Friday, April 30, 2010

My Brain just Had to Turn On

What a glorious 8 hours of sleep I had last night. For some reason things were just right. The bed was comfortable, the room blissfully quiet, no interruptions... it was wonderful. I only woke once, at 2 a.m. to head to the bathroom, and then awakened at 6. I headed back to bed after another potty break, planning to stretch another hour or two out of my night since we don't have to leave until 9:30 or 10.

But then my brain turned on and started to think about all the wrong things. I have been continuing to struggle with the way that all my rules seem to be going by the wayside. Rules that were... after all... mostly for my benefit in attempting to be the control freak that I am and keep things the way I wanted them. I think about my home now -- full of teenagers and their friends and girlfriends and boyfriends in and out and all the ways in which my nice tidy structure has been obliterated. Rules like "don't eat in the living room", or "ask before you have a snack", or "do your chores before you watch TV" have just been pushed to the wayside by everyone.

Since we are down to everyone sharing one living space (we turned the family room into a nursery/bedroom for the girls and the baby) the TV is on almost all the time. The room is full of people who have and have not done their chores. They have food on their laps that I have not given them permission to eat. It's like mutiny.

Other rules are being broken as well. Things like "we don't have Saturday night sleepovers", or "you need to let us know when you have a friend over". These kind of things drive me nuts because they mess up my routine. Occasionally someone even skips church... ok, it's the same someone and he almost always does.

But the bottom line is... gasp.... the house is not any dirtier -- in fact, it may be cleaner, than it has ever been. The kids who are in our house, with a couple exceptions and as far as I know aren't doing anything immoral or illegal. Having Saturday night sleepovers drags a few people to church who wouldn't otherwise be there (although the lines in front of the bathroom on Sunday morning are a site to behold).

And the household is more relaxed than it has been. With me ignoring some of this stuff there are less oppositional outbursts -- from the kids and from me. There are less arguments and there is a general sense of peace in our house most of the time.

I want my old house back because I liked it. I liked having kids who had rules to follow and when they did not follow them were consequenced until they did. I liked knowing who was in my house and feeling I had some control. I liked being in charge.

But I look at where we are, managing 11 kids and a baby at home all this past week with me gone most of the time. Rand has a job coming up and has been doing most of what he needs to do to to earn his room and board. Mike is working full time and has been out of jail for a whole month. John got full time hours this week and has three more weeks to work before his next hearing. Both of them are staying out of legal trouble at this point and not stealing from us. Salinda, her bf and the baby had a good week at our house where they got along well and did not fight much, free from the stress of being at his house. And while they treated her room like their own apartment and didn't interract with us much (oooh, don't get me started on this whole rant) she seemed happier than she has been in months. Sadie has had her job at McDonald's for a full year. Salinda has her license and Leon and Sadie have passed driver's ed, and Leon has his permit. The rest of the kids are doing OK in school (OK meaning going every day, not getting kicked out, and most of them passing nearly everything).

Every day all of the kids are in clean clothes and they are fed. We make it to church on Wednesday nights and Sundays and the kids in the youth group are actively involved. We have 3 kids in sports who are doing well. There have been very few acts of aggression over the past few weeks. The no cussing rule has flown out the window (which really bugs me) but they aren't pounding on me or each other.

My husband is happier when the house is peaceful. He'd as soon let the rest of the rules go, just so we can have calm. So here I am. The only one who is holding out in my brain this idea that I need to tighten things up around the house.

I have spent a dozen years trying to prevent my children from screwing up their lives. And with all my best efforts, three of the 12 have done all they can to make every wrong choice possible. At this time, however, a good portion of their choices are pretty good. Do I really have to relax, shut up, and let it be good enough? I'm afraid I might.

One of our biggest concerns about the older kids and relaxing on the rules was that the younger kids would be negatively impacted by the negative choices of the older kids. So far this has not been the case. Our six youngest kids are not aspiring to go to jail or have children outside of marriage. They are watching the challenges the older kids face and don't want to go there.

But I can't tell you how hard it is for me to shut up and just let our new home be what it is. They know what my expectations are and they simply won't follow them unless I make it very unbearable for them to do otherwise.

