Friday, January 11, 2008

A funny thing happened on the way to becoming a better parent . . .

So yesterday right after I posted about wanting to limit the tv time I looked down and noticed Iris was sitting on the floor, engrossed in wrapping tiny little presents so I said to her "hey babe, it looks like you're busy doing something else now, so I'm going to turn the tv off." She agreed, and off it went. She played for a bit while I relaxed in the bliss of only having one child awake until Eloise woke up about a little while later. We turned on kexp and enjoyed some tv-free time. In an hour or so, Iris decided she wanted to watch a little more tv, so I let her watch one of her favorite shows (Max and Ruby) while Eloise and I showered. After Max and Ruby, though, the tv went right back off. Without complaint, I might add.

Over the next few hours a very amazing thing happened. I was relaxed. My children didn't fight. Iris went potty. Let me explain.

By the time Matt gets home every day I'm a big ball of nerves, exhausted from dealing with tantrums, fights, lack of sleep, etc etc. I always thought, oh, if my children were just better behaved and more self-reliant I would get more rest during the day! Um, yeah, right. My children are 3 and 1. They fight constantly. Not surprisingly, I found the more I sat with them and played, the better they got along. When something started to come up I was there to help them work it out before it turned in to a fist fight. Iris didn't scream. Eloise didn't scream. For those who know my children, this is huge. Iris shared things with her sister and was talking very sweetly to her (if only I had had a tape recorder!). Eloise didn't get in the way of every single thing Iris tried to do. Again, not surprisingly, it didn't require more energy to hang out with them and play. In fact, I found it relaxing. We mostly cut paper, wrapped presents, opened presents. What's not to love? In the past few weeks Iris has already burned through several rolls of wrapping paper, so lately I have been meeting her pleas for more with a stern "No, we're saving that roll for next Christmas!". But yesterday? I said "Sure! Here you go!" to which she replied "but I can't use all of it, right? I need to save some!" and I said "Nope, go ahead and use as much as you want!". I'm pretty sure her little head spun around in amazement. Her mama was letting her use a giant inexpensive roll of paper to let her have fun and be creative. Um, duh. Where has my head been?

We have also been having huge problems with Iris in the, um, pooping department. It's a huge deal every day to get her to empty her bowels, a struggle we've been dealing with for a few weeks now. Ever since she was really sick right after Thanksgiving. So yesterday she goes poop no less than FOUR times. Without screaming, crying or otherwise throwing a fit. I don't think it's a coincidence.

I also decided our tiny apartment would no longer get completely picked up every night before dinner. Matt and I both feel stressed in cluttered environments, but I realized the stress of cleaning while I'm simultaneously making dinner while keeping the children from killing each other while yelling at Iris to just "help already! I'm not asking you again!" was just WAY greater than the stress of just living with the mess for the night. From now on, things get straightened enough for us to eat dinner and that's it. The big cleaning will be done once a day after the girls are in bed.

The girls and I ate dinner. Well, rather Eloise and I ate and Iris played with her presents. Not arguing over her eating dinner with us has been another recent development. After Eloise and I were done eating the three us went in my bedroom and played and played on the bed until Matt got home. Even though Iris said "I DON'T like chili!" I found her gobbling down her whole bowl full later in the evening. Hurray!

After Matt arrived home from work I had energy to work on chores while he played with the girls. I actually enjoy chores when I am not exhausted or trying to do them while doing eighty other things all at once. Give me the afternoon child-free after a good night's sleep to clean the whole kitchen and I'm a happy camper.

Of course, our idyllic day was blown to pieces once Miss Eloise refused to sleep and either Matt or I spent the last couple of hours of our night laying with her in bed, but it was a good start. A damn good start. I'm under no illusion every day will be so perfect, but even a day half as good would be better than most of the days we've been having.


  1. This is great news. :)

    I love the idea of Iris wrapping and unwrapping presents. I hope you've bought a ton of paper at after-Christmas sales!

  2. You go Mama! You're such a great mama to those girls. I love reading how you work these issues out. Keep it up!!

  3. We have been working on the TV thing too. I have a (former teacher) friend who has given me good ideas that she uses. Mind you these may work for your older daughter, not the baby.

    Idea #1: You have cards in a pouch on front of fridge. Each card is good for special things like 30 mins of TV, Computer Time, etc...Once all the TV cards are redeemed that more TV! You can choose how much to let them have. They get to decide whether to spend them all in the morning or save some for later.

    Idea #2: They can earn special priveledges like TV or Computer or other stuff. They earn by going above and beyond. Sharing, speaking nicely, helping you out, etc...

    We have nothing but chaos in the evening. Daddy comes home, dinner, homework, we're tired. I think that's why they call it the "bewitching hour." he..he..


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