Sunday, December 13, 2009

How We Went From Bribery is the Root of All Evil to GIVE THAT GIRL SOME CANDY!

This is a quick (well as quick as I can be) tale about how I went from point A to point B after four kids. Let me start by saying (and this is something I've said many, many times): I cannot believe I became friends (and remain friends) with a funny, creative, sweet woman who had three boys right after M. was born and went on to have a fourth boy. This is so incredible to me because I have no idea why in the world she put up with me. I was amazingly uptight, not to mention crazy nuts. Let me explain the insanity. It came in the form of: I am the perfect parent, can do no wrong and therefore my child will be perfect. Oh, and I know everything about parenting and could probably even write a book about it. Our son didn't watch TV, eat candy, was always impeccably dressed (from birth), took regular naps, and never had to do anything he wasn't really "in the mood for" or had to (God forbid) be bribed to do - read "spoiled." Well, that parenting which I will heretofore (I just love to type that) refer to as First Time Mom Parenting lasted right until our second baby came along.

I still tried to keep it up as much as possible. There is proof of this that I keep proudly displayed on the bookshelf. A Christmas picture of brother and sister when they are under 3. They are beautifully dressed and posing nicely at Target. But First Time Mom Parenting relaxed a little (and became more like Still Keeping Up Parenting) when the good friend in paragraph one told me most bluntly one day at the park after I'd been crying and moaning ("I don't understand why all this is happening and why I feel so awful.") "It's called two kids. It don't get any better. So, get used to it." So I became quite comfortable with Still Keeping Up Parenting. Then along came baby #3.

There is no Target Christmas picture from that year because although I managed to get everyone dressed beautifully and carted them to Target it was in the middle of nap time (because that's how long it took to get everyone fed, cleaned, clothed and me showered and dressed) everyone was cranky, and M. wouldn't stop pinching S. Even when the camera lady gave them like a whole bag of M and M's they wouldn't be still and smile. Crazy, right? Finally the sweet high school camera lady encouraged me to reschedule at another time when my kids might behave better. Like I said, no picture from Target that year. The descent from Still Keeping Up Parenting to Not Keeping Up Parenting began.

I wondered up until I got pregnant with baby #4 when exactly the downhill slide started. I am pretty sure it was right after #3 came home from the hospital. Some things went uphill like fun, enthusiasm, time with the kids while some things suffered like cleanliness, organization, laundry. I began to sacrifice things like decent clothes, nice curtains, and furniture from the 90's (yes, I said 90's) for a cleaning lady who actually could clean because I couldn't. I grew into the role of Not Keeping Up Parenting. Not to mention the fact that three kids cost some money and we only have one person working in this family. So, things just began to change. More sacrifices were made for the children and that was all right. Then came baby #4.

Now, let me tell you the parenting now (and I use the term "parenting' loosely - it's actually more like "herding") could be called My Kids Run the Show and They Will Respond To Bribery Parenting. Which brings me to the scene in our living room yesterday.

It started as all weekends normally do - a flurry of piano practice, breakfast cooking and cleaning up, two loads of laundry, maybe some playing outside, baby screaming incessantly at some point, someone torturing someone, someone going to time-out, etc., etc. But then at around 11 a.m. I started to gather the troops in order to be across town, dressed and prepared for a piano recital at 1:00 p.m. At 11:50 (we need to leave at 12:00 noon) one girl is dressed and looks beautiful, one girl is dressed and looks positively dreadful because she HATES dresses and pantyhose, one boy is dressed but refuses to brush his teeth because it is illegal (what???), one baby is dressed and snottty because she can't ever seem to be healthy - and is screaming because she hasn't eaten lunch or had a nap, one husband is dressed and even smelling good, and one mom is bathed, but has no make-up on, and is still wearing stained, ripped and generally nasty clothes (see previous paragraphs).

So this is what happens (follow closely here) and when it happened it just made me wonder - HOW DID I GET HERE???: I push the kids downstairs (one of them carrying crying, snotty, hungry, sleepy baby), scream at husband to quick take a Christmas photo that I can use for our card, and lock myself in the bathroom to get ready. This takes longer than expected because baby has thrown my make-up bag on the floor early in the morning and no one has picked it up. Two seconds later: Husband is screaming at me - am I ready to take the picture. WHAT???????????? Did he not understand the parents are not in the picture - just the kids? Who wants a picture of a harried mom with clothes from the 70's??? So, I pick from my ever vanishing clothes that fit and are not stained, throw some mascara on, brush my hair (when was the last time I washed it? not sure - too late to care) and hobble downstairs at which point I see all of them eating chips in the living room which has been turned into some sort of quasi-Christmas studio. Baby is screaming until they shove chips in her mouth at which point husband says, "That's it! Places everyone! When I say go - feed baby a chip and she will smile. Better yet, who has candy???"


Shannon said...

Amen! Bribery is the only way to go with multiple kids! I finally got mine potty trained by giving them a skittle every time they peed two if they pooped. For a while there I thought Colin was going to dehydrate himself.

Monica said...

course you know YOU are the other woman (that just sounds weird!). how did you put up with me??? rest assured i am reformed now and wait till you see our christmas photo. it is hilarious at best. ;o)

Shannon said...

Girl I went to the grocery store yesterday morning because you know we have the eating habit so anyway halfway through a croissan'wich (Burger King on base was calling my name...don't tell me how many calories in a fast food breakfast, I don't care) I suddenly remembered that THIS was the the Sunday Santa would be a the fieldhouse, thank God Cody is old enough to herd them all down there. I forgot Santa. Gah! I have no idea how the pictures turned out because I wasn't there.

As to how I put up with you 1. you were funny 2. you never saw me with Dakota or Alonzo. I was much crazier than you!

I was thinking about this post today and while your descent into parenting madness was gradual Ed's was fast and hilarious. In one year he went from "Don't let them eat the popcorn it has been on the ground" to "At least she isn't eating rocks today" when Corina was gnawing on a stick in the park while teething.

Monica said...

oh girl, you are making me LOL. yes, ed's descent was fast and furious. ;o) and i am so happy to hear that you forgot about santa. i can so relate. poor, poor corina has been forgotten by the tooth fairy for days now. :O((( i really have to write myself a note tonight. the kids (only the older 3 b/c lainey was sound asleep) had breakfast with santa yesterday. the hilarious thing is in year's past i would have made everyone match etc. this year malcolm dressed himself in a kind of ecclectic outfit, sofia looks like a living christmas doll, and corina has jeans and some crazy socks on. but they look adorable and frankly i am so past caring!!!!!! :o)))

Jae said...

OMG! I love this post!!! Laughing so hard! Amen is right!!!! Tho I was that "know it all about parenting, going to do it all right, hyper-vigilant, 1st time parent" too, for oh, about 11 months! Having two at once tho, will cure one of that silliness QUICK! I really want to just copy and paste this into my blog and call it mine. :) You rock Monica!