Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Strategies for parenting

An online friend of mine asked me what I do to keep my sanity when things are tough with the kids. She just adopted two little ones, and things are not always easy. I sent her this reply, and I thought it would make a good post. When we first adopted, anytime I even hinted that things weren't all butterflies and lollipops, people would immediately suggest that our adoptions were a mistake. I can complain all day about our bio 16 year old, and my friends and family will commiserate, but I don't dare say anything negative about our adopted 15 year old. And, for the record, John was difficult to like the first few months. We loved him, of course, but until he unlearned his orphanage behaviors, and relearned family behaviors, it was hard to like his behavior. John was a big bully and just not nice the first few months. 
 I don't know if this will help, but I'll tell you some of the strategies I used to stay sane when we had the four (very, very demanding) foster children (ages 2, 3, 5 & 8), plus a foreign exchange student, our 2 bio sons who were 10 and 13, and a surprise 11 puppies. The puppies nearly did me in because I had to get up to feed them every two hours...the mother was just spent and couldn't nurse them.
Every day, I'd sit on the rowing machine or run on the treadmill for the minimum of one hour. These exercise machines are in our recreation room (basement) and the kids are in there with me playing, whining, fighting, watching TV or whatever. But I had my ear-buds in my ears, and I CAN'T HEAR YOU! If I had to get off the machine to intercede (fighting), then I added another 15 minutes onto the time I had previously allotted. The timer sits on the shelf, showing the little ones how much longer I was going to exercise. In the summer, once a week my mother in law would come over. She would watch the kids on the swings while just I drove the riding lawn mower for an hour. Again, I CAN'T HEAR YOU. My mother in law would wave to me if I really needed to intercede, but for the most part she could just ignore the crying and whining because she knew I'd be done in an hour. And she was a fresh face, who hadn't been listening to the whining all week. After I was widowed (with four children at home) I would take the kids to the school track, with balls and squirt guns etc., and run around them as they played in the grassy center. If they wanted to talk to me or be WITH me, they had to run with me. My 16 year old is now ranked nationally as a runner, and our 13 year old ran a 15k (9.3 mile!) race when he was only 9. So they did eventually learn to run with me to get my attention, and we still run together regularly (although everyone but Ben can beat me now). I also ran with the 6 & 3 year olds in a double stroller. Again, ear-buds blocked out their fighting. We ran 3 miles to a park, I got them out to play, and then 3 miles home. 90 minutes of sanity a day. For me, everyone was better behaved when we weren't in the house all day. We did an excursion of some sort every day. We rotated playgrounds etc. Several moms take kickboxing and  taekwondo with me every day 12-2p. Their little ones go in the playroom with their leapsters, the older ones can read, and we moms take an hour  or two for ourselves. I also sit in the hot-tub with my husband every night. All children must be in their rooms by 8:30pm---or else you're going to be really embarrassed when you see your mom naked. The teens can read or do homework, but no one is to come downstairs after 8:30pm.  Once a week, our kids have a sparring class (taekwondo) that lasts until 7:30pm. My hubby and I sit in a local tavern and simply catch-up with each other. We cherish our "date-nights," even though they only last an hour or so. At least we get out, alone, once a week!
We have a behavior chart on a white board, and every morning when the kids do what they are supposed to do without fuss (up on time, breakfast, teeth, dressed, practice guitar at 6:30am-7:00am) then they get a mark on the good side of the chart. If they fight, complain, or oversleep, they get a mark on the bad side of the chart. On Sunday nights, if the child has 5 MORE good things then bad things, he gets $5 allowance. If they have 5 more bad than good, he owes me an extra job, such as cleaning the garage. Every child does his own laundry. The only laundry I do is my own and sheets. Each child has a hook on the back of his door with his towel. I'm sure the laundry isn't sorted or folded nicely, but I don't care. It works for me! And, I'll admit it, drinking wine helps too!