survivingmyboyz

tales from a stay-at-home mom of four boys

Archive for the tag “boys”

And then there were five

I’ve never claimed to be a smart woman and I’m definitely not a sane one, but my heart is bigger than the piles of laundry my kids leave behind for me each week. That’s why when the good lord presented us with the opportunity to expand our family I said yes before ever even asking my husband. I’m just lucky that my husband knows me and loves me anyway, because he fully supported my decision.

It all started a little more than three months ago. I was reading a book called The Best Yes: Making Wise Decisions in the Midst of Endless Demands (the words “endless demands” really seemed to sum up my life), when I received an email from a pastor at our church who was looking for some temporary housing for a teenaged boy who was going through the emancipation process. I have always wanted to take in older kids who are aging out or have aged out of foster care and have no family to go to for holidays or to share life celebrations with, but I didn’t expect to do it until my boys were a lot older or possibly out of the house. This opportunity spoke to me though and it was only temporary, so I saw it as God calling me to say yes and make a difference in someone’s life while trying out something I’d thought about doing. I figured we already had 4 boys, what was one more? So I emailed the pastor back and told him our not so ideal situation of too many kids and not enough room, but that we would be happy to help if no one else could. I didn’t really expect that this would work out and hadn’t had time to mention my offer to my husband when I heard back from the pastor the next day that they were happy to take me up on the offer. I was excited, but terrified that my husband would kill me when I told him. You know you’ve found your soul mate though when you tell them about some crazy scheme you’ve committed them to and they just look at you lovingly and say “Ok, I know this is something you’ve always wanted to do.” And with that we welcomed a teenager into our home.

Upon arrive at our home, the goals were to help our new teenager to become emancipated, get a job, and set him up with a place to live. The job thing and emancipation were surprisingly easy, but it isn’t easy to find a place for a 16 year old boy to rent and it become increasingly clear that the bigger problem was that this 16 year old boy wasn’t ready to live on his own. I think the idea of him living on his own really started to scare me when I had to stop him from eating fried chicken that he’d bought half a day earlier and had left out on the counter for multiple hours. I started to picture this boy in his own apartment dead on the floor from food poisoning.  I knew he needed more guidance. Aside from my concern over this boys safety and well being if left on his own, I started to enjoy having him around and really didn’t want him to leave. Behind closed doors, my husband and I would talk about how we really wanted to just keep him. So finally I just asked him if he was happy here and he said yes, so asked if he wanted to stay here and he said yes. I responded “good, you are one of us now.” 

That was more than three months ago and I don’t think any of us regrets the decision. He might not be legally or officially ours, but as far as we are concerned, he is our teenager. So now I have five boys and they continue to keep me as busy and happy as ever.

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Mom, her four boys, and the heinous, horrible, no good, very bad day

Of course there is poop on your shorts. Somehow, magically, there is poop on your shorts in my freshly cleaned bathroom, even though you are nearly 7 and haven’t had an accident of any sort in about 4 years. That’s just the kind of day I’m having. The kind of day where everything goes wrong from the moment you wake up. The kind of day in which you question why you had kids, let alone four of them. The kind of day you just want to be over, but everyone refuses to go to sleep despite being beyond tired. The kind of day you want to forget, but feel compelled to write about.

The heinousness of this day had been foreshadowing for at least two days prior to its arrival. That’s not to say that the two days leading up to it were anywhere near as heinous as today was, but it was definitely a “well, what did you expect?! You should have known this was going to happen!” kind of day. I had set my alarm earlish this morning, but it was a rare morning in which the kids didn’t actually both me for the hour leading up to my alarm and I was enjoying a blissful dream in which I had a totally different life, one way less stressful and kidcentric, one in which I actually got to make decisions for myself and eat warm meals. Apparently, immersed in this blissful dream, I’d managed to hit my snooze button not once, but twice, waking me 20 minutes later than I’d planned. I came downstairs to find the mess of toys I’d been yelling about needing to be picked up for two days now, still all over the floor. The boys were in different stages of undress and completely engrossed in a show that had more time left to it than we could sit in watch. They ignored me as I gave them the same two commands over and over while trying to get breakfast made for the four of them (despite the fact that two of them are perfectly capable of making their own). After about the 30th time of being ignored, I flipped the TV off and gave them the same two commands another 30 times. No one was listening and I felt like I was a ghost in the room that they couldn’t see or hear. I had a 10:30 class at the gym this morning and I’d missed every class I tried to get to so far this week because of the kids and last week we were on vacation, so I missed the gym completely, I wasn’t going to miss class today even if I had to leave to kids home to fend for themselves (okay, fine, I couldn’t do that, I’m pretty sure it isn’t legal).  We had about 30 minutes to get those who weren’t dressed yet dressed, brush everyone’s teeth, get the toys picked up enough for the cleaners to come today (yes I have cleaners, I couldn’t possibly keep up with the disastrous mess my four boys make all on my own. Don’t judge!), get four kids and myself fed, load the car for the day, and get out the door. This would be doable if my kids didn’t sabotage my efforts at every turn. There was the kid who didn’t like the breakfast he asked for and wanted something new, that same kid also peed on his shirt while going to the bathroom (personally I’ve never had that problem, but somehow it happened) ,the kid who kept returning to the trampoline to bounce after each toy he picked up, the kid who couldn’t tie his shoes, but wouldn’t wear his flip flops, and the kid who spilled his bag of Kix all over the carpet in front of the door just as I was about to walk out it.

