We have the best of intentions. But then life gets in the way and we lose sight of our goals and we fall off the wagon. We gain weight, get lazy, and feel like we've failed.
In parenting, I know what my child needs. I try my best. But life keeps getting in the way and I lose sight of what I need and what she needs and what he needs. And I yell and she melts down and he overcompensates and we all feel like we've failed.
We've been in a low for a couple of weeks. We've been in the despair part of the low for the past several days.
This morning was the worst it has been in a very long time. There was yelling and crying and attitude and screaming and shouting and refusals to cooperate. And this was from her and from me.
I knew we couldn't keep on like this. Not if we are going to do fun things on weekends. Not if we are going to like being around each other when we go to Disney in 4 weeks.
So I asked my fellow wise moms for support and help. I was pointed to some great resources. I spent a lot of the morning reading, writing, researching, thinking, digging. And I came up with a plan. Emailed it to Jeff and he agreed.
Tonight, we had a family meeting and new Family Responsibilities and Opportunities have been laid out. We also have a set of Morning Expectations and and Evening Schedule.
We've never been so regimented. But we've also never been so out of control.
Step One - Control the Chaos
We have to make a concentrated effort to get the family areas of the home under control. Bathroom renovation project must get done this weekend. Dining room must become fully functional again.
Step Two - Crack down on diet.
We have limited options for breakfast and dinner (the meals we have total control over). Dinner is especially important since it is often a source of stress and chaos. Dinner will now be a main entree like chicken or a peanut butter sandwich. We will have bread available - sliced or rolls. Then a variety of fresh fruits and veggies. Lastly, dairy options such as yogurt and cheese.
Step Three - Implementation of new family Repsonsibilities and Opportunities
- We treat each other with respect. This means we use kind voices. We choose kind and loving words.
- We treat each other with gentleness and affection. This means hugs and snuggles. This means soft voices and laughter. This means we care about each other and want to show that we care about each other.
- We follow the schedule. There is a set schedule for evenings. There is a list of “what to do” for each morning.
- We take care of our things. Mommy and Daddy are going to be working hard to get our house in better shape. We want your rooms to be taken care of, too. This means picking up and putting away toys when we are done playing, putting away books, and putting away clean clothes left in our rooms.
- You have the opportunity for a family fun night on every Friday. This might mean going out to do something fun with friends or it might be a movie night at home.
- You have the opportunity for the bedtime routine. Choosing to ignore the family responsibilities means choosing to go to bed 15 minutes early (this means missing out on family reading time and/or shower time).
- You have the opportunity to ride your scooter/play outside. When we choose to follow our responsibilities, we can take time in the evening schedule to play outside.
- You have the opportunity for fun family outings on the weekends. When we are all following the family responsibilities, we can do fun things as a family – like trips to Ritchey Woods, going to the park, time with friends, going to the movies, and more!
- You have the opportunity to have clothes and toys and books. It is your responsibility to take care of those things by playing with them gently and by putting them away when you are done playing.
Step Four - Evening Schedule
We brought it down to the minute on paper. Tonight was our first evening of implementation and it went well and we ended up ahead of schedule by just a few minutes.
Every effort must be made to have everyone home before 5:30. As soon as we are home, the kids will take about 15 minutes of quiet time in their rooms. They can choose any quiet activity in their rooms during that unwinding time - reading, playing, coloring, resting, and so on. While they have this unwinding time, Mom and/or Dad will be prepping the kid buffet in the kitchen.
Dinner should be around 5:45. Each child gets their plate and only takes the food the intend to eat. You can have seconds afte ryou eat most of what you took. There is no sugary junk. There are no other snacks. Leftovers from dinner can be eaten after later evening activities if needed.
Dinner should be done no later than 6:15. Then it is homework time. Teagan will work on her assignments and Zach will work with a parent on sight words and reading.
Homework should be done around 6:30-6:40. This moves us into Family Time. 20-30 minutes to take a walk, play a game, or other total family activities.
7:00 begins the bedtime routine. Teagan gets 10 minutes for a shower and then Zach gets a quick tub wash up when she's done. While one child is getting clean, the other spends time picking up their room. Then it is time to brush teeth and gather in mom and dad's bed for Family Reading Time.
We are currently on Chapter Six of Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone. The kids are loving it!
By 7:30-7:40 we are done with reading. It's time to get kids tucked in and snuggled. Then say prayers. Then the kids have an opportunity to have mom or dad sit at the foot of the bed for 5 minutes while they calm their bodies down to go to sleep.
Step Five - Morning Expectations
I've made up signs with words and pictures to help the kids know exactly what is expected of them each morning. Our expectations are really very simple.
- Get yourself completely dressed. Shirt, pants, socks, shoes.
- Get breakfast
- Brush teeth
- Brush hair
- Pack up your backpack
So far, we have review of the new responsibilities and opportunities done and we've had our first evening routine. Best evening we've had in a while. Things to note about the plan - there is no screen time during the week. No TV in the morning or the evening. The first opportunity to watch TV or have screen time would be on a Friday Fun Night if we do movie night or hit the arcade or play Skylanders at home. Saturday mornings can have some down time with TV - but we will limit TV to 1 hour or so. The family's focus has to be on calming our environment and on spending family time together.
I handled this inaugural evening on my own as Jeff had a thing at church. It went well. We didn't need our full food prep or dinner time. But that gave us wiggle room for family time. We went for a walk around the block and laughed and enjoyed each other a lot. Game home and played a game together. Then, 5 minutes ahead of schedule, Teagan asked to go ahead and get her shower. So we started the bedtime routine. When it came time to sit at the foot of the bed, Teagan decided she didn't really need me to sit with her (which is fine- Zach is usually the one asking for someone to stay with him).
Our evening was fun. Our bedtime was peaceful.
We had a little attitude start to crop up when playing a game and things weren't going Teagan's way. But a gentle reminder about our Responsibilities - treating each other with respect means having fun and being fair to everyone playing - and the issue resolved itself.
It's going to be tough to stick to this for the next 4 weeks. But that is what I really think we have to do. I think Teagan is burnt out on school and all the stresses of school. I think Zach is apprehensive and sad that his time at Little Explorers coming to an end. I think the eagerness for vacation is building for everyone.
We will have hiccups in the plan, I know. We will have evenings where we have to figure out Plan B (like when Zach has Kindergarten Graduation in a couple of weeks). Jeff and I will need to support each other, cover each other, make sacrifices.
But if it strengthens our family, we win.