Lots of people, lots of children make for lots of chaos!
There Are No Perfect Parents
I am not a perfect parent! Of course you know that because there is no perfect parent. However, I am always shocked to see what I haven’t changed in my behavior as a parent. I tell you being with children is like being under a personal microscope, where your strengths and flaws are enlarged for you to view. I am not exactly sure why this is true but it is.
That is why trying to be a perfect parent can be rough some days…because you are always under that microscope. It does ease up a bit as you become a grandparent because you just don’t have children 24-7 and when you do have them for longer periods, say overnight, well, you can hold it together pretty well. It’s when you have them for a few days that the microscope turns back on.
That happened to me this weekend. I had four grandchildren that I took to Colorado to spend four days with five other grandchildren. That was a five hour drive one way and then I got to be mom and grandma for four days; mom, because I was specifically in charge of four of the nine and I was visiting my daughter and grandma because that is what I am to all nine.
Most of you may know that I am a recovering rager…recovered for well over 25 years. Now I can be really calm under pretty intense pressure even thought I am not a perfect parent.
You may not know that I am also a recovering controller and order fanatic. Try being those things with nine children for four days! As I have aged I have gotten far better at letting go of the need to be in control but I have to admit that the need for order, well, that is a work in progress.
I am confessing all of this because there is a point I want to make, eventually.
Now to cut myself some slack in the experiences I am going to share it would be valuable to know that I had been ill with a cold and sinus infection for three days prior to leaving for Colorado and was not recovered.
Being a NOT Perfect Parent
On the way down we stopped in Price for lunch. At Wendy’s my husband ordered the food and I ordered the children. I had them all seated with spoons, straws, etc. ready to go. Jack wanted to go help grandpa get ketchup and bring the food to the table but I said, “No, he is almost done. Just wait.” Jack looked at me and sweetly asked, “Grandma, why are grandmas and grandpas so bossy? Is it because they are old?” I thought carefully about the answer for a whole second and then laughingly said, “Yup, were old.”
Thursday evening all went well. We had dinner in shifts and then the kids played. We had two six year old boys and one four year old girl, as well as two, two year olds. The three older girls where doing what 10, 11 and 14 year olds do. As for the rest it was Spiderman, Super woman and Ironman to the rescue and believe me rescues are LOUD and last for a few hours.
Then it was baths in shifts; lots of splashing, bubbles, wet towels, floating toys, etc. By ten I was ready for bed and so were they. All were tucked in, kissed, prayers said, etc. Oops, Mary reminded me that they hadn’t brushed their teeth. I replied that we would do it in the morning. Really, 5 hours on the road, four hours of feeding, loud playing and bathing… I just couldn’t get them all up again!
When I was raising seven children I got up in the night…every night and sometimes twice. It was a habit developed when nursing the first one. I would check every bedroom to make sure all was well and everyone was covered. No big deal. For the three nights I had all of the grandkids together I woke up at least six times a night. I guess I just needed to make sure they were still all covered, still breathing and that all was well. I can tell you by Sunday morning I was feeling a bit sleep deprived.
Friday I helped 14 children make sugar eggs. Because I was ill this time around I thought we would just let them go. However, I have been making them every year of the 43 years that I have been married and my grandkids were adamant about wanting to make them. I guess some things just do not get old! It was a lot of fun and I am definitely in my element when working on projects with groups of kids. Want to make some of these with your children. It is really easy and you can find out how right here. (While we are on the subject of Easter here are a couple of terrific Easter reads for your family)
We played, cooked and cleaned all day Friday and Saturday. I had a brief moment for a one on one conversation with my ten year old granddaughter Ashley. I never got any private moments with the rest and that was such a bug to me. I also didn’t get any private time with my daughter Marie, although we cooked and cleaned together.
It seemed that no matter how I tried, by the time I got one meal done and cleaned it was time to start another one. Then there were baths and some laundry because they just kept getting wet and dirty.
Being a Really NOT Perfect Parent
Bedtime on Friday evening was pretty difficult. Mary had had a rough and tumble day and she was really tired by about 5. That is when the mini meltdowns began over very small things. By bedtime she was brewing for a big meltdown and sure enough she had one. I am usually able to roll with the punches but I was TIRED. So I picked her up and hauled her into bed. (Don’t feel bad for her, it was almost 9:30) Then I put all the rest of the under 10’s to bed, all over the floor, in bags, and laid down with Benny so that he would stay in bed and go to sleep.
Mary tantrumed for about 8-10 minutes. Sigh. I just told her that I couldn’t talk to her until she got hold of herself and then we waited it out. In retrospect I should have done something different. I should have cuddled her and the waiting it out would have been shorter, but I was tired and I wanted her to get a grip and frankly, I had let it become a “who is going to win” thing.
