Today, I offer up a story from my Monday night after work contrasted against my Tuesday night after work.
A tale of two nights. A radically different tale.
The stress level in my house is high. Maybe it sounds silly, but living in a remodel brings great chaos. It seems every day we have some course correction or mishap related to the house. That adult stress and home chaos leads to kid stress and chaos.
Monday night was no different. A new week back at school. The boys were exhausted from an utterly fun, but sleep deprived, weekend at Ole Miss for the LSU game. Bray’s got a new long commute. I had run to FIVE different stores after work on Monday trying to find the boys Astros shirts as the school notified us at 10 pm on Sunday that Tuesday was Astros free dress. Normally I wouldn’t care, but the boys play baseball and have followed the Astros and they had already missed one Astros free dress day. But alas and alak, all of Houston was sold out of YOUTH Astros shirts (men’s shirts were everywhere).
I arrived home after 6:15 which meant little bit had to sit with the boys at soccer practice. Luckily, I had cooked meals ahead of time over the weekend (which I never do), so I just needed to warm dinner.
Kids tumbled in, pell mell and dirty and hungry, after 6:30. We ate hurriedly, contractors still around and I had to answer a couple of last minute questions. Time for homework and reading and showers. Everyone interrupting everyone else and no one able to get more than one page of reading out without the shouts from another room of “MOMMMMMMMMMYYYYY!” Can someone please yell for daddy, I screamed back.
One of the boys wouldn’t get dressed after his shower nor would he clean his room which looked like a tornado hit it. I lost my temper after 10 minutes of asking and no action. Screaming from me which of course leads to even bigger kid meltdowns, from angry outbursts to tears. The kitchen hadn’t been cleaned, laundry hadn’t been done, and no one was chipping in.
Lots of big emotions which all went raging around the house and landing on whoever was closest.
I went to bed worried and disappointed. In myself and in the environment which had been created.
I thought about it all Tuesday morning. I had an after work event that evening , which for the most part I eschewed during our transition to Bray’s job and the house remodel. Then I got a call from the school. Something scary and bad was spoken to my son from another boy. Bad enough they called me and the other child had to go to the principal.
That’s it, I thought. I’m canceling my event and I’m going to do tonight differently. The other party completely understood, a mom herself, and I got out of work as soon as I finished my last afternoon call.
As soon as I walked in, I walked into the boys bedroom and grabbed the eldest who had been through the ringer. Let’s go on a walk.
The others begged to go. No, I replied, I will walk with you later tonight, but right now it’s just me and your brother.
The weather was perfect. Cool and still daylight. We walked the neighborhood and the eldest retold the story of what happened. I spoke very little. A couple of prompting questions. I read boys are more likely to open up to you when doing an activity than when starting at you eyeball to eyeball over the table. A couple of times I grabbed his hand during the hard part of the story. I learned a lot, encouraged him, and walked back to the house.
The other two were in the front yard on the swing so I pushed them for a while. Then, we went in and ate dinner and all shared parts of our days.
After dinner, the other two wanted to walk so I went out with them. Same thing. Very little talking from me. Prompting questions. And off they went. It would have been nice, I realized, to have each of them on their own too because the little man monopolized the conversation. But there are only so many hours in the day.
Once we returned, it was showers and book reading. The eldest had fallen asleep in Bray’s office reading while we were out. After a long weekend, and an emotional day at school, he went to bed at 7:30. Probably the first time that’s happened since he was 3. I curled up with the baby in his bed and he sat on my lap and read his A to Z mystery to me. Then I tucked him in (as he continued to read). I did the same thing in the little lady’s bed as she read Cam Jansen to me.
The house was so quiet. Everyone was asleep before 8:30. I had the chance to talk for a long time, with no interruptions, with my husband. That is rare time and also less likely if I’ve just flipped out on the kids.
There’s no way that Tuesday night can happen every night. Some days are soccer practice or dance or radical disobedience. But there need to be MORE Tuesdays than Mondays. Life isn’t perfect. But my home has to be safe and peaceful. The stark contrast in my tale of two nights reminded me that it’s possible to create happy memories and safe spaces even with older busy kids and juggling careers. And it’s a priority now. Again.
(Less you think then life was just hunky dory because of that, we ate breakfast this morning and the kids remembered they didn’t do their math review sheets last night. So at 7:30 AM, we were rushing through the reviews before their math test. Parenting fail. I’ll still take it in exchange for those walks and quiet times.)