Fortunately, we made it to the gym and I managed to get everyone into day care so that I was only 2 minutes late for class and there was still room in the corner for me to squeeze into class. I thought maybe this meant that my day was going to turn around, but boy was I wrong. After the gym, we had some time to kill before it was our time to swim at the pool. I needed to get the boys lunch, which you’d think would be a nice thing that they’d appreciate, but instead they just whined and complained because two of them wanted Panda Express and two of them wanted Taco Time. I took them to a local sandwich shop I’d been wanting to try. They all whined and complained that they wanted brownies and cookies and chocolate milk. Then the oldest messed with everything he could get his hands on to make a mess while my youngest darted for the open door and attempted to kill himself in the parking lot. We sat outside to eat where it was “too sunny,” “too windy,” and “too cold.” My youngest tried to kill himself in the parking lot again while the older ones chased him and encouraged him to run to his death. There were also food issues, crow issues, and sticky issues. I should’ve just loaded them in the van and taken them home right then, but no, I was determined to make this a better day.

So, stupid me, I took them back to the gym after lunch to get bands so we could swim. I’ve been promising to take them swimming at the gym for two months and we hadn’t gone yet, so today as going to be the day. We had a half hour to kill, so I brought mad libs to do with the boys, only I didn’t have a sharpened pencil with me. So the boys entertained themselves by running around like idiots, climbing on things, and the youngest tried to go up the stairs every time I looked away. When it was finally our time to swim, I told everyone to go to the bathroom before going to the pool. My four year old refused because he had gone after lunch. My two year old attempted to flush himself down the handicap toilet after escaping under the door of the stall I was in. I took the two older boys to do their deep water test so they could go down the water slide and play in the more fun section of the pool. Unfortunately, they wanted to boys to swim a lot further than their swim instructor had made them, so they couldn’t pass the test. I was then informed that you are only allowed to have two kids per adult that are “non-swimmers” and since my older two boys couldn’t pass the test, they really weren’t supposed to let us in the pool (despite the fact that both older boys could touch in all parts of the pool and were going to be required to wear life jackets too – I think it is a racket to get people to sign up for more swim lessons). I must have given her a “you’ve got to be shitting me!” look, so she allowed us to do it just this once, but we had to stay in the toddler section of the pool. Well that went over like a ton of bricks with my older boys who have been eyeing the water slide for two months now. I was instructed to stay within arms-reach of all four boys at all times while in the pool. Let me tell you how easy that wasn’t, especially since I only have two arms. It didn’t help that we had just returned from vacation where the two older boys swam all around the pool at the hotel and went down the waterslide without me needing for be arms-length away. Even my four year old was swimming all around the pool with his life jacket by the end of the trip. So these restrictions naturally lead my oldest to melt down and cry, partly out of frustration and partly out of embarrassment that they didn’t think he was as good a swimmer as we knew him to be (I’m sure he felt disappointed after working so hard at his swim lessons the beginning of the summer too). While he melted down, my two year old decided that he wanted to jump in unassisted, and my four year old decided that he suddenly needed to poop…NOW! I had to get all four boys out of the pool, but couldn’t convince the two older ones to come into the bathroom with me so I told them to wait outside the bathroom and not to go near the water. Of course, none of this was quick enough and my four year old and he crapped himself just before I could get him on the toilet. Luckily, my boys have a fear of wearing swim suits without underwear, so all the crap landed in his underwear, not his bathing suit, so I just threw them out. As I dealt with that crappy situation, my two year old decided that it would be fun to play with the soap dispenser in the bathroom and get it all over himself and wouldn’t stay away from it no matter how many times I pulled him away or yelled at him. When we were finished in the bathroom, I came out to find that my older two hadn’t changed their usual behavior of not listening to me and were in the pool. That was it for me! I told my younger two that they had three minutes and then were out of there, vowing to never bring them back. My oldest ran off to the locker room without his dry clothes, so I had to herd him back out and the three others into a private changing room so I could get them all showered off and changed. That was a fun experience, said no mother ever.

