On putting myself closer to the top of the list

So, yesterday you may have noticed Eli’s nice little cozy bed. It’s in what is currently our newly-redone attic. Dave spent months finishing our attic (best part: super-insulating the roof-line, which made such an enormous difference I can’t even tell you). This room is a masterpiece. It’s gorgeous (for some reason I can’t find a “before” picture, but you can get a small idea by looking at the top photo in my cardboard stool post). It’s such a lovely retreat. And I lobbied — hard — for putting the kids up there.

My reasoning was that I really want them all to sleep in the same room, and that putting everyone in the attic would free up two rooms on the second floor, and how magical would it be to have two rooms that have no specific purpose? We could have a craft room! Or…or… a meditation room! (Um, not that we ever meditate.) Or a reading nook!

Dave lobbied for the attic to be our room, on the basis of needing our own sanctuary. Everyone else pretty much argued in favor of this as well. Sometimes (a lot of the time) if everyone is arguing for the thing I’m arguing against, I just dig in my heels and argue harder. To my credit, I do think putting the kids in the attic has merit. Dave agreed, at some point, and when the room was done (beginning of February), we moved them in.

Half the room is for their beds, the other half is a toy/play area. It works great. Until midnight. Then Zuzu wakes up and yells, “Ma! Ma!” and I run upstairs and sleep with her. At 3:00 I go back downstairs. At 3:20 she yells for me again. At 5:00 Eli wakes up to pee, goes down to the second floor bathroom, and slams the door. Then he goes upstairs and yells for someone to cuddle with him. When we refuse, he stomps around. And then we’re all up. Every night we tell him he has to sleep in after he gets up to pee, and every morning he stomps around angrily (which is crazy loud from the second floor).

Two weeks ago Dave and I talked about switching the rooms (so that we would go in the attic), so at least Eli’s stomping wouldn’t be so loud. I still wasn’t totally on board, and the work involved in switching the rooms kept us at the status quo. Then, last Saturday, as I lay there in Zuzu’s bed angrily whispering to Eli that he needed to get the hell back in bed, the whole Thing of the situation finally sunk in.

I wanted the kids to have the awesome room. They weren’t sleeping, and they had already started their customary practice of trashing the room itself (a particularly gruesome block-throwing incident stands out). Why couldn’t I have the awesome room? We’re the grownups — we should have the best room, right? I mean, yeah, there are logistical reasons why having the children all in the big attic room might make sense, but they failed the trial period. Suddenly, I wanted the room. A lot. I wanted the sanctuary. The adult space.

Of course now there are about 17 steps that need to happen before we can move them downstairs (getting them all in one room so we can paint and finish the trim-that-never-happened in our current bedroom), but we’re moving ahead with it. I ordered them some super cute quilts which will hopefully make the transition less traumatic to them. The plan is to put Henry, Eli, and Zuzu in Dave and our current bedroom, and to make the boys’ old bedroom into a playroom. I hope we can get it all done before the baby is born (9.5 more weeks!). But having an adult sanctuary space will be a whole, new thing for me, and hopefully signals a New Era of not waiting on the royalty hand and foot and getting them to polish my crown every once in a while (suddenly I have a massive fear that “polish my crown” is some kind of dirty euphemism).

Am I articulating this properly? For six-and-a-half years I’ve been trying to figure this all out, and have been falling heavily on the path of doing whatever my kids want. The result is happy kids and total household chaos. We’re about to add a fourth kid to this, and it has. to. stop. Dave and I need to be the alpha dogs. I have really been working on child self sufficiency (“You can get a glass of milk yourself”). The next big (BIG) step is child self entertainment. Sometimes it works, but with Eli and Zuzu it’s a lot harder (Henry thrives on it, most of the time). But situations where I am telling Eli I need to do the taxes, and he is shouting, ” No! No! No!” right in my ear have to stop.

Do any of you have a situation where you tell your kids to do (or not do) something, and for the most part they listen? How do you balance kid freedom with parental freedom?

I have been giving my life away to the children, and that’s not helping any of us. I’m ready to take it back.

