Last Saturday my very wonderful husband took all six children out for the day so that I could have a day to just think and plan and prepare and rest. I needed to redo our schedule and reassign chores and, basically, just make the world stop for a little bit so that I could see the big picture again.
It was hard to step over the laundry on the floor to give priority to mental work. But I knew if I didn’t focus, the only quiet time I’d get to think on things would be close to 10 o’clock at night. Like now.
The first thing I did was retweek my schedule. Oh, I am so thankful for that! Those little sticky paper notes marking my day have saved me from frustration for many, many years. We have never, ever, hit our schedule perfectly and usually end up using it as “routine”ish. But over the week, over time, we generally get it all done, even the under-the-sink-cleaning and the math lessons and the pulling weeds. I use Teri Maxwell’s Managers of Their Homes (that big scary book that took me years to buy because it looked so intense!). But, truly, line by line, it all makes sense, and I love the message board she runs with it; it is SO helpful.
It was also a blessing to relisten to Susan Bradrick’s Twenty-Four Hours is All You Get. I love what she said about “using your time wisely” being either an inspiration OR a conviction, and that how you use your time would flow from that (or not, as the case may be). I (personally, although I dislike saying “personally” but…bother…there it is) feel the weighty-ness of having such a very short time with my children before they are all off and grown. There is so much for them to learn! Oh, to make my time COUNT!
So I reacquainted myself with mentors that helped me along the first time, and one of those was Elizabeth from Raising Godly Tomatoes. It was so refreshing to revisit her website, and I bought one of her books (now that I had a little money to do so!).
“Tomato staking” was exactly what we needed! I didn’t need to get more firm or spank more or pile on the consequences. What I needed to do was the same thing I did when I only had two small children…keep them WITH ME.
If I’m in the kitchen, I have little shadows. If I’m changing baby’s diaper, I have little shadows. If I’m walking on my treadmill, I have little shadows sitting quietly on the couch. They are never outside the same room I am in, and because of that, I can easily praise good behavior. And, I can immediately correct bad behavior, including sour attitudes.
Mothers (and I am pointing at me, here, too!) cannot afford to be selfish. If our babies haven’t earned the trust and right to be away from us (by their obedient behavior) then I have to wonder, What are we thinking?! when we send them off “to play” while we get sucked into the computer or chip bag or whatnot?
Mothering is a FULL TIME JOB. Not correcting things on the spot means stucco-dried-on behavior problems later. It is worth my full attention now to have pleasant children (and adults!) later. And that also means that they need more “socialization” with ME, not with other children, which means I need to just let people say mean and stupid things regarding the matter.
I was so glad to remind myself of these things and to set my course aright again.
I also spent time considering chores. I don’t like the word “chores”. It sounds, well, choooorish. As in, what drudgery must I do today before I can get to what I REALLY want to do? In any case, I figure I have several options:
- Do everything myself. Ship the children off to government school or pop in a looping video, don the yellow gloves and start scrubbin’! This, I admit, sounds like the best idea ever! My house would be CLEAN. At least until the bus came back.
- Make the kids do it all. Too bad, so sad, get busy. While I make phone calls. Hmmm…
- Do it together. This I like least of all. But it is best.
How else will my children learn to cook or clean or change sheets or do laundry? Feed the dog, take out every trash can in the house or (oh-yes) change a baby’s diaper? I left home not knowing how to do anything like that (see choice number 1), and God-bless-him my husband ate a whole lot of Hamburger Helper and bagged salad when we were first married.
But doing it together? I’m still learning how to do that. I’ve been using the “divide and conquer” method, as in: “You sweep the floor and I’ll wipe the counters.” Doing it together means, “I’ll spray and you wipe.” It’s slower. Slower means not as efficient. But doing chores together not only ties in nicely with the whole discipline thing, it gives room for (again) prompt praise and prompt correction. I expect I’m going to find a bit of, “you were doing that HOW?” once I am there overSEEing their work.
Another post, another day on how I organize our chores.
So back through the books I went, perusing websites and revisiting curriculum choices. I gave a critical eye to each of my children’s notebooks to assess how they were doing, and overall, I remain very, very pleased with their progress and with their work. There is always room for improvement (and believe me I’ll stay up more evenings trying to do that!), but overall I love learning alongside them and watching their little light bulbs pop above their sweet heads.
I wish I could say that one day of Retreat conquered every bit of mommy-inadequacy and mommy-guilt. It didn’t. But it did give me room to remember why we’re doing everything we’re doing, and to fine tune the means by which it happens, and how to make it all work with eight people living in the house all in each other’s *space* the whole day and night. In case you didn’t see it yet, in working to foster a happy home, I rediscovered and refueled to the idea that we must do things together.
And I do think families together, most truly, is best.