We left the gym all unhappy and angry. I looked at the clock and realized that we still had an hour and a half until the farmer’s market opened and it was too late in the day to drive home without kids falling asleep. I also felt bad that the pool had been such a disaster, so, still determined to turn this day around, I decided to take my kids over to the library for a bit because, you know, that’s where you take four, rowdy, pissed off, tired boys. That went over better than I expected. My oldest was actually good and took a real interest in researching computers and technology, take many books out on the subject. My six year old also found some good books and practiced his reading. I only had to yell at my four year old a handful of times not to run or scream in the library and my two year old only had two or three full on screaming melt downs.

Thinking this might be a turning point, I took the boys to the park for a bit before the farmer’s market opened. I was feeling renewed hope by the time we walked up to the market. “This is it! We are finally going to have the nice day I’ve been striving for all day. We’ll get food, have fun, make good memories that will overshadow the rest of the day, and then head home for an early bedtime.” I mistakenly thought. It quickly became apparent though that these kids desperately needed food because they had only pretend eaten at lunch. So as I waited in line for quesadillas for some of the kids and then walked my six year old to every food stand trying to convince him to pick something, my other kids dug ice cubes out of the drink coolers at the food stands and threw them at people. Once my six year old finally decided to get dumplings (which were only supposed to take 5 minutes, but took 20 to cook), I got my kids seated to eat their quesadillas, only now they all wanted dumplings. As I went back and forth to the various food stands we had bought our food at, picking up the food, my kids sat quietly in the grass. No, that didn’t happen at all. What happened was, they chased each other, threw shoes at each other, and eventually my four year old threw a container of soy sauce at my six year old and got it all in his eye. I’m sure the people who were sitting not so close to us were all thinking that my kids had just escaped from some wild zoo exhibit. My oldest, who ate most of his own quesadilla, then circled the six year old like a vulture once he finally got his dumplings. The cries for dumplings from those who got quesadillas began again, so I ordered more dumplings for them to split. When they were finally finished eating, they all acted surprised and indignant that I wouldn’t let them get some Hawaiian shaved ice, like their shoe and soy sauce throwing behavior shouldn’t be held against them.  Despite everything, I still braved more of the farmer’s market with the goal of being there late enough that it would be okay for the littler ones to fall asleep on the care ride home. So we wandered the venders while the kids touched things they weren’t supposed to, ran off on me, whined more, fought over popcorn (yes I bought more food), and were just generally exhausting and irritating. I knew it was time to go when the two year old melted down for the 97th time that day. We made one last stop at the bathroom, which I had to force my four year old into and good thing too because he clearly needed to pee, braved the gauntlet of the parking lot, and made it to the car. The kids were given strict instructions that it would be a quiet ride home. Knowing I had them all at least temporarily contained, I took the long way hope and silently prayed that at least two would fall asleep and stay asleep once we got home.

Two kids did fall asleep before we got home, but fate was not kind enough to me to allow them to stay asleep for me so we could have an easy bedtime.  Instead, my six year old began talking loudly the minute we got hope and then the UPS truck made a loud noise as it put out a ramp to deliver several packages to a neighbor. I finally managed to get the youngest back to sleep and sneak out of the room so I could deal with the other three, but by then, the other child who was sleeping was awake and hungry. Then the other boys were hungry too despite eating their weight in food from the different food stands at the market! It was as I doled out snacks to those awake that I heard the six year old call me from the bathroom to inform me of the mysterious poop smear on his shorts. At that point I about completely lost it, but I held it together just long enough to herd the boys upstairs and hear the youngest wake up.  Perfect, just perfect!

I’m sorry, do I know you?

Have you ever been to a store and pretended that you didn’t know your own kids? That was me today at Costco.

I almost got away with a trip to Costco with just the baby, but I pushed my luck, hoping for a little extra time with my oldest, and convinced him to come. At the last minute my second oldest decided that he would come too. I hadn’t exactly asked him, but I didn’t want him to feel like we were excluding him. I really just wanted to take less kids with me, but I guess technically three out of four kids is less kids. Plus, I thought it might be a good chance for the older two boys to bond more since they will both be going to school together next year. Unfortunately, they bonded in a way I hadn’t really expected.

