It was a warm, sunny, summer afternoon. It was one of those beautiful days where there was enough breeze to not sweat, but enough warmth to remind you that the world is capable of being perfect. Was I outside sipping drinks on a roof top deck to enjoy this day? No. Was I spending the day at the beach with my beautiful family of 5? No. I was inside my house. Crouched on the 3rd step of our split-level home, hiding from the anger and sadness that was all around my walls. My 1-year old was screaming from her bed, the kind of cry where you know she was exhausted and will soon lose the battle of fighting sleep, but for the time being makes a momma’s heart hurt. One dog was barking at a passing biker out the front door, and I could hear our other Yorkie yipping up a storm from the back deck, impatiently wanting me to let her back in the house. The other sound ricochetting off my ear drums was my 4 and 7 year olds. It was one of those days where if they were within the same walls or air space, they were fighting. Thus far in the 7 hours of awake time, they had already had screen time taken away due to pushing each other to the point of bloody knees. Each been put in time out on at least 5 other occasions for minor offenses such as name calling, bickering, and not sharing. They each had been sentenced to 30 minutes of hard labor (in the form of cleaning their bedrooms) after showing a lack of concern and respect for their toys. To sum it up, it had been a H-A-R-D day here at the house.
As a teacher, I feel incredibly blessed to be afforded the opportunity to stay at home with my three young children during the summer. Other than Professional Development days, team planning, and tech days, the majority of my summer is spent with my children while my husband put his hours into his job. Days like this come around and I want to personally call every single stay-at-home-parent in the world and thank them for their years of service. Days like this also leave me questioning why I didn’t sign up to teach the exploratory summer school classes that would have distanced myself from this very day.
To get back to my day – The day where I was hiding on my entry way steps, taking in the sound of children fighting and wondering how I would survive, haphazardly swiping around on my phone to occupy my brain from the thoughts of walking right out the door and leaving this craziness behind. I sat on the steps for 12 minutes, just listening. I heard my children fighting over a remote control car. I heard my 7-year old bossing my 4 year-old around, telling her exactly what to do and how to do it. I heard my daughter retaliate by pushing my son. I heard him call her stupid. I heard her call him a bully. For 12 painful minutes, I listened. I waited for them to come to a resolution. I waited to hear kind words and apologies and laughter as they problem solved on their own. What they didn’t hear was their mother crying on the house steps. What they didn’t see was me bowing my head to ask for strength and calmness in this moment.
I calmly walked outside, told both of them to come inside and sit in time-out on opposite sides of the house. Sure, they assumed this would go like it had hundreds of other times. We come inside, we serve our sentence, we give a lackluster apology with zero meaning, we limply extend our arms to give a pathetic hug. Then, wash, rinse, repeat. We go back outside and we continue the fight we previously started. We get back to the bickering and the name calling and the arguing that has existed all day.
As their time doubled, I realized I, myself was beginning to feel less anxious and more at ease. What’s that? The lack of constant fighting echoing through my halls can get my Vulnerable Decision Point back to a regulated level??? I’ll take it! I thought, just a few more minutes of quiet and then I’ll mandate the apologies and have “the talk” once more. Then I realized that it wasn’t working. THIS wasn’t working. The kids needed a change and they needed to know I meant business.
4 minutes led to 8 minutes. Then to 16 minutes. Before I knew it, they were at 25 minutes. IN TIME OUT!!! Now all you I’m-such-a-good-parent-I-would-never-fathom-putting-my-children-in-time-out-for-longer-than-their-minutes-in-age (gasp!), just back off. You weren’t here. You didn’t live my day. I won’t judge your moments and you don’t judge mine. And before anyone phones their local police station, please note that at some point I calmly announced that they would be spending a long time in time-out. I wasn’t going to let them go back to fighting and it appeared that the only way to stop them was to keep them separated from one another so I would keep them there as long as it took. I also provided books. Books…. In time-out. This was basically a glorified quiet time outside of their regular bedroom posts. They were FINE. And I realized that I was too.
Are they going to need therapy for their hour and 15 minutes of sitting in time out? No. Will this teach them a lesson and make them think twice before they start in on each other with relentless bickering and battering? Probably not. But ya know what? We survived the moment. With hope, tomorrow will have less of these moments than today.
It should be noted that the following remarks were made during this time:
“How much longer??????”
“We’ve been sitting here for 20 hundred years!!”
“When’s Daddy coming home? HE’S BETTER!”
“Mommy, let us out!!! ANYTHING would be better!”
“I’ll eat an entire plate of peas and mashed potatoes if I can get up!”
Also, towards the end, their voices found each other through the walls (I was trying to finish this blog post, so I was getting a little lax. And, let’s be honest, it’s been a loooooooooong time :)) At one point, they were playing Marco Polo (only without moving towards each other), and they were making vows to NEVER fight with one another again. EVER. I guess I got those genuine, self-arrived apologies after all 🙂
After an hour and 15 minutes…