"I would sell my kids if I thought anyone would buy them. And not return them for a full refund within the hour."
This was my Facebook status tonight. At the time of writing, I was only slightly kidding. If someone had offered me money for them, I would have sent them packing and taken myself off for a spa weekend. Sure, I might have regretted it after the initial exhilarating hour of freedom. But that's where I stand tonight.
It's been a really rough night. Our normal after-school routine is this: Both kids have a snack, change their clothes, and play for about an hour. When I call them in, Squirrel sits at the dining room table and does her homework. She calls me if she needs help. I can see her from the kitchen where I'm fixing dinner, and I redirect her back to her homework every time she gets up and wanders around (which is about every 5 minutes). Munchkin sits at the kitchen table at the same time, and I help him do his homework. He is usually done in about 15 minutes, so he then goes and watches TV or plays computer games until dinner. After we eat, Squirrel sits back down and finishes her assignments, and I help her study for any tests or work on big projects for another half hour or so. Then they relax, play, watch TV, take showers, etc. until bedtime.
Here's how tonight's routine went: After school, the kids asked if we could use our Baskin Robbins gift certificates and go get ice cream. So we did. They ate their ice cream and then played outside for an hour. And all was blissfully peaceful. Then I called them inside to do homework. Squirrel and Munchkin came in from outside arguing about something stupid. I split them up and sent Squirrel to start homework. Munchkin was much more wound up than usual, so I told him to go play in the living room for awhile before starting homework. Instead, he kept coming in the kitchen to talk to me. To get to me, he had to cross through the dining room. Every time he came through, Squirrel made some smart remark to get him upset. He yelled and screamed at her. I told her to knock it off. She yelled at me that she was just joking, or that he started it, or that he keeps annoying her. Munchkin kept demanding (yes, demanding) juice and snacks and water and attention. Squirrel kept making huffy sounds and growling at him and rolling her eyes and getting exasperated with me. I was starting to yell back at this point, because a mom can only take so much attitude before she starts to give it back!
I finally managed to get dinner made. (Well, warmed up. It was leftovers!) I told the kids to turn on Phineas and Ferb and watch one episode while they ate, so that I could step away and have a moment to myself. I immediately heard yelling and screaming from both parties, followed by Munchkin wailing, so I gave up on the idea of a moment alone and came back to supervise. They were fighting over who would be under the blanket. Um...how about NO ONE can be under the blanket because YOU'RE EATING!!! Dinner ends, I send Squirrel back to finish her homework. She huffs and puffs some more on the way out, returns moments later, and throws (yes, throws) her homework at me. I grit my teeth and ask her to pick it up and try again. I check her homework and show her a few mistakes that need to be fixed. And as she starts stomping and yelling and grabbing her paper away from me, I lose it. I yell at her to fix the mistakes on her own then and go do it now!
Then I turn to Munchkin and tell him to get his homework out and let's get it done. And, sensing his sister's rebellion and thinking he'll try it on for size, he refuses. Forty minutes and several meltdowns later, he finally finishes his (very simple) homework. I send Squirrel to the tub while this is going on, then to her room when she's done, and give Munchkin a fast bath. And that brings us to bedtime...
I just sat my children down one at a time and had a talk with them. It's a talk I remember my mom having with me a time or two. It made me feel guilty and horrible as a child to be on the receiving end of it. And it makes me feel guilty and horrible to be on the giving end of it too. But sometimes, certain things just need to be said.
In no-nonsense, to-the-point, age-appropriate words, I told each of my children that I am not going to let them treat me the way they treated me tonight. To Munchkin, I told him he is not allowed to growl at me, or tell me "no" when I ask him to do something, or yell at me when he doesn't like what I say to do. I told him he made me very sad and mad tonight when he was mean to me. He told me he was sorry, and then I told him to go to sleep and be a good boy tomorrow. To Squirrel, I told her that everything I do is for her own good. I am teaching her to be a responsible, considerate, capable, self-sufficient, functioning member of this family, so that she can grow up to be a functioning member of society. I am not out to get her, or trying to make her angry or irritated or upset, or making her do things because I am mean. I am not trying to ruin her fun, or make her bored. I told her that I do a lot of really nice things for her--things I don't have to do, like taking her for ice cream after school. And when she treats me bad for the other things I need her to do, she makes me feel very unappreciated and unloved. I further told her that she made me angry and really hurt my feelings with the way she treated me tonight. She looked at me with tears in her eyes--which I suspect were more tears of defiance and anger than of sorrow and regret--and I told her that if this continues, I will stop doing special things for her, and I will stop letting her do the fun things she gets to do now. She will come home from school, do her homework, eat dinner, take a shower, and go to bed, no matter how early in the evening it might be. I then told her that I was going to say good-night now, and she should stay in her room until bedtime, then turn off the light and go to sleep. Then I walked out. And sat down and had a good pity-party for myself, complete with tears, angry muttering to myself, and finally, ice cream.
Wow. Being a parent is tough work. Good thing every day's not as tough as this one!