When she ran out of steam I cuddled her just like I should have in the beginning and she went to sleep and we were friends but…now Benny and Maggie were both wide awake and 30 minutes later were still wide awake. I knew I couldn’t lay on the floor even one more minute so I hauled them both out to the living room and Don held Ben and I held Maggie until 11:30 when they both fell asleep. This was my payback for letting the tantrum become a contest. Really, I am perfectly aware that this is NOT what you do as an adult. This was not being a perfect parent!
Sunday morning I had everything packed and we were ready to go. Mary had two small tantrums. I in my “no nonsense” energy expected her to just get with the program. At one point I got upset with her. My husband said, “Lets get in the car and try not to have intense voices.” Yikes! My daughter in her “lets help people feel good” energy talked Mary and Jack through the mini meltdowns. They didn’t want to go to the bathroom and of course, I said “just go do it”. My daughter said, “Hey lets go see if the pee is hiding”. Mary wanted to wear the new (used) winter coat that Marie had given her. It was packed, on the bottom, and so I, in my practical way said, “No, put on your jacket. The coat is packed. We can get it out when we get home”. Marie said, “Mary it is going to be so cool to keep the jacket hidden and surprise your mom”. Sigh! You would think that 42 years of parenting and working with thousands of kids would have helped me become the “fun” parent! You know, just the perfect parent! I sat in the bathroom while everyone was waiting in the car and cried because some of the things that bugged me, that I did as a parent of seven, I still do as a grandparent of 11. I haven’t “improved” everything about myself yet!
Before I could get all the kids buckled into the car and we pulled out of the driveway Mary had eaten her treat and downed an entire pint of juice. Needless to say by the time we got to the first pit stop she had fallen asleep and then wet her pants and the car seat. I dumped out the laundry sack and padded the car seat with plastic. This stop was for lunch and diaper changes and pottying. It took an hour to feed Maggie. We got Jack and Mary out to go to the bathroom at the beginning. At the end I asked if anyone had to go. Nope, no one, fifteen minutes later Mary had to poop!
Auggggggh. I turned around and said, “Mary I am feeling so mad about this”. Jack looked at me and asked, “Grandma why does that make you mad?” Bless his heart. It caused me to stop and think and then say…”because we just left the gas station where we have been for over an hour and now we have to stop in the col d (the wind was whipping and freezing!)and poop on the side of the road and really Jack it makes me tired”. Mary did her business and then laughed and said that her poop looked just like a dog poop. She was right and it wasn’t very big. She could have held that right!
Less than 30 minutes down the road I heard this from the very back. “Grandma I have to poop but I haven’t been complaining.” Gotta love it! The timing was impeccable because we had just gotten to the last gas station for miles and miles and the wind was still whipping and cold.
By the time Mary was done with her business I had taken Jacks question to heart, “Grandma why does that make you mad?” and made a serious attitude adjustment. We were going to have to pee on the side of the road a few more times. I wasn’t going to get a nap without being woken a dozen times by the sound of “Grandma….” I was going to have to keep turning around and finding dropped straws, pick up spilled treats and retrieve Maggie’s upended Ipad. That is how it was going to be. Might as well smile and enjoy the ride!
So what is the point of this whole long story? I am not a perfect parent and neither are you. I am not always as fun as I should be. Sometimes I forget to be the grownup. Sometimes I forget to take breaks and I get too tired. Often I forget to ask for help with the load.
But this morning bright and early, both Mary and Jack were at my door for hugs and kisses and to see what was happening in my end of the world. We are still friends. They think I am a perfect parent (grandparent in this case). I am not a terrible mother or grandmother. I am just a mother and grandmother doing my best.
As I said, parenting is like being under a big microscope and seeing all your strengths and weaknesses. Unfortunately we tend to see the weaknesses much more clearly than we see the strengths.
I had had a great conversation with my granddaughter. I cooked and cleaned with my daughter. I did a super craft with my grandchildren and their friends. I made sure they were safe and fed and dressed and cleaned and yes, even hugged and kissed. I read a good night story. I apologized for forgetting to be the grown up. I was willing to take them on a trip. My grandchildren aren’t afraid to ask hard questions. They aren’t afraid to say they have to go to the bathroom for the umpteenth time. Yup, I have a lot of strengths and I shouldn’t sit in the bathroom and beat myself up over the weaknesses but instead remember that anything can be changed, that I am still alive and that means there is still time and that while I am working on whatever isn’t quite right yet…I need to celebrate what is. And so do you!! Doing that one small thing will ultimately move you forward toward being a more perfect parent!
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