Life in my house is a mess!
We tend to have several decent days in a row, and by decent I mean that we have no physical fights or raging meltdowns from anyone. Is it sad that I call it a win when no one screams at or hits anyone?
Every few days, we have a "wash day", the kind that leaves me so overwhelmed that I can barely make myself sleep because I know I have to wake up to do it all over again in the morning.
On these days, the boys are typically extra irritable. The teasing, kid-parenting, and hatefulness are ridiculous, and I am baffled by their seeming inability to just LEAVE EACH OTHER ALONE! On wash days, Amos and I spend the majority of our time refereeing the boys and trying to keep the girls from jumping in and dog-piling the arguments. It's a whole lot of awesome.
Wash days consume two days because it takes my crew a day or so to recover. I am beyond blessed by my weekday respite while the kids are at school, but the aftermath of wash days usually leaves me wanting to curl up in bed after the kids are delivered to their buildings. I usually settle for laundry and Hulu. There is always plenty of laundry.
I've watched this cycle for a few weeks now, and we are strategizing with family therapists and each other. The general consensus is that our boys are competing for Dad's attention. It seems to make sense. Mr. J is so excited to finally have a dad, and Noah has been Amos' only right-hand man for eight years. There is some major turf marking going on! Amos and I are trying to treat the problem and the behaviors simultaneously-- as much as one can ignore, nurture, and reprimand all at once.
Each week, Amos and I revamp our parenting strategies to try another approach. First we spent two weeks ignoring hatefulness that was, at the time, largely directed toward us. Next, we attempted to implement a time out strategy for all five kids. We used time out when they had any physical contact or hateful words. Most recently, we have been focusing on giving the kids choices instead of telling them "no." This has been particularly helpful with Mr. J who seems to ALWAYS require us to threaten a consequence before he will obey. It is exhausting to retrain myself AND my kids on a weekly basis, yet I am thankful to have a coach looking at our larger picture and helping us keep our heads above water.
We are weary, so weary. But I catch glimpses, when the boys are tree climbing and bike riding or when they are chuckling together over cereal bowls, of what our life will look like when the dust settles and the pieces start to fit together. When Miss A invites Miriam to play director while she practices for band, when my teenagers sit whispering together in the back of the minivan, I see the beauty that will remain when the push and pull of claiming each other subsides.