Sunday, March 25, 2012

Tuck Them In

My husband shared a quote with me this week that was new to the both of us.  Harold B. Lee said, "Parents, remember that now is your opportunity.  You may feel yourself harassed as you struggle through the days with children, but you are living the happiest and the most golden years of your life.  As you tuck them into their beds at night, please be kind to them.  Let them hear a kind voice amid all the angry, vile voices that they will hear throughout life.  Let there be an anchor to which these little ones can turn when all else fails.  The Lord help you so to do..."

There are two main things I love about this quote.  First of all, the idea that kids are getting enough ugliness in the world around them, so that increases our duty to make our homes a safe haven from such things.  Secondly, this quote really hit home because quite honestly, bedtime in the Bayles household tends to be one of the most stressful times of the day!  Our kids (as is typical) are highly active and have a very hard time settling down at night.  There is often a battle of wills, and we, the parents, make repeated trips up the stairs to reprimand for talking, playing, running around, fighting, and anything but the task they were supposed to complete: falling asleep.  But this quote brought to my attention something we have been leaving out: we haven't been tucking them in.  Perhaps it has been ever since we moved into a house where all the kids' rooms are upstairs, but our usual routine after family prayer and scriptures has been to send them up to bed on their own.  After reading this quote, I suddenly realized that the simple act of going up with them, helping them brush teeth, say their own prayers, settle them down and especially tucking them in would make a world of difference.  Maybe you already do that, but do you realize how significant that is?  How calming and comforting for your children?  I have made a resolution to do that, and in the few days I have done it I have already felt a change.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Grocery Store Meltdowns and Egg-buying Angels

Hi.  I'd like to introduce myself.  I'm the woman in the grocery store with the screaming child.  The child who loudly swears up and down that he will do anything I say if I just get him that toy he wants, and in the same breath screams that he hates me and I'm stupid.  Yes, that's me.  Nice to meet you.

My son (I adore him) is a brilliant young man.  He's smart and funny and creative, but he's got a will of iron, especially when he fixates on something he wants.  He would climb electric fences, battle alligators (I pity them) and swim through molten lava to get the object of his desire, especially when it has been denied him for bad behavior.  This has made shopping with him a bit of a nightmare.  Most grocery stores (bless them) have goodies and toys scattered throughout the aisles.  Maybe they are for the benefit of good little children with good mommies who say gently, "Look sweetie!  If you are very good for mommy, mommy will get you this wonderful foam dart-gun.  It looks so fun!  You'll be good for mommy, won't you?"  And a neatly groomed, wide-eyed child, his halo practically glowing, nods submissively and proceeds to walk like a well-trained pet at the side of his mother as she peacefully peruses the aisles, taking as much time as she desires to analyze cans and boxes for their nutritional content so she can feed her loving family only the very best.

OR are they a punishment sent by the grocery gods to tempt and torment little boys and girls and their frazzled, unprepared mothers who dared to bring their uncouth offspring inside the walls of their culinary shrine?  I'm convinced it's the latter.  This trip was a case in point as my boy was eager to demonstrate to the dozens of startled shoppers, trying to inconspicuously wheel their way along the far side of the aisle past the frenzy of screams and threats and punches.

I was grateful to be having this experience in the comfort of big-family territory, where children are a little more common if not all as challenging as mine.  Back in New Jersey I squirmed beneath the stares when I had to make shopping runs with all 4 children in tow and running amok, especially with me in sweats, no makeup, and unwashed hair pulled back in an unbecoming ponytail.  I could feel their piteous desire to direct me to the family planning aisle or hand me the business card for their favorite nanny agency.  The tolerance for children, even well-behaved ones, seems to be subsiding in an alarming manner.  I would wager that most of the disapproving stares I got back east were from people with no children and perhaps no experience providing child care in any form whatsoever.  Here I get a little more sympathy, but on days like this I still feel the eye of judgment frowning upon me and labels of "bad mother" stamped across my conscious.

I have to say, though, that I was proud of myself for keeping my cool.  With the help of several silent prayers, I didn't buckle in to the pressure of my screaming child and give him what he wanted just to shut him up.  Nor did I over-react and try to prove to the onlookers that I was the one in control.  I calmly and firmly stood my ground, defended my position, and reminded him that boys who scream at and hit their mothers can not have toys.

