth: I’m tired. Exhausted a lot. Yes, it was my doing to make my family so large. Yet the thing is, I’m not tired of being their parent, I’m just tired of parenting the way I’ve been doing it. I still want to be a “yes” mom….it’s just who I am. However I’ve realized that being a “no” mom is fantastic. It feels so good sometimes. No is the answer needed if what they want is going to make me more exhausted than I already am!
I am living with young adults and I’m ready for them to start acting like it. Yet the only way they can act like it is if I give them the opportunities to be responsible. Without feeling bad about it or being scared they will get hurt. I no longer want to monitor all of their homework and grades, I don’t want to keep them in a 4 block radius because I’m worried about them, I don’t want to be afraid, I’m not interested in logging their TV time…..none of it.
I’m spending the rest of the summer focusing only on the things that are long term and eternal. I hope it ends and they’ve learned a little something about how hard little toddlers can be, how much work it takes to run a house, the image of a good marriage, what kindness looks like, that responsibility actually feels good, how we take care of each other because we are family, and that fun doesn’t come with a price tag and a bunch of glitter. Fun can be found at the dining room table just being loved by those around you.
Now I just need to remember to keep that helicopter landed and not jump back on! It’s actually not a fun ride at all.