We started the trip with all three boys in the cart, which I knew wouldn’t last long. I was lucky enough to keep the baby entertained enough to keep him from whining until checkout by giving him a frozen yogurt to make a mess with. The other two, however, found their own form of entertainment and took off running by the time we were past the snack aisles at the front of the store. They devised several games over the course of the trip which included a racing game, chasing game, fighting with bananas and cucumbers game, a rolling on the floor wrestling game, and a punching game. I’m sure there were a few others I didn’t pick up on because once they got to the chasing game I began to pretend I didn’t know them. 

We entered the cold produce area and I began make my way around the square area of vegetables when I heard a mom yell at her child with the dreaded triple name call and scold her for attempting to play chase around and around with my boys who we in full on rambunctious, but not destructive mode. I heard her explain to her child that she was absolutely not allowed to act in such a manner as she looked around for the terrible mother that was doing such a horrible job of being responsible for these out of control children.  I just looked at her, looked at my two boys, and then looked back at my mess, but well behaved baby and pretended like he was the only child I had. I was careful to not yell at the boys until she was well out of earshot so as not to blow my cover. From that point on, I continued to walk through Costco pretending I didn’t know my own children unless one of them was about to run into someone, break something, or they exposed me by addressing me directly.

I really didn’t think I’d spend an afternoon in the same location as my kids pretending I didn’t know them until the were at least Tweens or teenagers and begged me not to acknowledge them so they wouldn’t die of embarrassment. I’m thinking that when the tables are turned, a few years from now, maybe their father and I should run around like idiots as pay back.

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the loyalest of them all?

I have four boys, which means my kids have a lot of brothers. Some times they are very loving of each other, but most times they enjoy pushing each other’s buttons and making each other wish they were an only child. Despite all they put each other through, I know that deep down they love each other. Today, however, I think I came to the conclusion that my Middlest child is the most loving and dedicated of all the brothers.

Today was a beautiful day. It felt like summer, so we went to play at the park. Unfortunately it is not yet summer, so after about an hour, we needed to go home and resume weekday during the school year activities. My oldest wasn’t too keen on this idea so I did what I often do in this situation, I packed up and started to leave. I waved goodbye and told my oldest that I hoped he enjoyed his new life living at the park. As I began to walk my other three to the car my 3 year old began to sob. I thought he was upset because we were going home, but then I heard him call his brother’s name. It turned out, he wasn’t upset we were leaving the park, but that we were leaving his brother behind. I tried to explain to him that we weren’t really going to leave him, that he would eventually come, but when I tried to get him into the car, he began bawling and reaching toward the park for his brother. My Middlest was adomant that we could not leave without his oldest brother. It was so sweet and cute, I couldn’t help but hug him and kiss his tears. My five year old, on the other hand, could care less that we were leaving his old brother at the park. In fact, I’m pretty sure he got a little extra skip in his step at the idea of leaving his older brother at the park and him becoming the oldest sibling now.

Luckily for my 3 year old and not so luckily for my 5 year old, my oldest did eventually join us at the car before we left. So no one got left behind and no one got to move up the hierarchy of brothers, but one did show that he is the most loyal of them all.

