Friday, February 24, 2012

The Days are Long, but the Years are Short

I once read this little quote on a friend's Facebook page. It seems like a contradiction, but the reality and truth in the statement always give me pause when I think of it in terms of motherhood. We get one shot at this gig, and I have a mind just analytical enough to spend too much time debating whether or not I'm spending it the right way and making the early years of my kids' lives special enough for them to avoid years of teenage angst.

The fact of the matter is that the years are short. Every day we get is a gift, but it's all too easy to lose sight of that fact when things like exhaustion, school pictures, basketball practice, fights over the Wii remote, and the Pinewood Derby race get in the way of a stress-free, reflective, giggles and rainbows kind of existence.

This week the kink in my armor was crippling homesickness. I found myself transfixed by worry and sadness that my children are five hours from grandparents and cousins. The friendships I shared with my cousins and the closeness I had with my grandparents are two of the greatest gifts of my childhood, and it suddenly became very important to me that I'm too far from home to logistically make these gifts a reality for my own kids on a daily or even monthly basis. Each day I woke up thinking of a particular aspect of home. One day it was Ms. Marni's Preschool where Hudson and Lawson went the year before we moved to Savannah. Another day it was our land and the back deck of our house that overlooked a beautiful field.

Last night we went to the YMCA for a basketball game played by adorable, feisty five and six year old boys. I talked and laughed with other moms, snagged a copy of Breaking Dawn from my friend Barbara (woo hoo!), and cheered for my little scrappers on the court. We then took our gaggle of kids to one of the local churches on the island for an authentic low country boil and oyster roast. The kids ran and played, we stuffed our face with shrimp and homemade desserts, and I cracked up with my MOPS friends.

The night was a reminder that God has us right where He wants us right now. The sense of community I feel on Wilmington Island is sometimes even stronger than what I feel in my own hometown. Jason has a job he loves and so do I. Much the same way I loved Ms. Marni's Preschool, WIPP has become an integral part of our family's lives, and every day I wake up excited to spend the first half of my day with my adorable students.

My friends are my family here. They take care of me when the bottom drops out in a multitude of ways, like when five out of six Joneses get the pukies or I need ski gear for a one day trip to Snow Mountain. They listen when I cry and laugh with me when I'm happy. They eat Mexican food with me to make up for a crappy day, and they watch my kids for free for me to celebrate milestones with my husband or to go to the parent-teacher conference I forgot about. They even spend an hour out of their day trying to help me break into my van with a coat hanger so that I don't have to call the locksmith again.

I really believe few places on Earth are like Wilmington Island. For now I'll just have to focus on finding ways to go home to Carrollton to visit more often. I continue to be humbled and thankful for the blessings we have and for the fact that my kids are happy, something that matters more to me than anything else. They may grow up farther from grandparents and cousins than I did, but their childhood experiences in Savannah are rich beyond measure so far.   

Friday, February 17, 2012

The No Yelling Rule

Three weeks ago I took it upon myself to institute a no yelling rule in the house. The rule is primarily geared to combat angry yelling, but we are applying it to all forms of yelling, including annoying screaming (seriously, I only want to hear ear piercing screeches if you're injured or being kidnapped) and inappropriately loud talking (guilty of doing it and guilty of passing the gene on to Camden). I had to back track a bit the day after I made this decree upon the house and explain to my husband why I felt it was important and to ask that we help hold each other accountable. Generally I talk to him about these things beforehand, but my impulsive nature got the best of me, leaving me to roll with it or face losing my credibility.

Thankfully, the rule is working out. The first week was very tough, and I seriously considered just carrying around a recording of me reiterating "remember, there is no yelling in the house." I easily said it at least a hundred times in seven days, and because of the no yelling rule, I of course had to say it in my calmest voice. Hudson is throwing a tantrum for the fourth time in thirty minutes? Calm Mommy. Jason has been in the shower for forty minutes while I herd cats, I mean kids. Calm wife. I step on a Lego and embed it into my foot? Cursing under my breath Mommy.

But now something is starting to happen in my house, in my family, in my marriage. All the chaos is still there. We've got four kids, come on. But the volume and the undertone are starting to shift. It comes more naturally for me to approach conflict with the kids calmly, and an apology to my husband is more freely given. I get more eye contact from the boys when we discuss choices and consequences. It doesn't mean the anger isn't there. They still get to feel what they feel. They just have to choose a better way of expressing it.

I told a friend my theory was that if we spoke without yelling long enough, the calm voice would become habit. My hope is to change the dynamic of my family. If we're yelling, I want it to be because we are outside playing and laughing or trying to hear each other over the crashing waves at Tybee. I don't want the "normal" my kids grow up with to be yelling.

On Valentine's Day, Jason and sat on the couch together after the kids went to bed, he sifting through files for the next day and me catching up on DVR shows. At one point he fell asleep with his head in my lap. It was not a particularly exciting night, but it was perfect. Throughout the day we reminded each other of the no yelling rule, and sometimes we tag teamed to give the other person a breather. I didn't get defensive when he held me accountable, which is huge. I'm starting to feel like I'm one half of true parent partners, which is something I think all kids desperately need. I'm not saying this journey won't be challenging, but I feel like we can stick to it. I believe it's working for all six of us and not just for the kids. Keep your fingers crossed.