Tag Archives: siblings

Winter Break Fun

There are really and truly few things I enjoy more than spending time with my children.  But they have been on school break since December 15th and we still have five days left before they go back and hoooo, boy am I ready for them to be at school all day for a few weeks.

My kids, at ages 13, 11, 9 & 7, are pretty self-sufficient in terms of entertaining themselves.  Because there are four of them, they always have someone to play with. But having four kids in the house all day, every day ALSO means they always have someone to annoy and argue with.  Always.  Like, every hour of the day.  Which makes me abso-freaking-lutely insane and despite the fact that I know I should let them solve their disputes themselves, I end up mediating and then losing my patience and shouting at them to stop bickering over and over.

The kids get up before me most days on school break and make their own breakfasts.  Five years ago I could only dream of the day that would happen, and make no mistake, I appreciate it.  But they eat like locusts.  We’re going through food at a rate so alarming, I am almost afraid someone is hoarding it in a cupboard upstairs somewhere.  And although they are reasonably okay at cleaning up after themselves after making a meal…actually, no.  Not true.  They’re generally rubbish at cleaning up and I end up reminding them kindly and patiently several times a day and then screaming and yelling like a lunatic to just put the bread away already, goddammit.

Luckily it’s not as cold here in England in winter as it was in D.C. (or is on most of the east coast of the U.S. right now) so the kids can still play outside for a few hours almost every day.  But it IS wet and rainy and that means it’s muddy and I don’t mind them playing in mud and getting dirty until it’s time to do laundry and I discover that they’ve actually worn three different pair of warm-ups and two different pair of socks each in a single day because they kept getting wet and dirty and then changing and leaving their dirty, wet clothes on the floor.  Then I give long lectures on making unnecessary work for other people when you could just wear one outfit a day or two AT MOST and not go back out once you’ve already changed into clean dry clothes.  And then I spend twenty minutes teaching people how to do their own laundry.  And then we all spend an hour every other day folding and putting away clean clothes while I threaten the lives of the children if they don’t stop changing outfits multiples times a day.

So.  Winter break has been fun.  Lots of fun.  Lots of movies and baking and cooking and board games and reading and laughing and good times. 

But my goodness, I’m ready for the fun to end.

Back in the Swing

pool perspective

The first week of summer vacation always sucks.  And I always forget that it sucks until I’m in it.

I mean, it’s great — no real schedule, much more relaxed down time, no car pools or kiss-n-ride, no packing lunches.

But it also sucks, because readjusting to having everyone home together all day is a slow process. 

The kids are used to having seven or so hours away from each other, so when they’re together 24 hours a day for a few straight days, they get on each others’ nerves pretty quickly.  Games turn into battles with children arguing over whose turn it is, sports turn into fights with children accusing each other of foul play or unnecessary roughness, and my patience doesn’t last very long when I’m constantly mediating.  In fact, my patience is even shorter than normal as I struggle to get used to the constant low (or not-so-low) levels of noise.

They’re excited to play all day, they’re excited for free time, they’re excited by the possibility of daily play dates and pool time.  But they forget that they still have some responsibilities, and I am not about to follow them around like a maid, cooking for them every twenty minutes, catering to their every whim, and constantly cleaning up their messes. 

You want to do a painting project?  Great!  Have fun!  But when you’re done, the kitchen had better bear no trace of your project, save your lovely paintings drying neatly on the counter top.  

You’re hungry for the 578th time today?  Okay, have some fruit.  Oh, you don’t want fruit?  Then you’re not that hungry.

You want to go to the pool?  Great, me too!  Help me fold this basket of laundry and put the clothes away and we’ll be able to leave that much faster. 

You’re hungry for the 943,576th time today?  Go ahead and make yourself something to eat.  AND THEN CLEAN UP AFTER YOURSELF, THE MAID HAS THE DAY OFF.

Put your shoes in the shoe basket.  Put your shoes in the shoe basket.  PUT YOUR SHOES IN THE SHOE BASKET.

Hang up your wet bathing suits, do not leave them on the floor. Hang up your wet bathing suits, do not leave them on the floor. HOLY CRAP, HANG UP YOUR WET BATHING SUITS BEFORE I LOSE MY EVER-LOVING MIND.

I always forget how we struggle the first few days until we’re already in it. 

This year is no different, with yelling and crying and arguing and apologizing and bargaining and do-overs.  (And the children are having trouble too.  Ba-dum-ching!