Just a typical morning of fights, chaos, and vermin

This morning was one of those not so typical mornings that seems to be typical in a household with four kids. It was filled with the chaos of wrangling four children, the fights to get them ready and out the door, and of course, the less typical, vermin.
Our morning started off far too early in the purple darkness of a winter morning creeping closer to spring. The sun no longer waits until we are almost out the door to come up, but it is still kind enough not to rise and wake our children during a time that should still be night (I.e. Anytime before 5am). No one had slept well, as usual, especially myself who was up at two separate intervals with a fussy, gassy, teething baby for more than an hour each time. I was also lucky enough to have enjoyed the double whammy of a toddler in my bed who has a habit of waking up screaming for water several times a night. My memory is foggy, but I’m pretty sure it was my seven year old who woke us, as he does most mornings, by loudly and clumsily stumbling into my room in search of an iPad. The toddler was now awake, so I sent him to wake is dad who was asleep where the toddler should have been, in bed with the five year old. Instead of my husband, a three year old and five year old came back into my room. I got up and woke my husband from his few minutes of restful slumber after a night of listening to the five year old cough in bed next to him. The baby hand off took place and everyone’s day began except for mine as I crawled back into bed for a few minutes of sleep without two children clinging to me.
The next thing I knew, I was being awoken by my seven year old crying that he was hungry as if he’d never been served breakfast.
It is entirely possible that in my husband’s exhausted state he had forgotten to give my son a proper breakfast before school, but that wasn’t the case. Apparently my son had eaten a breakfast sandwich, finished it, played games and the iPad for a bit, and the second my husband told him to go upstairs to brush his teeth, my 7 year old complained that he was still hungry. My husband asked what my son wanted to eat, to which he asked “what do we have?” My husband listed off about ten different things he could eat, but my son seemed uninterested in any and just processed to whine the two alternating phrases of “I’m hungry! ” and “what do we have?” This seems to have become a common place occurrence these days since my 7 year old seems absolutely uninterested in any food offered to him, even his usual favorites, but insists he is hungry (someone please tell me that they have had this problem before and have a solution for me). Eventually my husband had enough and marched my son out the door but couldn’t get him to walk to the bus stop. This is when the real chaos of a typical morning ensues as we race against the clock to get everyone to their separate prospective schools on time ( three different buildings, two different locations, all starting at 9:00am).
My oldest clearly wasn’t going to make the bus this morning, so I brought him back inside, fed him and myself some oatmeal, gave the baby a quick snack then marched everyone upstairs to finish dressing and brush teeth as my husband finished getting ready for work. A plan was hatched, between fights with each child to get upstairs and brush, that I was to take the baby and drop my oldest at school while my husband took the middle two to their school. We needed to be quick so everyone could get to school on time and my husband and I could make it to our appointments on time. The middle two went downstairs (one dragged in my husband’s arms) to get shoes and go off to school. As I finished dressing, I could hear small voices outside long after my husband should have left. I assumed it was the neighbor kids, but found I was wrong when I finally got my youngest, oldest, and myself downstairs at two minutes until 9:00. My middle two were both standing outside my husband’s car as my husband rummages through his it. “What’s going on? Why haven’t you left yet?!” I asked. The response, “there’s a mouse in Dad’s car!” This is the point where our typical morning chaos turns into not so typical chaos. My husband was in the midst of moving offices and had some of his office stuff in his car and apparently a mouse had crawled in with his stuff and taken a ride home with him last night. The mouse made himself at home over the course of the night, chewing up papers and pooping in the cup holders. My husband gave up searching for the mouse and left to take the kids to school. I told the kids to be sure to tell their teachers why they were late, I figured they’d probably never heard the “sorry, I’m late, but there was a mouse in my dad’s car” excuse before.
I still had to take my oldest to school in the next town, so we headed out. I tried talking to my son to try and make his morning a little less miserable than it had started out, but he had no interest in talking and just stared out the window despite my best mouse in the car jokes. When we reached school, I’d planned to just park out front, leave the baby In the car since it was pouring and quickly sign him in so I could run back to the car before the baby even realized the car had stopped. Of course, as I stood at the passenger door in the pouring rain, trying to gather my son’s things and get him out, my son had different plans. Now he had decided that he was tired and didn’t want to go to school. The clock was quickly approaching 9:30 and I had to be somewhere by 10:00. I was sleep deprived, hadn’t had enough coffee, and was standing in the pouring rain; I didn’t have the time or patience for this. Despite my best efforts to encourage, pep talk, and sympathize with my son, he wasn’t moving, so ultimately I had to threaten loss of video games to get him out (this is my go to move when nothing else works, but I hate that it has to come to that point). Finally my son got out of the car and dragged his “tired” body to the front door complaining that he was going to be grumpy all day. I told him to join the club, signed him in, and kissed him goodbye.
I felt bad and worried most of the day about my oldest’s morning and hoped his day wasn’t too bad, but I’m pretty sure he had forgotten all about it the moment he entered his classroom because when I met him at the bus in the afternoon, he came bounding out with all the energy of a typical first grader and full of smiles. My husband and I made it to over appointments with just minutes to spare, though I’m not sure either of us had our whits completely about us or enough coffee to function well. My middle two were about 20-25 minutes late to school, which is less than three hours long to begin with. As for the mouse, he has not been caught, nor have we seen anymore evidence of him residing in my husbands car. We can only hope that he found his way out of the car and has made a lovely new home for himself over at my husband’s new office.
Like I said, this morning was just another typical morning in our household. The thing about having four kids is, something strange and untypical is always happening as part of that typical day, like a mouse in the car, but the chaos is part of what makes a big family so fun.

