We crawled to the finish line Friday night. It was the first in a long series of work travel weeks for me (hence the infrequent posting here). I’d been driving since 5:45 am and limped home at 6:30 pm that evening. Bray had dealt with BIG kid attitudes all week long and he’d not even made it back home. Friday was a brutal day for them too: an all day school field trip to the museum, little bit had Daisy Scouts and the boys had baseball pictures and an extra long practice.
He’d suggested eating out, a rare treat for our family, and I jumped at the suggestion. But in the back of my mind, I knew a 7 pm dinner, even at our favorite low key Mexican restaurant, could spell disaster with everyone frayed at the ends.
I should have ordered pizza.
The evening WAS a disaster. Little bit, my sleeper, wouldn’t eat and kept trying to curl up in her chair and take my sweater as a blanket. The eldest, who we’ve been struggling with managing emotions for several months, expressed those big emotions which included loud outbursts. They even included a fake choking fit, to garner attention, which I felt would inevitably lead the ogling patrons to call CPS since they weren’t in on his bouts of hypochondria. The baby rallied, and tried to keep us all together, but I ended up eating half of my taco and taking two kids to the truck while Bray frantically waved down the waitress for the check.
After escaping and getting them in bed, this was my Facebook status before I poured myself a glass of wine and told Bray I couldn’t parent anymore:
How is it worse eating out with 3 7-year olds now than it was with 3 1-year olds?
#imaynotsurvivethisstage #jesustakethewheel #cantgooutinpublic
Such was my state of mind as I entered the remainder of the weekend solo with said wayward triplets.
The baby reminded me of the disciplinary system I created for our vacation at Yosemite two years ago. I put checks on a piece of paper for good behavior and Xs on the paper for bad behavior. Instead of reacting or losing my cool, we implemented this system which worked pretty well. The child with the most check marks got to select a “perk” of his or her choice the following day (getting a privilege back, a bowl of ice cream, etc.). The child with the most Xs lost a privilege the next day.
So, over Saturday breakfast, we launched the new-old disciplinary tool. It was met with skepticism. Particularly by the little lady who was in a seriously X type of mood. She promptly took the sheet of paper, put an X by her name, and proclaimed “I don’t care!”
Off to the races.
Saturday held together better than I expected. Not perfect, what is, but just fine. Throughout the day, I looked for opportunities to mark checks. I found it changed my perspective. Instead of only reacting to the bad, I found ways to show how grateful I was for their help and peace. The baby, a pleaser and the one who reminded me of the system, took the grand prize Saturday night. But everyone got more checks than Xs.
Sunday morning, we launched it again. With less skepticism. Almost immediately, I placed check marks by names. As exhausted as I am (finding a little window to type these words just before midnight because work had to come first), my outlook changed.
I made myself treasure the sweet moments. The boys fell asleep together in my bed last night. I found them curled up together. Little bit ran races and self-made obstacle courses around our pool while I timed her. The boys played endless rounds of basketball. Little bit performed a song and dance routine for us before bedtime (involving jazz and the Easter bunny). I tickled feet. I smothered cheeks in kisses. We all ate seconds of my chicken pot pie for dinner.
It was far from perfect. There were Xs. I’m exhausted. No one wanted to go to bed.
Seven is a hard age for me and Bray to manage triplets. Probably the hardest year since the 2s-3s. It’s kicked our tuckus. And it’s probably been exacerbated by external stressors like our family dynamic changes and my extra work load this year. But it’s also just the kids pressing our buttons and testing boundaries in a more extreme, and often disrespectful, way.
Nonetheless, they are still young. First grade is rapidly coming to a close. I don’t want to throw the baby out with the bath water (literally). The littleness that still lives in them brings me great joy. If I can take the time to focus on the checks, and let them know I see those sweet check-worthy actions, it might get a little better.
We’ll still have meltdowns. I’ll avoid eating out on Friday nights. But I’m grateful for time by the pool and chapter books and potty jokes which make them cackle.