There’s been a lesson in consistency going on at our house; and the lesson is all mine. For months now I have subconsciously abandoned all semblance of discipline with our boys in favour of a ‘keeping the peace’ approach that has only left me exhausted as they out-manoeuvred, out-ran and out-witted me.
Just when Master 1’s whining was placated with a drink, Master 2 would hit Master 4 in the face with a toy and while I would be trying to sort that out Master 1 would fill his nappy and need changing. Then by the time that was sorted out I would find Master’s 4 and 2 throwing rocks at each other or at our glass sliding doors or pulling garden vegetables out of the patch or throwing their toys over the fence!
I would spend my whole day running in circles as these little dynamos led me by the nose on a merry dance around our house; who was in control? Certainly not me! It was little wonder that I had very limited time for domestic necessities such as packing and unpacking the dishwasher (impossible with Master 1 insisting on helping), washing and sweeping (before the pile of dirt has been picked up Master 1 is spreading it gleefully with his hands or eating it). On top of the bickering and naughtiness there is the cheekiness that has emerged as they continue to test me where it’s all I can do not to fantasise about sticking a fork into my eye or walking out and leaving them or choking them; all three choices were equally attractive to me!
I tried time-outs but I would spend up to 20 minutes trying to get them to complete two minutes of time-out. Master 2 especially would simply get up and run off. So while I would try to get him and put him back and start the time over, in the meantime I would have to stop Master 1 from piling whole toilet rolls down the toilet or climbing on the table or get Master 4 to open his own friggin’ pencil case and explain calmly that I couldn’t watch him draw rockets and trucks right now! Mentally there was no let-up. I actually had an alarm set at midday to remind me that there was only half the day left to get through until it was their blessed bed time. This was not the lovely stay-at-home motherhood ideal I imagined. Combined with Master 1 teething again my life had become a new kind of hell in alternate reality!
Then there’s the incessant fucking counting. First we tried counting 1-2-3 to get them to comply to requests or instructions. They would leave it until 3 and then come too late so then our only options were another time-out drama or denial of some treasured toy or fun event. They knew it was too exhausting and kept push-push-pushing to break me.
I haven’t meant to be inconsistent, it just happened that way without me realising it. As I’ve been laid up with a torn calf muscle for six weeks or so I haven’t actually been able to chase them around and follow up on my threats. But now I am almost healed and that excuse is gone. It was kindly pointed out to me by a family member that I had made about five threats in five minutes and had not followed through on any of them, in fact I had repeatedly contradicted myself and let them do or have the very thing I just said they couldn’t! I looked at her dumbfounded and meekly explained that I didn’t even know what I had said just seconds ago. Such is the harangued mother. I had no fucking idea what was going on; I was just surviving.
So there’s a new regime in place and man, it’s strict. Warnings and counting is now 5-4-3-2-1 to give them plenty of time to comply. Time-out happens and no matter how many times I have to pick them up and place them back everyone has to complete their time, then talk about why it happened and then apologise.
Meals are always at the table and no one is allowed to jump down and run away. The older boys have to set the table and take their plates to the sink when finished and then wait for everyone else to finish before asking to be excused. No cheekiness is tolerated in any form and I think carefully about what threat I make (to ensure that I can actually follow through with it) before I open my mouth.
It’s only been a few days but slowly changes are happening and our home is a smidge happier. They have started to pack up toys before bedtime and I’ve heard them talking to each other when playing and checking each other with ‘if you do that, you will have to go to time-out’. They take their dirty clothes to the wash basket and know that to get good things they have to have good behaviour and use good manners.
It’s been easier to assert myself with them with the support of a visiting relative to act as back-up when Mr Magentafrog is not home. I hope all this effort will make a difference and help our boys learn their boundaries; I know I do not want naughty children that people would sooner avoid.
Parenting is hard fucking work no matter what your situation or age of your children. Most parents are just doing the best that they can on a day-by-day basis. I can see now that I had let a few things slide and they are totally fixable if I do my time now.
So I will stick to this new consistently like shit to a blanket as well as cling to hope with every inch of my being that I CAN grow my beautiful boys into responsible, respectful and ravishing men.
I can do this. I can do this. I can do this.