Saving my son from the world

I’m afraid it is starting, the world is beginning to try to ruin my sweet little boy.
The other day, my sweet little My Little Pony loving, nail polish wearing, pink is his favorite color little guy came home and told us that liking princesses made you a girl and that he no longer liked My Little Ponies. I know he really doesn’t feel this way (he fell asleep with one of his mini ponies in his hand tonight), but someone is telling him this and I’m afraid that one day he might believe it is true.
My first though was naturally to homeschool him and never let him leave the house again in hopes of persevering his pure sweetness, but I realized that wouldn’t work because he’d still have contact with his older brother who already teaches him plenty of bad things. So I had to settle for a less drastic route in dealing with this, I had to set him straight and arm him with the strength to stand up against this kind of thinking.
My husband and I talked to him together about what he said. I figured, if he didn’t believe me because I am a girl, maybe he’d believe his dad since he is a boy. First we asked him who told him this information. He just acted a little embarrassed. We didn’t expect him to name names, we were making a point to him that we knew someone else had told him this and that it wasn’t his thinking. We then told him that whoever told him this was wrong. We explained to him that there are no “boy” things and “girl” things and that he could like whatever he wanted. We told him that boys and girl could like, be, and do whatever they wanted to. I explained to him that the only true “boy” thing or “girl” thing was what was between our legs in our private areas and that was the only real difference between boys and girls (we’ve been having the “boys have a penis and girls have a vagina” talk for years). My husband even went a step further than he probably needed to at this age and told him that if, when he was older, he decided he want a girl part instead of a boy part, he could even have that. My son just laughed and didn’t believe that part of the story, which is fine because I’m not about to try to explain that to him. Our main message to him was that he should like what he likes and not let others tell him what he could or should like and not like. We told him that we love him and the person that he is and that he shouldn’t change.
I’m sure this won’t be the last time I hear from my son about messages he is getting about “girl” things and “boy” things. I’m sure one day my son might even bring home worse messages that other people might try to convince him of and ruin him with, but I’m hoping that if we keep sending my son the right messages, he will not believe the wrong ones. Hopefully, if we just instill self-confidence in my son, other people wouldn’t be able to make him doubt himself and ruin him. If we are lucky, maybe one day, my sweet little boy will even help fix the world with his kind, gentle, loving acceptance and help others open their eyes to see the world the way he does.

Shit happens

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Shit happens, sometimes in my bath tub.

I love you, but I really don’t like you.

“I love you, but I really don’t like you and can’t be near you right now.” That’s the message I just sent three of my four kids off the bed with (the fourth is only a baby, so he isn’t old enough to get this message yet). Does this make me a horrible mother? Probably, but I’ve reached my limit and I know I can’t be the only mom out there feeling this way.

It is Friday night and I’ve been pushed beyond my brink at this point. This week has been hard, so have the last two or three. I’ve been a virtual single mother lately, through no fault of my husband’s. I’m a work widow. My poor husband has been working 12 hour workdays on a good day. Other days he doesn’t crawl into bed until after 2am. It is temporary and I know that.

He’s tired, I’m tired, and the kids don’t sleep. Our bed has become a revolving door of children lately. There is the baby, who is expected to keep us up, but aside from him waking to feed, he isn’t that bad. Then there is our first grader, who will sleep through the night most nights, but wakes way too early and clumsily stumbles into our room looking for electronic devices each morning. Our soon to be five year old has developed a fear of everything (again) and has been having nightmares. Most nights I can convince him to go back to sleep in the empty toddler bed in our room, but lately, he has been waking up again in that bed and wanting to crawl in with us. This is problematic because, despite having a king size bed, our bed is already crowded. That’s because that empty toddler bed in our room belongs to my almost three year old who never sleeps in it anymore and he is my worst sleeper of all. He wakes within two hours of finally getting to sleep (usually not long after I’ve finally gotten to sit down and attempt to relax for the night). He wakes again just as I’m falling off to sleep each night. He has night terrors for 20 minutes and wakes up the baby. He kicks, toss and turns, flails about, and yells out in his sleep once we have finally given up and let him into our bed. No one in our beds sleeps well.