But maybe I can slowly let some things go.... and shut my mouth .... and focus on things that matter with them. Leon and I have had great conversations this week about his future and what he might like to be when he grows up. We've talked about his character and the choices he intends to make. Maybe if I can take a breath and stop worrying about who is in my daughter's room when she is a mother herself.... or who is eating in my living room .... I might have more time to devote to conversations about choices, and character. Maybe my energy could be focused in a different direction.

Up to this point I have been loosening up with what I say and how many times I scold, but I need to loosen up about how I feel in order for this to work for me. I feel like an animal inside my own neurotic cage of how things should be and the idea of breaking free of all that structure and security that in retrospect may have only been benefitting me is driving me nuts.

See why I had to get up? All this stuff just circled in my brain for 45 minutes and I had to get up because I was driving myself crazy. I hoped in the shower and came here to get it all out of my head.

And now I run the risk of spilling this all out for you and having you recommend a psychiatrist. ;-) Have any of you made this kind of transition in your home -- from super structure to a different lifestyle -- and did it drive you personally to the point of feeling like you were nuts? Have you come to the point where you realized that the ONLY reason that you were parenting a certain way is because it worked best for you? Maybe I'm the only one in the whole world to go through this, but somehow I doubt it.

I guess I'll get some work done while cute little Leon sleeps snuggly in bed, his dark tan skin a contrast to the whiteness of hotel bedding..... now THAT is a phrase my husband would have written. ;-)


GB's Mom said...

Maybe control is not everything when it comes to raising our kids?!

AnnMarie said...

Nt personal experience (yet) but I remember another blogger talking about how she fit better with one of her sons because her parenting style worked with him. She'd tried it with kid #2 and got nowhere. She struggles to parent him differently since it's harder for her to do things his way, and because it means the kids are treated differently. But there is, I'm sure, more peace in the house because of that! IIRC, it's the opposite of you--she's more relaxed and one kid just didn't do things in that environment and needed more direction.

J. said...

I have yet to encounter all that but I know what you mean about the rules and the control, I like to have things work in a well ordered fashion so that I always know what is up. But we only have 2 so far.

Kat said...

I'm the one with more rules and structure, the one more likely to be willing to confront someone over failure to comply with the rules and my hubby is the one who dislikes confrontation and MUCH prefers peace and getting along - to the point of letting too much go, IMO. What helps me, some anyway, these days, is reminding myself of Heather Forbes' line about "what can I do in this moment to improve our relationship?" Usually, confronting them on any sort of rules does NOT help the relationship. If they're in a decent mood and I just make one mild comment in a friendly voice, it may not hurt the relationship or escalate, but beyond that - it's better not to go, most of the time.

Just me said...

I have 10 kids. #1 (47 yrs)has very low functioning Down Syndrome (IQ in the 20's), ADHD,heart defect, and bilateral cleft lip and palate, #2 (42) has ADHD and learning disabilities, was into alcohol as a teen. #3 (41) has ADHD, #4 (40)has Graves disease, #5(38)has ADHD, epilepsy, learning disabilities, mental illness (Depression & I suspect bipolar and PTSD), he was molested at 7 by a neighbor and again as a teen by a teacher. His birth was traumatic. He was into illegal activity and One of his best friends killed a cop and was killed by a cop. His IQ is low. He is vulnerable and frequently taken advantage of. He has chemical dependency issues. #6 (35)was into alcohol as a teen, She has Addison's. #7 (25)has ADHD, depression, and poor social skills. #8 (20) was molested by family from infancy, has Oppositional Defiance Disorder, She is mildly retarded, has ADHD, has sympyoms of depression, has full blown RAD and functional skills of a 12 year old.
#9 (12)has ADD, autistic traits, poor social skills, and functional skills of a 5 yr. old. Her IQ is normal. #10 (11) has ADHD, Cerebral Palsy, mild retardation, Conduct disorder NOS, Learning Disabilities, has had 3 psychiatric hospitalizations and Day treatment. He was "kicked out" of the last 2 because he needed one on one care and staff wasn't available to provide it. His education has been in a self enclosed EBD setting since first grade. one summer was in home tutoring as there were no other options.

Now my question is this, how could any of them be parented successfully in the same way? Kids are not cutout cookies, each is one of a kind.