I am exhausted. The husband is up on Mount Shasta for a couple days (and considering the bad weather, I hope he and his friends are doing ok ... I'll be relieved when I hear from him when he gets off the mountain tomorrow), and the kids are not in preschool, and I realize that since we left for Italy in December, we have REALLY dropped the ball. We lost most of our semblance of a daily schedule over the last few months of travel and 3-5-day-per-week preschool, with crazy weekends. We stopped enforcing a lot of rules, and completely gave up getting the kids to help us clean up (because in Italy it was more work than it was worth, and the kids had constant entertainment). In Italy, they started watching a lot of TV, partly because my husband's family watches a lot more TV than we do (my husband and I almost don't watch it at all). In the meantime, though, their behavior has been really good, so I let a lot of things slide.
Well, today was ROUGH. Home alone with the kids all day for the first time in a while, and they were beyond cranky. It was tantrum after tantrum, and a lot of it was about things that I know would not be a problem if I had stuck to my guns and enforced our house rules and just been consistent with expected behavior. Being in preschool full time and having crazy weekends on the only days they were home was no help either. So now things will have to change, and I think it's going to be a rough ride. But well worth it in the end.
Turtle cried himself to sleep today at naptime and bedtime. I've been trying everything under the sun since whenever this bedtime aversion started (last Octoberish?), and I'm just done with it. I've tried singing, rubbing his back, sitting in the room with him, sitting outside the room, getting him a nightlight, sleeping with him (until he's asleep), NOTHING has worked. And he's going to bed SO late and getting up early, and more often than not waking up 1-3 times per night crying for me. If he would give me some explanation, ANYTHING, I would try to work with him, but the only thing he'll say is "I want Mamma". He needs more sleep, I need more sleep and less stress, and I'm just done. My new plan is to go in and check on him every 5-10 minutes, up to 3 times, and then I'm done for the evening.
The next thing we need to work on is consistent schedules and routines. Getting to bed at a reasonable time. Always washing hands before meals (we're SO bad about remember this), and brushing teeth before bed. Being consistent with our disciplinary approach (i.e. setting reasonable limits and making sure we enforce them - no offense to hubby, but I think I am better than he is at this one). Having a more consistent bedtime routine (I think this is a pipe dream as we go through so many changes right now with more to come, such as potty training, getting big kid beds, etc.). Getting baths when needed, nails cut, hair brushed, etc. We have been pretty lazy about personal cleanliness. And actually, I need to work on a lot of this myself, including getting to bed at a decent hour to get enough sleep, and getting a decent amount of exercise.
And another HUGE ball we dropped was getting the kids to clean up. Or really participate in chore-like tasks at all. Helping to set the table (they did this in Italy, actually). Clearing off their own plates. But mostly, picking up their toys!!!! It's becoming a huge issue, and they're not good about helping when we ask. I would love advice from anyone who has successfully managed to get their kids to consistently clean up! I mean, when do you do it? Have them clean up each toy as they're done with it? That doesn't seem to me like it would work well, for multiple reasons - i.e., they often play with toys in a mixed setting, such as cars with rocks, or dolls with the kitchen, etc. Also, it seems like it would require a lot of close supervision and involvement at a time when they otherwise entertain themselves, which both allows me to get something like food prep done (we have a great room, so I can still watch them) and also allows them more independent play, which I think is important. Also, I get outright refusals now, or they just ignore me, and I'm trying to figure out how to handle it. So far, it's not going well, but I'm going to keep trying, stay positive, and figure out what works.
I had a rough time with all the tantrums today, and I got really cranky and grumpy towards the kids, something I don't do much. I mean, I get cranky in general for sure, but I tend not to show it to them so much. Lately I know it's gotten worse, and today was a breaking point. I didn't scream at them, but I admonished them a lot, got frustrated, and did not react well to their behavior in general. My usual approach to tantrums varies based on both which kid is doing it and what the tantrum is about, but generally, I try to offer help, then comfort, then some personal space in that order until something reaches the kid, and at that point I can usually help to figure out what the problem is and how to solve it. I know that at the peak of the tantrum, there's not really much I can do, which can be really frustrating for me (for the kids, too, I'm sure!), so if assistance and/or comfort are refused, I've found it's best for all of us to take some space and time and then try again, which usually does the trick. Sometimes the same tantrum will recur multiple times (i.e. I told them we were going to a friend's house for dinner and Tadpole wanted to go RIGHT NOW - then she'd get over it, then a bit later would remember again, and want to go RIGHT NOW again, and we'd go through the whole cycle again). Recurring tantrums for the same problems are really, really, really frustrating, and require a major shift in how I do things (i.e. don't tell the kids ahead of time when something is going to happen if I suspect a reaction like that).
Anyway, it's 10pm, and I am ready to go fold some laundry and go to bed. Tomorrow is a new day, and a day for preschool. Which requires a whole other post that I will hopefully write ... tomorrow! Good night!