Friday, July 8, 2016

Hazy, Lazy Days of Summer

It appear to be that point of the summer where the quality of our parenting tends to wane at times.  I don't know if it's the heat, Craig's sore knees, my overloaded mind, or an extra dose of difficulty from the kids, but I feel like lately we've just been on cruise control lately.  Cleaning the house seems like too much.  Anything more than just sitting with the kids qualifies for quality time.  Going outside seems like a Herculean effort.  We're just...tired.

Lately it's been 90 degrees pretty frequently, and pretty humid.  That doesn't make it any easier.  Sometimes the heat just makes you want to hole up in the house.  We do have a pool, and Jacob and Craig have been in it quite a bit.  But Carter won't go near it and usually right around the time I'm going to get in, he splashes himself at his water table and demands a wardrobe change.  So, I've only been in a couple times.  Evenings after dinner, particularly with late sunset times, used to mean playing outside until bedtime.  But lately it's meant a lot of snuggling on the couch watching a show.  That is a terrible habit.  But if Craig's knee is sore, or I have been cooking dinner and washing dishes for an hour or more, it's hard to motivate ourselves to force the kids outside.

Speaking of dinner, I feel like weeks of weeknight sports got me into a rut where I can't even remember what we used to eat for dinner.  Ice cream or concession stand crap sounded really good for a while, and now that I have to make dinner every night again, I can tell that I'm struggling.  What, I have to cook dinner again tonight?  Sigh.  The boys also always complain that there are no snacks in the house (there are), but any time I try to get anyone to tell me what they really want, it's either something super crappy or I'm just met with an "I don't know."  And apparently I'm lacking the energy to think more deeply about it.

I also mentioned to Craig that we need to get Jacob reading at bedtime again.  We stopped after school ended and Jacob's bedtime routine has been pretty laissez-faire since.  While I don't think we need to do 20 minutes five times a week like we do during school, I'd love to see him do 10-15 minutes three times a week, at least to keep himself fresh.  I don't even care what he reads at this point, but if I'm not going to push him to do math or anything else (note to self: find some fun math apps), the least he can do is this.  We don't get school-provided summer assignments at this point aside from an informal "reading challenge" that he can redeem for a prize in the fall, so it's really up to us to keep going.  I think we can do a chart or something to track and motivate him, but it'll still be a battle.  One worth fighting, but still.

Ironically, I started writing this post last night, and this morning I heard Jacob accuse Craig of being "lazy" and "sleeping all the time".  Obviously he was out of line, and we definitely called him out on that.  But clearly I'm not the only one noticing that our pace has been a bit slower.  Saturday mornings since sports ended have been a battle to see how late we can stay in bed before the kids' complaining forces us out.  Fighting off the urge to nap on weekend afternoons is a major task.  We're just extra tired and the list feels too long, so there we rest.

I honestly think part of the problem is that we're just burned out from constantly dealing with Jacob's sh*t.  Sorry, but it's the only way I can describe it at this point.  We're spent.  If we're not working hard at our jobs, we're home battling him about everything--his clothes, how he's spending his time, sitting nicely at the table, using his utensils properly, leaving his brother alone, and trying to quiet the constant stream of random noise and bossy demands that come out of his mouth.  And honestly, when we're not doing those things, I think part of our brains is always strategizing for the next round or reliving the last one.  I constantly obsess about how to parent him, and it's exhausting.  When both kids are around, we usually can't get a word in edgewise, or at least can't express a coherent thought before someone interrupts for something generally unimportant.  Jacob riles up Carter and encourages him to misbehave.  Carter is definitely acquiring his own skills in the misbehavior department, as well, but they're still manageable and nothing like what we've dealt with in the past.  It doesn't help matters, of course, but rest assured it's only a small fraction of where the exhaustion comes from.

I expressed that this was part of the problem when we went to our second behavioral specialist appointment the other day.  I mentioned that we're both burned out a lot of the time, and while you want to be consistent and firm, it's not always easy when you've been fighting so many other battles.  Sometimes you just can't fight another one, and things go off the rails a bit.  I asked what we do in a case where we absolutely need him to do something and he flat-out refuses.  No amount of convincing or logic or threatening to take things away or simply stating parental authority works for him.  Physically forcing him is not ideal (though it happens, at which point he gets even more defensive and angry), so what do we do?  This is what happened with the car dealership situation, and it happened again when we went to pick up Carter at daycare.  With 90 degree temps and a few people around, I was not comfortable leaving Jacob in the car like we did in the winter when he had a cast on his leg.  But again, he refused and it became an issue.  Eventually I got him there...but not without embarrassment, anger, and frustration.  I try to pick battles wisely, but I wonder if that lets him think he can pick his, as well.  UGH.  We definitely need to find a way to make him understand that he HAS to give in once in a while.  He'll find out that the world will keep on turning and all will be fine.  I also keep reminding him that just because he wants something doesn't mean he gets it, and dealing with that disappointment now will make him a better grown-up.  Falling on deaf ears, for sure, but I'll keep trying.

But yeah, the lazy parent thing has crossed my mind a lot lately.  We're both guilty of it, and yet I know we both feel overloaded so the laziness often seems justified.  Or heck, it seems impossible to be lazy when you're busy, so perhaps we should just say that we need to do better at being intentional parents.  But still, I hate that sometimes we're just too darn tired to make the effort we should.  I'm not sure what the antidote to that is.  Earlier bedtimes for everyone?  More exercise to up our metabolisms and promote healthy tiredness that will naturally lead to earlier bedtimes?  Kids that just-freaking-listen?  I don't know.  I think that's part of why we try to do vacations and other fun stuff in the summer, even though they end up being more stressful than daily life at home.  We need the change of scenery and we need to pull ourselves out of routines and spend more intentional time with our kids.  We need to make memories and show them new things, so at least we'll have some good stuff to talk about that might distract them from that annoying poop joke...again.  That time is coming for us in a few weeks (I think)...more soon.

Finally, this has nothing to do with this post, but the events in Dallas last night, where five police officers were shot dead at a rally in response to a couple recent shootings by police of innocent people, are breaking my heart yet again.  No one is right here--not the cops that shot innocent people a few days ago, not the people that shot cops in retaliation last night--and returning violence for violence will get us nowhere.  Shootings like last night only lead to the same fear and stereotyping that played into the split-second terrible decisions that led to the original shootings.  It all has to stop.  I hate to think what society will be like as my kids grow up.  So much has changed in the last 10-15 years, and I worry about what realities they will live among as they grow to adulthood.  It's horrifying and sad and worrisome for any parent.  Guns will probably never go away, so we all just need to teach kids that everyone matters, everyone deserves to live, and to do so without fear and hate.  Don't assume anything, and always keep in mind that someone has family and friends that love them.  And so do you.  Don't do anything to jeopardize any of that.  Instead, focus on making them proud by doing the right thing.  And if we could all teach our kids that, instead of growing up in a culture that blames, separates, and hates, it could form the building blocks for a better society.  None of this makes sense, and it's so entirely wrong.

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