I’ve identified the problem though, so now it’s up to me to find a solution: 

I need to set clear expectations, communicate those expectations, and then stick to them. 

I need to set the tone and have a little patience and a little grace for the people around me. 

I need to think about what our days should look like and then make it so.  We need a little fun time, a little pool time, a little quiet time, a little reading time, a little clean-up time. 

We’ll get there and settle into a reasonable rhythm and enjoy these longer, slower days.  I just have to remember that these things don’t happen instantaneously, they take some time.  

Brotherly Love

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Matt and I are sitting on the couch trying to find a movie to watch, all the kids tucked into bed, when we hear the angry scuffle and resulting screech.  Matt is halfway up the stairs before I even manage to untangle myself from my blankets.  There is a lot of screaming going on.

When I get to the boys’ bedroom, G is lying face down on his bed, sobbing.  Matt is leading O, also sobbing, to the bathroom and trying to get him to take his hands down from his face.  He finally does, and we see the blood in his mouth and on his fingers, and when O sees it he starts crying even more.  B and Q are jumping around us, trying to explain what happened.

“He punched me in the mouth,” wails O.

“I didn’t punch him,” G growls between sobs.

These are the parenting moments I’m never prepared for: one child’s word against the other’s, blood and tears, two children sobbing and screaming, and the other two “uninvolved” children trying their very best to get as involved as possible by telling Matt and I exactly what they’re pretty sure they think happened in the bedroom in the dark.

As I’m trying to sort through the madness, Matt says from the bathroom, “How many teeth did O lose this week?”

One.  He lost one.

Wrong.  There are two missing.  More insanity, as O crumbles even further into hysteria and Matt and B search the bed for the missing tooth.

I am suddenly less inclined to believe he didn’t get hit in the mouth.

But G is on his bed, frustration making his muscles taut and anger rendering him inconsolable as he insists that he DID. NOT. PUNCH. HIS. BROTHER.

“Well then, what happened?” I ask.

What happened, he says, is that he did NOT punch him.  He hit O.  In the mouth.  With his knuckles.

Ummmmm, yeah.  So pretty much that’s the definition of punching.

Which O immediately points out: “THAT’S WHAT PUNCHING IS!” he shrieks.

G is in tears again, because he knows he’s in so, so much trouble.  And that technically, yeah, he definitely punched his brother.  And knocked out one of his loose teeth.  But he explains that after we tucked them in and left the room, O started singing and humming.  He asked O to stop, please, because he couldn’t sleep.  But O said that he would not stop–that he HAD to hum because that was the only way he could fall asleep.  And that G asked again and again, politely, and O just ignored him and kept humming, louder and louder, until finally G lost his temper.  And hit him.  In the mouth.  With his knuckles.

I look at O, biting down on a face cloth where his loose tooth used to be, and he won’t even make eye contact with me.  So he definitely did what G says he did.  Not a good enough reason to hit someone in the mouth, but still—O was kind of being a jerk.  And he knows it.

As I stand there in the middle of the room in astonishment, unable to comprehend what happened—it was so nice and quiet a few minutes earlier, and now all hell has broken loose—Matt and I make eye contact as G insists again that he didn’t punch O, he hit him with his knuckles.

And I lose it.  Matt does too.  We’re both laughing so hard we have to leave the room because we cannot parent like that.  I don’t think it sends the right message.

We retreat to our bedroom, close the door, and laugh so hard that tears roll down our cheeks.  I’m holding my sides because I’m laughing so hard it hurts.

He hit him with his knuckles,” Matt gasps out, and we start laughing all over again.

B tentatively knocks on our bedroom door.  I’m sure the kids are wondering what the hell we’re doing—we just walked out in the middle of the chaos and left them on their own.  So we gather ourselves, wipe away our laughter-tears, and go parent again.

We sort it out.  People apologize.  The boys are in trouble and will be on punishment for the week—extra chores to be completed TOGETHER each day after school and early bedtimes for a few nights.

We tell them what we want each of them to learn from this: G is to keep his hands to himself and maintain self-control even when he’s angry; O is to think of how his actions affect others and to stop doing annoying things the first time he’s asked to stop.

And then Matt and I tuck them all back into bed, retreat back downstairs, and wonder at it all. Parenting is such a weird ride; we’re supposed to know how to handle situations that cannot be handled, be fair and teach lessons at every learning opportunity, sort the truth from the less-than-truthful statements, and do it all with a straight face.

I don’t know if we did it all right this time, but we made it through to fight another day.  That has to count for something.

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