You know that saying 'Solutions appear when you start looking for answers'?
No really, do you? Because it's very possible that I just made it up. But I've decided it's true, so I'll take the credit if nobody else already has.
Anyway, we've been coasting along for awhile now with the usual arguments, homework, play, cuddles, fights, tantrums and laughter that sum up most families daily lives. It's been fine. (Apart from the boys fighting which is still driving me completely bonkers). I've been busy. They've been doing their thing. Hamster wheel, Life etc etc.
And then there came a moment last week when the wheels fell off and I realised that perhaps we weren't coasting after all. Perhaps there was a lot going on behind those gorgeous faces that I hadn't stopped long enough to find out about.
Which got me thinking.
Which got me looking.
And lo-and-behold - the answers started appearing.
Online friends shared articles that I previously would have skipped past, but this time took the time to read.
Andrea from Office Mum shared a post entitled The Dangers of the Good Child which pushed a hovering penny down, and helped me instigate a conversation with the eldest about how it was ok not to be perfect all the time. Sometimes we don't realise the pressure they are putting themselves under to help shield us from any more life stresses. But who doesn't need a good ol' tantrum every now and then. It's good to be given permission to have an off day.
Marianne from Mari's World shared a post called Not every child is an A grade student. Why we must not let B/C/D be shameful. Again, it tapped into beliefs and concerns I've been having. Comparison with classmates and siblings can lead to feelings of insecurity and worthlessness. We need to nurture their individual talents and not keep raising the bar for grades only. At the same time they need us to focus our attention on them when and where they need it most.
Finally, Rachel from Well Worn Whisk shared a post Why I Stopped Punishing My Kids: Replacing Punishment with Connection. It's full of thought-provoking ideas and new ways to parent.
I could have written this (but didn't):
"On the days when my kids are fighting and crying the most, I can almost always look in the mirror and realize I haven’t stopped and sat down and looked them in the face while they talk to me. I haven’t put my arm around them and sniffed their heads while they tell me their dream from the night before in every detail from start to finish. All day I’ve been saying, “Just a minute” or only half listening to what they’re saying while I’m checking Facebook, answering emails, or loading the dishwasher without even looking at them."
(The irony of reading this on Facebook while my kids got ready for school is not lost on me).
In the midst of all these lightening bolts I suddenly realised that I now have not 1, not 2, but 3 tweens. Each of their needs are different, but at 8,10 and 12 they fit squarely in the tween bracket - that middle ground between young child and teen that throws up a whole heap of emotional wants and needs.
So I'm trying some new approaches. We're focusing on 3 family rules to start with: No shouting. No hitting. No punishments.
And one 'just for me' rule: Individual time with them each day - even if it's only 5 minutes.
I can already hear the laughter ricocheting around the ether of the internet. And yes, I may be back tomorrow to say it hasn't worked out. But we'll keep trying. And really that's what parenting is all about, isn't it? Coasting the good parts, hitting the bumps, looking for help, and then trying again, again.