(Forwarded from UnschoolingDiscussion-owner email box. -- Joyce)

--- In [email protected], "Robyn Coburn"
<dezigna@c...> wrote:

>> Sounds like you are feeling really overwhelmed.

Oh, I am! I am! That's the main thing I try to communicate to the
kids everyday, but other than Sarah, the 10 yo, they are still just
too ego-centric to have any real empathy outside of how it will
affect them. (ie: If mom's feeling happy, she won't yell.) Just
hearing someone recognize that I'm feeling overwhelmed helps. Thank
you so much Robyn.

> I have a couple of practical suggestions. One thing that I do when
I want to
> yell is hug Jayn or blow a zerbil (raspberry) onto her instead. We
then end
> up giggling, and the problem tends to become a lot smaller.

This reminds me alot of the "Playful Parenting" advice I've read
about, and I'm trying to get better at this. It's hard for me not
to just react sometimes, but I will keep trying. I remember being
so much more relaxed and playful with my older son when he was
little. I was so much younger and less stressed out, I guess. He
was easy and there was only one of him. Now I am having trouble not
feeling resentful, guilty and tired-out. I do have moments when I
am being very mindful in my interactions with my children, where I
feel true compassion for them and remember that they are young and
learning, and my love for them flows easily and abundantly. At
those times, I can more easily figure out what they need and I am
more creative in my efforts to help them. I just wish I could be
that mindful and peaceful more often.

> Perhaps you could try getting some occasional help in tidying from
> outside source - a mother's helper, a local teen intermittently,
or perhaps
> you could actually employ your daughter for a specific task for a
> time frame. I would suggest that this be outside of any allowance
that she
> already receives. I think it could be tough for her to be seen as
> "mature" child, and expected to take on caretaking of the other
children or
> their messes - after all she had no choice in the matter of
> siblings presumably.

Sarah is very helpful, actually, because she plays with the girls (3
and 4 yo) so much, but I don't want to take advantage of her for the
very reasons you mention. I'm quite money poor at the moment, so I
can't pay her that way, but I do reward her in other ways (she
collects shells and when I find a particularly nice one, I give it
to her as a thank you. I also spend time with just her after the
kids go to bed, even when I'd just rather be alone. She enjoys
this, I think (as do I most of the time!) I will say that she is
every bit as messy as they are if not more so. She is her mother's
only child, and is only with me temporarily. Her mother has never
expected her to clean up after herself and is very relaxed about
clutter. (how I wish I could be that way at times!)

Anyway, part of the reason I'm feeling so overwhelmed is because
since Sarah has been here, my four year old, Stella, wants to do
nothing but play with her big sister. When I ask her to help me
tidy her room for instance, she answers, "No. I'm playing with
Sarah" in a really snotty voice. This really ticks me off
sometimes. Her attitude towards me is so ugly when her sister is
here. So, I guess there is a tradeoff in having Sarah's help.

> One thing that some folks use is to spread out a large groundsheet
on which
> to do art work or puzzles. It can be a quick tidy to pick up the
> corners and presto, at least the appearance of tidy. This assumes
that the
> children are done with the project and don't mind it getting put
aside in a
> higgledy piggledy manner.

I've read about doing this before, but forgot--thanks. I could do
this in the patio area of the house we are in, and actually we
already do use the patio for particularly messy art. The huge patio
is enclosed, the floors are concrete and since it still has much of
the owners construction mess in it and isn't a place where I want to
hang out, I don't really care what the kids do in it. They have
been painting in there and playing with chalk. I even let them just
leave the paints out and I periodically check and see if the brushes
need caring for, etc... This is huge for me! My natural tendency
is to nag them about taking care of their things, and to put
everything in it's place again. :) A drawback to the patio is that
it isn't heated, and we live on the Washington coast where it often
gets chilly even in summer. I suppose we could put a space heater
in there for those days, although it's huge and un-insulated, so
that could be expensive.

I do feel badly about banishing them from the house to play. I
haven't asked them how they feel about it, though. If we spruce up
a particular area with shelves for their puzzles and supplies, it
could be their very own baby-free play-space! They may go for that
and if they have some say in how it's set up, they'll really be
happy. It could be a new project! Especially with dad coming--he
could help by building the shelves or whatever. I know they want to
find a mutually agreeable solution to the problems we've been

> Rather than trying to baby proof the whole house or restrict the
older ones
> in their activities to one place, perhaps you can make a "safe
room" or
> fenced off area for the baby to be mobile and free in.

Believe me, this would be a wonderful option, except the floor plan
in this house prevents it, unless I wanted to gate him inside one of
the bedrooms, which I wouldn't do. He likes to be a part of the
action too much and I wouldn't be able to supervise him. As it is,
he really screeches when all the girls are outside and he can see
them through the sliding glass door or the low window, but can't go
out himself because I'm busy inside.

