Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Perfect storm parenting

Jonathan is 4 and 1/2 years old. He has an inquisitive, sharp mind and wants to "discuss" things constantly. His imaginative play is amazing, as is his empathy, especially with his stuffed animals. He takes very good care of all those animals! He needs, sometimes legitimately, more attention than I can give him. I wish I could figure out a way to spend an hour each morning and an hour each afternoon just with him, probably focused on some kind of learning. He would love that and I think it would go a long way toward helping him be calmer during the rest of the day. He often whines that he is "bored" and those are the times he is most likely to provoke/hit/kick/shove Thomas, or take his toys, or throw a full-blown tantrum about who-knows-what.

Thomas is 2 and 3/4 years old. His speech is improving, giving us a better window into his mind, which is often such fun! He wants to be like Jonathan, but he is definitely his own little person. He loves to read and can sometimes be found sitting on the floor in a corner, carefully paging through a book. He needs quiet time alone, but rarely gets it. Jonathan is always pulling him away to join into his own games. Perhaps in retaliation, perhaps just because he needs to be alone and never is, he has mastered the art of getting on his brother's nerves. He takes toys away from Jonathan and Josiah, hits and shoves both his brothers, and then cries desperately if Jonathan retaliates (even though he started it.) He needs, sometimes legitimately, more time and attention than I have to give, especially right after waking up from a nap. I wish that I could spend an hour just holding him and reading stories. He would love it and it would make our afternoons much more pleasant. He's just starting to give up his afternoon nap, so our afternoons are always difficult (either because he's been awake too long or because he's having a hard time waking up.) The whining and crying are hard for me to handle.

Josiah is one year old. He has an even, sweet, happy temperament. He loves to explore, to touch, to taste, to climb (on everything), to throw things. He has a truly incredible ability to find the open door when my back is turned (the older boys simply CANNOT remember to keep things closed) and get into the toilet or the mud puddle. He gets multiple baths, or at least rinse-offs, nearly every day. He's old enough to get into lots and lots of trouble, but not quite old enough to obey instructions. He needs, legitimately, more time and attention than I can give him. I wish I had the luxury of lots of time to spend just focused on him, looking at tree leaves, and bugs in the mud, and reading books and stacking blocks. All things we do but in tiny little two-minute increments, when I want fifteen.

There is so much going on in our household right now. So much growing and learning - an explosion of fascinating maturing - yet with that comes a cacophony of discipline issues. I feel like I spend my days dealing with the immediate, the required, the child who has been shoved and needs a hug and the child who did the shoving and needs a time out and a talk, the little one who has now been ignored for too long, is playing in the potty, and needs a bath. The tyranny of the urgent is my perpetual reality.

This does feel like a perfect storm. I think I would need to be super-woman to be successful right now, given these realities. And the fact is that I'm not super-woman. I get tired and stressed, I raise my voice too often and I listen too little. Like Thomas I need quite and space to myself, and like Thomas, I find it in far too short supply.

I started writing this hoping, I think, that I'd figure something out in the writing. Sigh.

God grant that this stage, this storm, is short, and give me grace to live well until it passes.

(photo credit: Ian Britton, FreeFoto.com)


Becks said...

When I was growing up, my mom made us have a "quiet time" every day. I don't remember whether it was in the morning or the afternoon, but it was a time for little ones to take a nap, and bigger ones to have some alone time. I think we did it until I was almost 12.

Maybe you could do something like that, and give each child some special "mommy and me" time on a different day?

The other thing we did was go on "dates" with dad. Maybe once a month my dad would take one of us out for pancakes or to see the fountains at the Disneyland hotel, etc. We REALLY valued that time, and looked foreward to it quite a bit. Maybe you could have mommy and me "dates" where you get out of the house with just one of them and give them some individual attention while dad watches the other 2 at home?

Ma Torg said...

I sometimes wonder if the perfect storm does ever end. That is the thing with having more than one child and especially with having more than two number ( you're outnumbered). You can NEVER give each child all the individual attention you'd like. There just is not enough time in the day.

It is sad. However, there are so many things children get besides one on one with mom that are extremely beneficial. Sibling relationships teach so much...about love, friendship, etc. That is a gem for kids.

I think a lot of motherhood is accepting our limits. We can't meet every one of our child's needs. And thus we must pray and ask God to meet their needs. Maybe that's why parenting is made to seem to be a perfect storm so often.

I like Becks idea about the dates. We talk about doing that a lot but have yet to find the time. But I do like that idea. It doesn't solve the problem on a daily basis, but it certainly would be a fun treat for both the parent and child every once in a while.

Amber said...

I think I might have sent this to you awhile ago, but it might be worth another read.


I thought of it as I read your post.

I know exactly where you're coming from though - I'd love to be sewing with Emma, doing art projects all the time, and doing all the things she thrives on but that isn't the family God gave her. Instead, there's a toddler that needs to be kept off the table and a little boy who wants stories read and puzzles played.

I'm trying to make sure I give the kids at least two sessions of about 15 - 20 minutes of at least mostly uninterrupted time each day. Somedays it doesn't happen (and Nathan's sessions are shorter, or happen at least in part while nursing) but it is definitely paying dividends in behavior and connectedness. I'm thankful I'm not so busy on the house anymore that I can do it. Yes, an hour for each, even two each day would be wonderful but there just isn't enough uninterrupted time in the day where I could do that with each child (not without locking some of them up in various parts of the house... tempting as that might sound at times! *grin*) but that amount seems to help all of our together time a lot.

OK, time to move Nathan to the next thing because the high chair and the activities are getting old - I was using that during the art lesson which turned into a research session on Blue Periods... I don't know where'd I be without the internet. It is hard to imagine home schooling without it! No doubt about it, I'd either be missing a lot of opportunities or I'd have to be a lot more organized!! Anyways, I digress...

I'll be keeping you in my prayers and I so wish you lived closer!!