1Sep

Feeling Just Right

So the new school year is fully launched. The kids are in co-op, I’m teaching a few co-op classes, all the learning therapies are on the calendar, the twins’ have started attending Wednesday night youth group (cue weeping), and I’m back to BraveWritering in my “free” time.

‘Nother words: We’re hustlin’.

Our Tuesdays are so complicated with learning therapy and co-op and me teaching that I literally had to draw out our schedule so Andrew would know how to help us. The good news is, we’d talked through the game plan with the kids so many times the week before that the whole thing ran like clockwork and I wondered what I was panicked about.

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Now, the Monday before co-op was a different story. We did a full day of our school and then figured we’d put the finishing touches on the supplies we’d been diligently collecting for weeks for the kids’ co-op classes.

Remember, I’ve already organized and labeled the supplies for my kids to use at home. And then we had to do it again, for six kids, for two classes a piece.

By the time we finished at 9:30 that night, all the art supplies counted and sorted apart from the science supplies, which were also labeled individually, and everything put into each child’s bag, but SEPARATELY, OF COURSE, all the checks written out (pant), all the medical release forms signed, all the snacks and lunches packed, all of MY lesson plans and class supplies packed, I made sure to type all my friends who buy school supplies like pros every year and send them my virtual standing ovation.

That job is not joke, y’all. I wish I’d majored in “Paperwork” in college.

At any rate, Tuesday was a rousing success after Monday’s suffering and I think we are all just a tiny bit glad to have the First Day over with. Now we can settle in to a steady hum for a few weeks…

Speaking of steady hum, guess who could major in “Potty” at preschool?

This guy:

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He’s dry all night and almost all day (unless he gets excited and jumps up and down too hard.)

(I am very sympathetic.)

So, it looks like I’m done.

With diapers.

For good.

After eleven and a half years. Somebody do the math and tell me how many… Nope. Never mind, I don’t want to know.

On my 36th birthday (which was Saturday), Finn gave me a pile of un-used diapers and promised never to fill them again.

Not really.

But it would have been a great gift.

Instead he told me, “It’s my BIRFDAY! And we got you a PRESENT!… Where’s MY present?”

Finn didn’t get me anything at all but he claimed his sisters’ offering as his own. The girls slipped downstairs early on the morning of my birthday and gave me a gift bag. In it was a jar full of pennies (“We collected them for you, Mom!”), slips of paper with their names written on them, and a half eaten bar of chocolate.

Ellen said, “It’s HARD to have a bar of chocolate in your room and not eat it, Mom!”

Willa nodded seriously. “Yes. We each just had a little taste to make sure it isn’t the really bitter kind of chocolate, you know, the kind that isn’t good? We wanted to be sure it was just right.”

And you know what?

It really was.

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Raising Tweens – Wise Words From Veteran Moms Part 2

raising tweens

I met Lisa on the internet and made her be my real life friend so I could ask her questions whenever I wanted. She graciously lets me share her answers with you, too.

Lisa is my “gut check.” She’ll tell it to me straight, but she’ll say it so I laugh, even if the truth is hard to hear. Her experience and wisdom gleaned from her four sons, and her delivery of said wisdom, is utterly priceless. Plus, 4 boys, y’all. She’s earned her stripes…

What is the most effective form of consequences at this age?

Most effective is probably loss of privileges and letting the consequences occur. For example: Break a window? Pay for the new one out of birthday money or earned work money. Leave your iPod somewhere that it gets taken? Then you do without.

Loss of privileges is tricky because tweens love to try their hand at psychological torture of parents by pretending long indifference to certain things, even all things. So the parent has to be super savvy & really know what their “precious” is and even be willing to wait for the right moment of disallowing. Sometimes, I had to initially let it go when they disregarded my instructions to clean their room. ¬†Soon enough they would ask for something they really wanted–hang out with a certain friend, go to a certain movie, play a certain game–and I would calmly (with bulging eyes) say that I would love for them to do so and so but unfortunately their room was not clean so they would be missing the opportunity.

How do you raise the bar and encourage them into manhood and away from childishness (without killing their joy in life, obvi)?

Family devotions that challenge their thinking and require listening & discussion. Reading good books aloud nightly (this was when we read through the Hobbit and the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy). Doing chores and family service without pay. Volunteering in the community and at church. Serving others without expecting pay. Requiring responsibility all the time. Giving them jobs for pay–for us and others when available. As parents, the challenge is to discern when childishness needs to happen (sometimes farts are funny) and when it needs to not happen.

Will they ever learn to pick up their underwear and put on deodorant?

For several months we had a sniff test at the table before breakfast was allowed. And when they left clothes lying around, not sure if they were clean or not, I would make them smell to see. Underwear laying around found a home in conspicuous embarrassing places and/or I took them and they had to bail them out. It’s still a challenge even now, but they WILL go out and buy their own deodorant, so we’ve made progress!

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He’s ten now. Does this make him a tween, too? (Hold me.)

How do I encourage them to use their spare time wisely – do I need to enroll them in all the activities? What do I do with them????

Structure was my defense against the “idle hands are the devil’s playthings” concept. By structure I mean more like routine: Up at an appointed time, certain chores done before breakfast, school work done for x # mins/hrs after breakfast, and so on. We did this year round.

Free time and good books are a must, but the free time has to have its borders. I gave them two hours of quiet time to build a card house or play a strategy game or whatever. Bored comments meant they had to draw from the job jar–which was a mix of gross jobs or fun things. It was roulette to pull from it – either way, they wouldn’t be bored any more!

I built in regular times of play—in the summer it was the pool, in the winter it might be a special movie or activity. We invested in things like electrical circuit boards and water systems and building projects of all sorts. But we didn’t run around to all the activities. We had seasons of that but couldn’t possibly afford either monetarily or time wise to keep everybody occupied all the time. We employed yard work as soon as they were big enough.

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And she sums it all up with this:

There is no magic bullet to the tween years. You are constantly on the quest of finding something that works only to have to adjust, adapt, survive the next thing. But you will survive. You’ll make mistakes and have great victories.

Tweens are like summer thunderstorms–they rumble in loudly, give some spectacular flash, downpour for 11.4 mins and then pass through leaving everything sticky and thick. But you also get to see what greens up after they’ve been through, what grows, what blooms, and even what washes away.

Tweens are that jumbled up time of trying to figure out the “who” of themselves in relation to mom and dad and independent of mom and dad. For guys, they need to hear and be challenged to live the answer to the question, “Can I do it?”

It’s exhausting, exhilarating, and expectant—the labor of walking them through these times, of establishing foundations of communication and relationship because, help us, Jesus, then there are the teen years.

For more thoughts on raising tweens, see Part 1 here.¬† Let’s all have a group hug and an imaginary fist bump, ok? We’re gonna survive this…

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