I've been back to work for 3.5 weeks. I can't believe it has been that long already...honestly. But it is true.
Things are settling down rather quickly. I'm already making dinner again. I attribute this entirely to William's helpfulness. He has even been planning ahead with things. I must be rubbing off on him? In addition to him planning ahead...I've taken some deep breaths and I've been trying to be relaxed a little bit. So what if we don't eat dinner until 6:30? Or 7 even? Yes...I have some rather hungry children. But I've been trying to eliminate the things that bother me the most.
For example...previously the kids would watch TV up until dinner. With a much later dinner...this means that they spend much of their evening watching TV. I personally hate TV. I mean...I like to watch it myself...but I hate what it does to the kids. They turn into little zombies. And Rebekah and Peter are starting to watch less educational things which just makes me feel worse about it. So I implemented a new rule. No TV until after dinner. This has made me feel much better about the later dinners. They have been going out to play or they play among themselves. Just last night Rebekah was a 'Mama Horse" and Ruth was a 'baby horse'. Rebekah gave Peter rides and Ruth had fun being "mama'd" by Rebekah. Pretend play at its best. This makes my heart happy.
The other issue is that the children are frequently about-to-die-starving. Well...they would tell you that anyway. So waiting so long for dinner has been tough. Typically we would have cereal or Kashi snack bars available for snacks...but honestly I don't want my kids eating so much of this food. To fix this problem I have been making an effort to keep self-serve fruits available. Or carrots. We nearly always have carrots. The kids can get this stuff by themselves (Rebekah and Peter anyway) and I don't mind so much. Eating things that you can pick and eat is always OK in my book.
So with those two problems fixed evenings has been going much smoother. I frequently have to stop and nurse Paul or cuddle with him a bit when we get home. If he isn't done yet - William will start dinner when he gets home. It is about 50/50 on who cooks these days. I think this is a better arrangement. No one likes to do all the cooking. (I prefer William to cook...I genuinely think his food tastes better.)
This teamwork approach has been amazing really. Don't get me wrong...just last night I yelled because Ruth spilled some milk. THEN she cried because I was cleaning it up. I lost it there. And then it spilled over into me getting snippy with Peter. So yeah...not perfect. But really, it could be worse.
Yelling in general has been something I've been working. I noticed around December I was pretty yelly. And yelling is pretty ugly. I never felt good about it and I really didn't want to be that mom. It isn't how I want my kids to remember their childhood. So I've been working on it. I'm not perfect...but I'm better. I'm not yelling multiple times in an evening more. It is more like a couple times a week. I noticed during maternity leave a few triggers for me.
First - being well rested really helps. I felt like I could conquer the world. Well rested with a baby in the house you say? Why yes. Naps are marvelous things. And my baby will nap all day long as long as you are napping with him. So I'd just take him to bed and sleep. It was great. I felt prepared for the chaos that was to come when everyone was home around 5. Now that I'm back to work - naps are harder to come by. So I'm trying to figure out a solution there. I don't have a good one.
Second - when things spiral out of control (one thing after another) tends to set me off. When I have all 4 kids needing me in a 5 minute span...it is a bit much. When I have to repeate the same thing to all 4 kids...or when all 4 kids are misbehaving (ok...3...Paul doesn't really misbehave...but him crying certainly contributes) in a short amount of time it is a trigger. If they misbehave spaced far enough apart and I have a chance to regroup I do a lot better. For example...if Ruth spills milk, Peter comes in tracking mud everywhere and then Rebekah is asking me to play some game with her all in a 5 minute time period (and for good measure...throw Paul crying in the middle of all this...) I'm likely to yell at the last kid. If Ruth spills her milk, I clean it up and take a deep breath, then Peter comes in all muddy...I help him...and THEN Rebekakh comes in asking to play some game...last kid is less likely to get yelled at. (It is 50/50 if Paul is crying. :-P) I don't have a good answer for this either...other than I have identified it. Going into the evenings expecting mass chaos and craziness has really helped. Knowing that the first scenario is more the rule than the exception...it is almost like dodging a bullet. Changing expectations and letting go of things like "I MUST COOK DINNER" does wonders. I don't know why...it just does.
Yelling is also kind of cyclical. I yell. Then I feel bad. So then I'm feeling bad and I yell again because I feel bad. Then I feel worse because I yelled again and I'm frustrated with myself so I yell again. So working hard to STOP has also really helped...as crazy as that sounds. Stopping encourages less yelling. ;-)
So an uncontrollable hurdle to a lot of this (at least since Feb) is Paul. He cries. And he cries a lot. And when he is crying my body tenses up and the stress level rises a few notches. I can console him though - which is good. I can pick him up and cuddle him and he's all better. The problem is sometimes I can't. And then it makes me wish we were past this particular baby stage. Then I immediately feel guilty for not enjoying his babyhood. (I don't remember much of Peter's...I'm pretty sure it is a defense mechanism...you know how you remember the good? Yep. Only there isn't much good.) Vicious really. Isn't motherhood vicious? So...more deep breaths.
I'm so glad oxygen is free...because Lord knows I use it a lot.
I actually think things have been going pretty well...as crazy as that sounds. I've been working really hard to focus on the things that really seem important. Spending time with the kids. Enjoying their quirks. Remembering their funny tales. Listening to them. I think listening to them is so important. I'm terrified that when they grow older, they won't talk to us. This is only a theory - but I feel if I listen to my kids now, they will be more willing to talk to me later. You know...when they big things going on in their life.
A key to this for me are my church family. They see my kids in all their crazy glory every Sunday. And they laugh at them and enjoy them. I tell stories (sometimes meant as vents of frustrations) and they laugh and tell me how cute my kids are. What? Ok...I guess that was kind of cute. God has put amazing people in my life to encourage me and help guide me on this parenting journey. And there really isn't a day that goes by that I am not grateful.
Now it is summer. Things are always easier in the summer. The oldest two have baseball. I can't wait to watch their games and cheer them on. We have warm weather. I want to try for regular family bike rides. I want Peter to learn to ride without training wheels this summer. I'd love to get back into running...would love it. Running is just so therapeutic for me and I miss it like crazy. BUT. I have to wait. I have to get these other things under control because time is so precious and precarious right now. It isn't the season just yet. It will happen soon enough though, I'm sure of it. And when I do I have a used-only-once shiny new Garmin watch and some awesome new running shoes waiting for me.