Comments (7)

  1. Christina March 19, 2010 at 10:39 am

    Wow- what a beautiful room- Dave did an amazing job. I think the balance between parents’ needs and kids’ needs is so hard. I think it’s especially hard for AP parents…you have this newborn/young baby and you respond instantly to every one of their needs (as I believe you should) but then they grow and suddenly their needs and wants and demands eclipse everything else. I do try to focus on how important it is for Nora to see that Erik and I have lives and needs and feelings and desires that are separate from her and for her to learn to respect them. I also try to put what is best for our FAMILY ahead of what is best for any one of us. It’s so hard- and I imagine much more challenging with multiple children.

  2. Beth March 20, 2010 at 8:19 am

    Julie, Hurray! It looks gorgeous, and I’m really glad you guys are going to use that for your own room. (Though I understand why you wanted it for the kids, at first–it sounded like a practical solution–it just didn’t turn out that way.) You’re a great mom, and I’m glad you’re inching a little higher up on the list. That’s definitely hard to do, but it’s important.

  3. Lisa van Oosterum March 20, 2010 at 9:05 pm

    I keep thinking of Arnold’s Terminator quote “I want my life back!” (said in perfect arnold delivery). Are you still doing the daily schedule?

  4. Corinne March 22, 2010 at 12:12 am

    it’s times like this I ask “where are the Faeries”? You know the ones, where they clean up that tub of yogourt i just spilt all over the kitchen floor (full fat yogourt is not that easy to clean up), or when I have to move a bunch of stuff to and fro. You need the faeries. They never come of course, faeries are mischevious and subordinate.

    I have learned a lot from my husband about boundaries. I would just do what ever made Z happy or not cry; but Mark seems to put her needs at the forefront but generally not at his total expense. And Z seems to do better with these boundaries. I am learning how to not be walked on by a two year old, and she is actualy behaving better. Although when i started to put these boundaries on her there were more tears at first, but not for too long. She didn’t think that this was acceptable behaviour from her mother! Hope that didn’t sound to preachy- I am still working through this. It’s so like the first comment from Christina: their needs change but it’s hard for us to change with them. Their cries change from letting us know they NEED something to – i want it my way! All the time!!

  5. Julie March 22, 2010 at 1:20 pm

    Lisa, yes! I want my life back. I am still doing the daily schedule, but Eli’s definition of “nap/quiet time” and mine are quite different. His definition is “lower the volume to the average decibels of a gas-powered lawn mower.”

    Corinne, that’s so what I’m trying to deal with, the boundaries. And the constant neediness. The boys will ask for something they can get themselves, I tell them to get it themselves, and they will, but those requests come every five minutes, and it’s hard for me to think straight. And Zuzu has “needs” which I question, like the need to stand in front of the refrigerator and point at all the contents so I can name them for her. I need to be ok with her tears, too. I just told her it was not ok to sit in my lap eating a juicy mango while I’m at the computer, and she freaked out, but ultimately decided she’d be ok eating the mango at the table. But the drama! I’m so over the drama.

    Saturday Dave took the kids to the beach for 3 hours, and I got SO much done, cleaning, but it struck me how nonsensical it is that someone has to take the kids away for me to CLEAN. They should be able to be here, and deal, while I clean. Yet another new goal.

  6. Lisa March 26, 2010 at 9:43 pm

    Julie–I am so right there with you about the cleaning bit and I only have two kids now. I feel like I can never catch up so I was going to suggest to my dear hubby to take the kids away for a few hours, just so I can clean and get stuff off the floor. It is nonsensical in a way, but so right on in other ways…we have a small house and I find myself literally tripping over the kids and the trail of stuff– while I just moved and cleaned a pile of stuff– they are always making more “stuff” piles–at least if they are out of the house a few hours you can see and feel a little bit of progress..so it’s not so crazy….and boundaries, yes, I’m working on that too. Hang in there!

  7. Julie March 28, 2010 at 7:52 am

    Dave and I talk about how the kids totally view a clean house as a clean slate upon which to dump a load of junk. It makes my blood pressure rise just to think about it. It happens every day.

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