After the melt-down over the toy subsided, we had another over candy at the checkout stand.  This translated into a grab-and-throw episode which left my carton of eggs as a casualty of the war.  A saintly woman (clearly a mother) went and bought me a new carton.  By the time she returned, I was wrestling my son into the car while another kind store employee loaded in my groceries.  I could barely manage a "Thank-you!" between the grappling and tugging and pushing, but I made it as genuine and gratitude-filled as possible.  As she walked back into the store to enjoy her peaceful, unaccompanied shopping trip, I longed to give her a big hug and some kind of a gift in return.  She was my angel.  So, whomever you are, thank you again!  Thank you for understanding and stepping in to help.  I hope I get to do the same someday.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

I Love You More Than the Fridge

Today I walked in on my toddler gouging long scratches into the polished surface of my black refrigerator.  We have a set of super-stong magnets shaped like push-pins, and a combination of their enormous magnetic force with the sharp edges of their base were a formula for disaster (as I had once discovered myself while simply sliding one over on the refrigerator door).  I suppose the sight of tiny white curls of polish blooming up with each stroke of the magnet was entertaining enough to try it over and over again because by the time I found him, some serious damage had been done.

In alarm I grabbed him away and seized the weapon, got my appliance cleaner and did my best to at least clean off the finger prints.  The scratches were even more obvious.  "Why do children destroy things??" I wailed in despair.  I thought of the $800 price-tag on that stupid fridge, and all the other ripped-up books, drowned cell-phones, cracked DVDs, and all my favorite gauzy skirts snagged to shreds by the velcro of little-boy shoes sitting on my lap on a Sunday morning at church.  And then, right there on the kitchen floor, my little boy came and curled up in my lap as if to say, "I'm sorry," and, "Cheer up, mommy, I'm here."  And I remembered.  

I have said before that children are the best cure for attachment to material things.  I hugged my baby who is growing up so fast, and becoming such an inquisitive little explorer of this great big world.  "I love you more than the fridge," I assured him, gave him a kiss and a squeeze, and calmly got up to google about whether car wax works on fridge scratches.

Sounds like it does. Well enough, anyway.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Happy March Forth!

A few years ago I read an article about a family who celebrates March 4th every year by setting goals.  There was a cute picture of a mom, dad, daughter and son seated on the grass with the words "March Forth!" written across the soles of their deliciously bare feet.  That image has always stuck in my mind, as well as the idea.  I think it's perfect.

Spring is right around the corner.  The crocus, daffodils, and tulips in my yard are all convinced that it is well upon us as they poke their green fingers above the snow-dusted soil.  Half of me wants to push them back down to protect them from the lingering frost, but the other half is jumping for joy and cheering them on!  This is the perfect time for new beginnings.  This year has been my very best at setting and keeping my New Year's resolutions, but even with all the fire I had, this past week I have definitely felt the fizzle, and I'm ready for a renewal.

So in honor of March Forth, I will share a few pointers I've picked up about goal setting:

1. Don't try to do everything at once!  When we sit down to evaluate what to change, we are often flooded with a whole list of areas that need improvement.  Start by picking a few, and keep a "goal bank" for all the rest.  As you complete a goal, pull out another one.  If you think of another goal you want to do, log it in the bank and be at peace knowing you have record of it.

2. Break your goal into pieces.  Big goals especially need to be broken into little tasks.  Write down your plan and set deadlines for each part.

3. Keep records and use charts.  Have something you can check off.  Make check boxes next to the steps of your goal.  If you're developing a new habit, it's recommended that you practice it for 3 weeks before considering it "mastered."  So make a chart with 21 boxes to check off each day.  You'll feel great about yourself as you progress, and you'll even have the documents to prove it when you're done!

4. Keep a reminder of your goals in a place you will see every day.  Whether it be a post-it on the mirror, a 3x5 card next to your bed, or on the bookmark of your day planner, whatever fits into your routine.  Just make sure you have it in front of your face every day.

5. Ask for help.  Let the people around you know what you are trying to accomplish and welcome their help if you need it.  Most importantly, as a person of faith, I believe in asking God for help.  He wants us to improve and accomplish great things anyway, so of course He is eager to assist us in achieving our  worthy goals.  Be sure to involve Him.

Go get 'em, tigers!