You know it’s bad when you have the urge to stop in the middle of dealing with your children, say, “Wait right here!” and go consult all your parenting self-help books. What exactly was I supposed to do? I hadn’t slept at all the night before, between teething Zuzu and continues-to-scream-out-for-me-every-night Eli. The boys were playing together fairly well, but their playing seemed to consist of making a giant mess and then moving on to trash the next room. I suddenly felt like (once again) we had way too much Stuff, and it just got thrown around everywhere, and all the kids do all day is make demands on me and Dave and then whine if they don’t get their way (Henry actually said, at one point, “I command you to read me a book!”).
So then they totally deconstructed their bed, unmaking the whole thing, including pulling off the very-heavy memory foam mattress pad. And they upended the rocking chair for good rock star measure. And I completely lost it. It was so much the last straw, and I was so tired, but you know? Even if I wasn’t tired, it was still totally not ok to just trash a room so much that you can’t even open the door, and then leave.
I made some fairly unintelligible squawking burbles, and then just righted the rocking chair, sat down, closed my eyes, and sat (mostly because I didn’t feel like struggling again to open the door so I could go downstairs to all the parenting books). I breathed. I could think of two options. One was to take away some toys (just because this is my default). The other made more sense: make them clean up their mess.
So I called them back in and told them they’d have to clean it all up, to remake the bed. It took them three hours. Sometimes I’d sit with them and talk them through it, other times I’d have to leave because I felt like my head was about to explode. Three times I got so annoyed by their lack of motivation and seeming lack of caring that I got a plastic bag and filled it with toys (saying something about “if you won’t respect my things, I won’t respect yours”). Which seems heartlessly cruel now, but at the time seemed like I was letting them off easy (like my only other choice was to sell them on the street corner). (Ok, and in my defense, most of the toys I got rid of were baby toys that we would be getting rid of soon anyway, but I also included this horrible noisy fire station and a Popeye lunchbox which serves no purpose in my mind, though Eli does like to put things in it sometimes. We’ll see if I take out the fire station before I unload these toys.)
Three hours. They were literally in the room the whole time, alternately whining and rolling around in the comforter and just chatting with each other. What kills me is I’m not even sure if I made an impression with any of this. It’s highly possible that they could repeat the entire episode today.
And part of me knows they were just playing around, and having a good time together, but my current rant is something about “there are five people in this family, and I have enough to do taking care of my own stuff, I can’t do everyone else’s too!” I know they say that kids have to try a new food 15 times before they like it; how many times do you have to ask them to clear their dinner dishes or put their pajamas in the hamper before they actually start doing it? I don’t expect them to do it after one time, but it’s been years at this point. Figuring in a margin of error surrounding being too young to comprehend what I’m saying, this gets them cleaning up after themselves in…what?…2018?