I was thinking about things the other day when that phrase you hear all the time popped into my head and I started mulling it over. You know the one “having kids is the hardest thing you'll do”.
I decided that I really don't agree with this statement. Having kids is not hard at all. In fact all you need is a few semi healthy body parts and either a malfunctioning contraceptive method or a willingness to enter into the hallowed ranks of the extremely bewildered (which if you are choosing to do voluntarily just underlines the fact that you are completely clueless about what is about to happen and therefore deserve the title).
After that comes the great wait, the calm before the storm if you like. And then the little darling is among you. After that its simple really. All you have to do is provide moderately nutritious sustenance and reasonable amounts of personal care until they can take care of themselves. Some people find that the self sustaining nature of their offspring means that they are only really 'on the hook' for, at most, 5 or so years at which time the child really begins to raise themselves.
You see having children is not the issue here. Anyone can do that. What I think they mean is growing a child from infancy to adulthood with the character that will allow him or her to be a fully contributing member of society. Someone who is well rounded and balanced. Someone who will give rather than take, someone who cares about others and will take responsibility for their own actions no matter what the consequences. Someone who would not embarrass the family should they be invited to dine with someone really important.
What they really mean is “doing an excellent job of raising a child will be the hardest thing you ever do”. Anyone can do a poor job at raising a child but those of us who are trying to do an excellent job really do have our work cut out for us.
The job is a thankless one that will only truly be over when we are driving home from the wedding reception of the last child to be married, secure in the fact that they have all become some other person's responsibility. Our prayer is that they all find wonderful, Godly men to marry who will allow them to flourish each in their own special ways.
Of course we are a long way off from that dream and to be perfectly honest with you I'm all for at least some, if not all, of them eloping. Not because I don't want to pay for (at this point) three weddings (although that does have its appeal) but because weddings are so often fraught with stress and angst and it would be so nice for my girls to avoid that.
Now I'm not saying that girls need to get married to be of any worth to society at all. I'm sure there are outstanding women who have never been married. I'm just saying what I hope for my girls and what I hear them saying to me about their futures includes marriage and children, at least at this point in their lives.
We are kind of straddling two different parenting phases at once right now. We have the 5 and 6 year olds who are moving past the time out phase and more into the 'you're grounded' phase. This whole grounding thing has me kind of chuckling. I can't remember ever being grounded (maybe my memory is deficient – in fact I know it is) but I really don't think there was anything to be grounded from. I didn't go anywhere and I remember being a rather compliant child/adolescent. I really didn't have all that much desire to do anything worthy of a good grounding.
My children, on the other hand, are constantly grounded from something. I'm not usually the one doing the grounding since keeping track of who is grounded from what is a bit much for my poor brain to handle. Normally James does the grounding and then each morning I have to ask him who is grounded that day so that I don't inadvertently allow them to do the thing they've been grounded from.
It is typically the computer and the TV that are limited and I personally find it a little confusing as to what to do with the grounded child while the other, currently ungrounded, watches the forbidden programme or plays the forbidden game. I know my kids exploit this lapse in mental capacity that I have.
Abigail is still in the timeout phase although she is just entering it so her timeouts tend to be in the “baby cage” (playpen) or on her bed. Since the crib got the side taken off (due to her climbing out and nearly breaking her neck) its been a little hard to give her timeouts on her bed since she just gets right up again and carries on. She really doesn't get it at this point.
Normally just removing her from whatever she's been doing that is not good (like turning off the computer at the power when one of the other kids is playing) is enough to let her know she shouldn't do that.
It's the age between where Abigail is now and probably a little younger than Kaitlyn that are the most tricky I think (well so far anyway, remember I haven't gotten past 7 years yet). That's where they are testing every boundary they come across to see where your limits are. Then they have to recheck them on a regular basis. Kind of like a cowboy riding the fences to see if there's any holes. What this means is that if you are not completely consistent and you have one tired day where you let your guard down they hop right through that fence and have a field day until you patch it up again. It is so much harder to get them back through the fence and get it patched than it is to keep it secure in the first place.
Once they get past a certain age, or level of maturity, you can start to tell them your reasons for certain rules and they understand it and since it makes sense to them they don't mind so much. Things like “if you climb up on the stove while I'm cooking you will get burned and then we'll have to call an ambulance and take you to hospital and that will totally ruin dinner as well as you having to have skin grafts which would really not be good for me today.”
To a 2 year old that just goes way over their head. To a 5 year old they will go all round eyed and nod their heads in a wise old man fashion and say “yeah, that wouldn't be so good” and then “mummy, what's a skin graft?” So to a 2 year old you find yourself saying “oh, hot, hot, hot” and kind of making that fast sucking in noise with your mouth in the hopes that it conveys just the right amount of 'you don't want to touch this until you're old enough to cook' vibes.
If you happen to have an extremely curious child that doesn't really work either so rather than not touch the hot thing they reach out their tiny little hand and repeat your little 'its too hot to touch' dance. Very cute but not really what you had in mind. So now you cook using the back elements only and when you open the oven you point excitedly to an imaginary thing on the other side of the room and say “look, look, oh my would you just look at that” and off they run giving you precisely three and a half seconds to get the dish out of the oven and the door closed again before they're back.
For the older kids we've tried the taking away toys that are left lying about but they mostly don't seem to mind. In fact one day I went into Emily's room and due to the fact that I couldn't get past the door I started picking everything up off the floor and confiscating it. I ended up with 7 big rubbish bags full of stuff and her room is still a mess!! We are slowly going through the bags and she will have the opportunity to get the things back but not until she can keep what little is left tidy. So far no joy on that and to add insult to injury for me she seems to not really care about the things that mysteriously disappeared from her room that day.
I think the ideal way to raise small children would be to keep them tied up for the first five years but with this being illegal in almost all countries around the globe its not really practical. So we must all suffer through those years of finding the baby gleefully chowing down on breakfast made specially for her by her big sister, a huge smile on her face and honey all through her hair. We have to turn a blind eye to the fact that most of the bath water is now outside of the bath and the baby has climbed in with her sisters, fully clothed, with a loaded diaper.
We must quietly go around and lock all the upstairs windows when we overhear our 6 year old casually mention that she would love to jump off the roof of the house. We must advise, without laughing, the 5 year old that breaking one's nail is not good cause to call 911 and then explain that if mummy were to break her leg (by tripping over left out toys) it would definitely be ok to call.
We must try to remember to praise the good things that they do more than we scold the bad, even if we have to make the good stuff up because we can't see through the bad. Things like 'wow I can't believe how good you are at closing the front door behind you. Good job!' all the while ignoring the fact that not 10 minutes earlier they stomped their feet when you asked them to come inside and get ready for dinner.
I'm sure the phases will just keep rolling in and before we know it we'll be parents of pre teens and then teenagers and then young adults and then proper fully functioning (hopefully) adults whose single aim in life is to become highly educated and earn lots and lots of money so that they can support their poor befuddled old mum and dad in a state that we would love to become accustomed to. At the very least we're going to need access to mental health services.
Now I must go and find out what the baby is up to. She has obviously woken from her nap and the sounds I hear coming from upstairs are quite alarming. Either she has found a mountain of tissue paper and is happily ripping it to shreds or the venetian blinds are not quite the same as they were this morning.
I don't know yet how it rates against what she did yesterday when she found my secret stash of Hershey kisses. I hope eating foil is not too bad for the digestive system.