The mornings come too early, with too little sleep, and very little cooperation from the three kids I need to get out of the house to school. It has been cold and wet and traffic near my kids ‘ preschool has been horrific lately for such a small town. I feel like I spend all morning getting kids in and out of car seats, shuttling them to and from school. I have very little time to get anything done on the two mornings a week that I’m down to one kid. Most of the time I’m tired and just want to crawl back into get, but there is grocery shopping to do, errands to run, toys to pick up, dishes to clean, and the never ending mountain of clothes to be washed, folded, and on the rare occasion, actually put away. We paid people a good amount of money to come clean last week, thinking we could spend the weekend relaxing for a change, but the house was a disaster area again by the next morning (by the next evening my two oldest had peed in the bathroom sink and pooped on the bathroom floor, on purpose). When the two middle kids get home, it is a never ending cycle on meal prep and clean up. Then hurricane first grader gets off the bus and tears through the house. The homework battle begins, melt downs ensue, and the baby is screaming; the witching hour is upon us. Magically, a dinner that everyone refuses to eat makes it to the table, several glasses of milk are spilt, food dusts the floor around us, and another pile of dishes collect, just incase I didn’t have anything fun to do once the kids are in bed. After dinner, I herd cats upstairs and into pajamas. We have the “did you really brush your teeth?” argument (spoiler alert: they didn’t) which always ends with a breath check that makes me really wish I hadn’t (why do they think the rotting food between their teeth smell won’t give them away?). Then the real juggling act begins!

Have you ever put four kids to bed by yourself? Oh, you should try it sometime, it is fun! First is the baby, who isn’t like my other kids were as babies. My other kids could be put on a boob and fall asleep while I multi-tasked, not this one though. This one was born a fighter, he was a preemie, so he seems to think that everything deserves a fight, even going to bed. A lot of rocking, jiggling, back patting, and sshhing are necessary to get him to sleep. Meanwhile, his brothers bounce off the walls like idiots, jostling him or kicking him in the head every time I almost have him a sleep. Once he’s finally out, I attempt to read to three boys who all want to be next to me. News flash: there are three of you and I only have two sides, you can’t all be next to me. I attempt to get them to all take turns sitting next to me as I read the required 20 minutes of reading each night. When reading is done, I attempt to separate kids by sending my oldest to his room with an electronic device (nothing like ending the day the way you started it, with more screen time) and I try to get my middle two to lay on opposite sides of me in what is suppose to be their shared, full sized bed. Usually this is about when someone gets impatient with me as I set up the baby monitor and wakes the baby back up. Once the baby is back asleep and the middle two are almost asleep, my oldest usually decides it is his turn to wake up one of his younger brothers. I finally get the middle two to sleep, the baby may or may not be awake again, and I go lay with my oldest who then likes to play a game called “annoy the crap out of mom so you won’t fall asleep.” Usually it is close to 9pm when I’m finally able to sneak downstairs, it only took 2+ hours to get them all to bed, temporarily. Then there is cleaning up from dinner to be done, a dog to feed, and lunch for school to be made. I finally get a chance to sit and turn on a show so I can unwind before bed when, you guessed it, the Middlest wakes up.

On top of this daily grind of my typical day, I’ve been trying so hard to not yell at my kids, I try to do fun things with them, and be in the moment. It’s not working. I’ve tried all the things people and articles tell you to do. I try letting the mess go and just be with the kids; the mess just gets bigger. I try making healthy food they usually love; they don’t eat it. I try talking calmly to my kids and laughing at the horrible things they do that I know I’ll laugh at as I tell people about them later; they just continue to do horrible things. I plan fun activities that we can all enjoy, things I might actually be able to relax during, like tonight’s living room camp out and movie with popcorn; one complained the whole time while another made repeated messes that I had to keep getting up to clean. You name it, I’ve tried it, and all I’ve gotten is exhausted, frustrated, and taken for granted. I’ve had it! Tonight, after several weeks of this, I started to really think that I might just need to go back to work so I can escape and let someone else raise my kids. How awful is that?

I love my kids, but I really have not liked them very much lately. There just seems to always be one who has to make things miserable at every moment of my day. Sure, they can all come together and act like total animals at the same time, nearly driving me insane, but can they ever come together and just allow a moment to be peaceful and enjoyable; no way!

So what am I suppose to do? I’d never find a job that will make enough to pay for four in day care, not that I even have time to look. Besides, I love my kids, even if I don’t want to be around them right now. If I got a job, the first morning I had to leave them would be precisely the moment I’d decide that I really do want to be around them after all. I guess my only solution is to sneak downstairs, heat up the dessert I decided not to share with them, and attempt to devour it while watching a few seconds of tv before someone wakes up. Wish me luck!

