(used with permission from the Family Man)
Life has been tough since the school year started. I have gotten meal planning a bit better out of control, but it feels like everything else has been different.
The fact of the matter is, for the last few weeks, our kids have been insane to deal with. Solveig has just been her normal self, and a normal baby with just a few bad nights here and there. Silje, David, and Elias have each been pushing Knut and I to our breaking point, though. Silje has been having an attitude and has been incredibly moody. When she asks permission for something and if we say "no," or "later," she'll just ask in a different way 2 minutes later. Then 2 minutes after that. David tends to be loudly disobedient, but Silje usually does it very quietly.
David has been loudly disobedient. There has been stomping, withering to the ground and going limp, arguing. Lots of arguing. It's like he can't do even a simple request without arguing it to death.
Elias has been whining. It's as if we can't even remember what his normal voice sounds like. When he's not whining, he's screaming. It's been like nails on a chalkboard.
Knut and I both assumed it was because of the adjustment of school starting and pressed on hard. There were a few days that the babies were sick, but the problem spans a much longer time than that. We're going to push through, stay on top of it. At the end of the day we were both exhausted from constant correction, constant discipline, and constant arguing.
So my next thought is we need to turn the tables. We need to remind all of us that this can be fun. I plan more activities, and make a huge effort to spend one on one time with each of the kids. I take just Silje to town with me. I sit and read more books with Elias. I give David a back rub.
It wasn't helping, and even though it was helpful that Knut was home an afternoon here and there to help me get caught up on the housework that was quickly falling apart, that didn't stop Knut and I from feeling frustrated and relieved at the end of the day when they would thankfully be in bed.
I told Knut as we were enjoying our "the kids are in bed!" toast of milk and cookies that something needs to change. I need to get on top of this because we cannot go on like this forever. So we sat and brainstormed for over an hour of changes we can make to our household, because honestly, I think the kids were as frustrated with us as we were with them.
For starters, I thought that we could start school an hour earlier. We normally start at 9am because I'm not a morning person. What I see happening is the kids get up, have breakfast, change, and then start playing. It's when they are just getting deep into play that they have to drop everything and start school. I'm now going to catch them just after they change their clothes and get ready for the day. This will allow them to play more after school, when they don't have to be interrupted.
This means that starting school won't coincide with Solveig's naptime, but we'll just have to keep her amused as we start.
Next, give the 2 older kids a To Do list for the day. I feel like I'm constantly redirecting them, constantly fighting them if I ask them to do the simplest chores, and it feels like I'm herding cats back to work as they each slip away to do whatever they fancy.
I picked out 2 cool looking composition notebook from my stash of overbuying supplies last year. One is for David, the other for Silje. Each of them have schoolwork on the top part of the page, and chores on the bottom part. When school started an hour earlier on Thursday, I gave each of the kids their lists and said they could not play until everything on their list was done. If I was busy with the other kid, they could move onto something on their list that they could do by themselves without asking me. I had the master list before that they saw, but this is their own list that they can mark up if they like. This list was more simple, and just for that day.
Silje loves to check things off of lists, so she loved this idea. David has never dealt with lists before, but he liked the idea of his own notebook. The kids worked all morning on their lists, and David even asked me to add more to his list, so I had him wash the windows in the kitchen and organize the shoe closet...2 of his favorite chores. He loved the feeling of putting a check mark next to it.
Third, I could tell that Silje's sad face that's been coming out might be related to lack of creative outlet. She's a very creative person, and I haven't been on top of that. I wasn't sure if it was time to teach her to knit, or give her bits of fabric, but I knew she needed something easy that would make her eyes sparkle a bit.
Lastly, we unplugged the t.v. again. Elias won't be able to watch any during his shows to keep quiet during grammar, and will have to play near us. We'll just have to get used to the noise. However, the kids won't see it as an option that they're left out of, and Elias won't have the "I'm crabby because I've been watching t.v." whine.
So it hasn't been long, but it was the first day of school that we got everything done, didn't have to rotate at all what we left out, There were no huffs, no stomping, no going limp, no sassy words. We only had one discipline issue with David early on but it was quick. Silje wandered off and played once, but was redirected to her list once, and then it wasn't a problem. Even Elias loved being with us and happily made things with Legos for most of the morning. He even sat in my lap while I was reading Silje her read-aloud book.
Halfway through the day, Silje was getting her sad face back on, and I wondered if it was all a bust. So I threw into the mix the idea of planning a sleepover with David, since there has been a lot of fighting about someone going into the other person's room. There's a top bunk in the boys room that no one sleeps in, and I set a date that was far enough in advance that Silje could spend lots of time planning all the fun things they can do. She's a party planner. It's her bliss.
So now Silje and David are planning a fun night together on the bunk beds, and it is consuming their play instead of arguing.
We'll get this. It's looking up. I'm so encouraged that we had a good day this week after our brainstorming. It's not perfect. It did not strike all sin from my children. Our house is still loud. It's a more organized noise though, and I have to believe that is improvement.
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