> In terms of things on their beds - I would try the idea of picking
> battles initially - obviously the long term idea is to not have
any battles.
> Their rooms should be their rooms, and not held to the same
standard as the
> public or shared areas of the house.

I tend to agree with and strive for this, even though I have trouble
with it (I hate going into their room to help them dress or tell
them bedtime stories, only to step on and break a toy that was
hidden under some clothes on the floor--it hurts and they're out
another toy!)This is something I have been specifically working on.
In fact, I privately decided to ignore the mess in their room--just
let it be however they wanted it. I succeeded for about 36 hours!
I just couldn't stand that clean and dirty clothes were left all
over the room, along with puzzle pieces(all mixed together willy
nilly) and library books (I have to point out damage to a book
nearly every time I return them to the library!) and markers and
pastels, etc... Besides the fact they can't possibly enjoy their
things if they are lost, hidden or broken, the house doesn't belong
to me and I don't want them ruining the (unfortunately)white carpets
with art supplies. (An acquaintance is renting this house to us
VERY CHEAPLY because we are experiencing some financial hardship
right now, and I really don't want her to regret helping us out.)

> Since you have recently moved, you may not have yet joined up with
> local homeschool group. I suggest doing so as soon as possible, if
for no
> other reason than some adult conversations to help restore the
brain cells.> More importantly you won't feel as alone as you
evidently do. Try
> www.nhen.org for local groups.

LOL--This is probably good advice. Thank you for the link. It took
me a long time to post here for help and support. I'm glad I did,
but as usual, I'm embarrassed by admitting my inability to cope, and
also by the fact that when I do start talking, I REALLY unload. I
constantly worry that I'm so needy that I will just drive people
away. I also have the fear of having to be there for yet another
person--even a friend. (Does this make sense?)

Sheesh, I am a mess. I'm sorry this is so long, and I hope I don't
sound like I'm finding excuses to not try the things you mention.
It's just that I try all the time and just seem to continually fail
overall. I do really appreciate your comments and suggestions. I
just need more. Maybe the main help I need is in breaking my
reactive habits. How do you go from a very verbally reactive person
to one who takes a few moments to calm down before she speaks or
acts? How do you change for good, and not just for days or
moments? Practice, I guess? Any ideas?

pam sorooshian

On May 28, 2004, at 5:30 AM, Fetteroll wrote:

> How do you go from a very verbally reactive person
> to one who takes a few moments to calm down before she speaks or
> acts? How do you change for good, and not just for days or
> moments? Practice, I guess? Any ideas?

Stop thinking about changing "for good and not just for days or
moments." That is just another thing to overwhelm you and you don't
need that!

Just change the next interaction you have with the kids.

Stop reading email right now and do something "preventative" -
something that helps build your relationship with them. Fix them a
little tray of cheese and crackers and take it to them, wherever they
are, unasked. Sit down on the floor and play with them. If nothing
else, just go and give each of them a little hug and a kiss and say, "I
was just thinking about how much I love you."

Okay - so that is one good, positive interaction.

Again - just change the next interaction you have with the kids. Focus
on making the next interaction another one that builds up your
relationship. If the next one is because the kids are fighting, STILL
keep in mind that you want this interaction to do something positive
for your relationship with the kids and stretch your thinking as to how
you can make that happen. In other words, you kind of think from their
point of view about yourself. Consider what thoughts you want going
through their head. Do you want them thinking: "She never takes time to
even find out what the problem is?" Or, "She always blames me?" Or,
"She's such a hypocrite, doesn't want to hear us yelling, but then she
yells at us." "She hates me." And so on.

What do you want them to be thinking - what words (articulated or not)
do want tumbling around inside their head? Maybe, "She understands how
I feel." Or, "She really cares about helping us solve our problems."
Or, "She is trying hard to be fair." Or, "She's calm even when I'm
not." Or, "Mom is the best listener in the world." "Mom loves me even
when I'm causing problems."

And, eventually, you want them to think like this?
"Mom will help us find a solution." "I can stay calm like mommy does
even when I'm mad." "I can listen carefully like mommy does when there
is a conflict." "I can recognize feelings, like mommy." "I can come up
with new ideas, like mommy does when we have trouble."

There is no substitute for being authentically "there" for them - for
genuinely trying to help them resolve problems. For putting your
relationship with them at the forefront of every interaction, whether
it is playing together or working together.

None of us are perfect - we'll all have some regrets. But with my kids
19, 16, and 13, I can now say that I will never say anything like, "I
wish I'd let them fight it out more," or "I wish I'd punished them
more," or "I wish I'd yelled at them more." I will only ever say that I
wish I'd been more patient, more attentive, more calm and accepting of
the normal stresses of having young children.

One interaction at a time. Just make the next interaction a
relationship-building one. Don't worry about the one AFTER that, until
IT becomes "the next one."

National Home Education Network
Serving the entire homeschooling community since 1999
through information, networking and public relations.