Brotherly bonding

My two oldest sons bonded tonight by jointly desecrating their bathroom which we had just spent good money to have cleaned. They both went to bed without any stories or cuddles; two sad boys. When my husband asked my almost five year old if he would ever do what he did again, the response was “no.” I’m not sure that means he learned his lesson though because when my husband asked him if he knew why it was wrong to poop on the bathroom floor the response was also “no.” I guess I should just be happy that they are bonding.

Blurred lines: My Little Ponies and Ninja Turtles

The other night I bought a cute little My Little Pony Tshirt for my almost five year old, who had begged me for it after seeing it on the wall at the store. It was half off, so I obliged. When we got home it was hung up next to my almost five year old’s other recent prized bargain, a Hello Kitty back pack, gifted from a neighbor’s daughter who no longer used it. These two things are just a few items from the collection that is gathering from my almost five year old’s favorite cartoon icons. Some people might find this strange, since I am the mother of four boys. That’s right, my almost five year old is a boy. A sweet, wonderful little boy who doesn’t see gender lines.

T is the second of four boys and will be five in two more months. He is very much like all other boys his age. He loves superheroes (Marvel and DC, he doesn’t take sides). He loves Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Ninjago, and Adventure Time. He wants to be a fire fighter (and maybe a farmer) when he grows up. He plays sports and goes to Farm school, where he loves to play in the mud and feed the animals, and when he’s not in school, he loves to ride his scooter and his “two wheeler” bike that he is super proud of riding without training wheels. Just a “typical” boy, who also loves to get his nails painted, his favorite color is pink, enjoys watching My Little Pony, and wanted nothing more than a Monster High Doll for Christmas two years ago.

So what does all this mean? Nothing. It means that my son is who he is and doesn’t see gender lines. He sees the world the way more people should, as an open and limitless, unbound by sex or gender. Unfortunately, most people don’t see the world this way. Most people like to categorize and label things. Most people like to tell others that things are wrong or meant for other people. Most people will try to crush my guy and his spirit as he grows up. They will try to force him to conform to what they expect of him. His older brother has already experienced this.

Only a year ago, I used to paint all my boys’ nails, it was the only way I could coax them into letting me cut and file their nails. We’d play nail salon. I bought colors like metallic silver, sparkly blue, and green for the boys; colors I thought society might allow my kids to wear without ruining our fun. Then it happened. I painted my oldest’s toe nails the Sunday before he began a gymnastics camp with T; Monday afternoon he came home and asked me to take the nail polish off and hasn’t worn it since. Someone had obviously said something to my oldest about nail polish being for girls and with that comment, they stole from me that special quality time with my oldest in which he would sit in my lap, cuddle into me, and talk to me as I painted his nails. From that point on, those gender lines became more solidified for my oldest, despite his desire for them not to be there. When his brother first started watching My a Little Pony, my oldest made comments like “that’s a girl show” and refused to watch it with him. T didn’t care, he watched it anyway, he loved the show. Then my husband found my oldest hiding in his room with my iPad watching it alone despite his brothers sitting downstairs watching it together. He acted like what he was doing was somehow wrong and shameful. My husband told him that it was ok to like the show and encouraged him to go watch it with his brothers. Now the three older ones watch it together most of the time. Then this week, while we were in the store where I bought the My Little Pony shirt, my oldest showed again, how the world had already begun engraining gender lines into him. When his brother crossed that imaginary line from the boys’ clothes section into the girls’ clothing section, my oldest was sure to point it out. T again didn’t care, he just knew he had seen a shirt that he loved and that he wanted to see it closer. As I began to look at the price on the shirt and check the sizes against him, my oldest son seemed to get confused. He knew that his brother was in the girls’ section and for some reason he shouldn’t be, but neither his brother nor I seemed to get that, we were both acting like it was ok. At this point my oldest began walking though the store from side to side stating which section his was in, the “boys’ side” or the “girls’ side.” Then the came to the athletic wear and there didn’t seem to be a clear side in that section. The sections were no longer separated by an aisle, they just seemed to blend into each other. This seemed to catch him by surprise. He came running back to his younger brother and excitedly told him “over there, there is no boys section or girls section, they just blend!” It was like he had found the perfect place for his brother.

I love my sweet little almost five year old. I love his humor, his sensitivity, his individuality, and the fact that he loves the things he loves, no matter what others say. I worry for my little guy though. I worry that over time, the world will crush him and not allow him to be who he is. I worry that too many people will draw lines in the ground and tell him which side he needs to be on. I wish more people would allow the genders to blend more seamlessly. After all, the only thing that really makes someone a “typical” boy or girl is the ability to adhere to our expectations of a certain gender. If we eliminate those gender lines, we allow people to just be themselves.

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