The Honest Mommy

Uncensored thoughts on parenting & more

Kids playing contentedly June 26, 2014

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Yes, yes. This is what I need. This is what the kids need. To play at home contentedly; to get along with each other reasonably well; to enjoy outings but enjoy being at home as well.

Today the kids have been playing at home all day, up until the present (1 p.m). A few hours were spent with a neighbor playmate; the rest of the time they have been alone. There have been a few skittishes, but otherwise it’s been smooth sailing.

For me, I have so many things to do (lots of cooking; laundry; assembling products to sell for my business; doing work at my computer) that I need this time at home. Not to mention the fact that we will have company tomorrow (hello, housecleaning) and we are going out of town the day after tomorrow (hello, laundry and packing).

I believe that in previous generations, children have had to entertain themselves at home much of the time. Such a shocking concept, but one that I wholeheartedly practice in my home.


What kind of “playdate mom” am I? An old-fashioned one. April 7, 2011

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It’s the time of week where 5yo Adam’s friend, also 5 years old, comes over to play for a few hours. Like any mom who’s hosting a playdate, I have to decide how I’m going to conduct myself. Will I be super friendly, just call me by my first name, what can I do to provide fun for you guys? Or will I be old fashioned, matter-of-fact, please call me Mrs. Doe?

Those of you who have been reading this blog for awhile know that I tend toward the latter, not the former.

I definitely don’t want to be a jerk to the kids, but neither am I the children’s “friend.” If I had to pick, and I think picking becomes necessary at some point, I’d rather the kids be a little “afraid” of me than for them to feel like I’m their equal.

Reading this, if you’re a mom, you may be thinking, “What a jerk! I’d never send my kids over to her house!” And indeed, if you pale at the idea that I would ask your child to call me Mrs. Doe instead of  by my first name; if you are uncomfortable with the idea that I would ask your child to play outside for 30 minutes before coming in (on a nice day with plenty of safe and appropriate options for outdoor play), then you probably would not want to send your child to my house for a playdate.

It is somewhat rare these days to run into a mom who lives by old-fashioned principles, but I am that mom. I am not mean, I am not short-tempered (usually! ha!), I am not unreasonable, but I am old fashioned.


2-year-old controlling my day? March 8, 2011

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Here is something that I think a lot of parents, especially at-home parents, can relate to.

We are on Spring Break this week, which means no preschool for my 5-year-old and no Mommy & Me class on Wednesday morning. It’s not so bad being at home more than usual; there sure is plenty to do around the house, from everyday cleaning to organization tasks that pertain to our current flooring projects.

Here is the problem: We are at home in the morning. I have tons of things to do. Clean the kitchen, fix low-carb food for myself, make phone calls, do some work at the computer. And spending a morning at home seems like the perfect time to work on these things. But the limiting factor is, of course, the kids. Specifically, my 2-year-old. He gets quite… what is the word? Restless? Aggressive?

Much of the time, I can’t just do my thing while the kids do their thing, because Mark is getting into mischief (though we are about as childproofed as can be) or hitting his older brother or interfering with what his brother is trying to do (put together a puzzle) or fussing at me to be picked up, have his sippy cup filled up, to be read to.

It is enough to drive me bonkers. It’s not that I expect to completely ignore my kids all day. But really, unless Mark is sick or unless there is (what I consider to be) a special reason for him to be restless or unhappy, I think there is something wrong with the idea that Mark can dictate the tone of our entire household; what we do or don’t do; etc.

Certainly mothers of previous generations had a *lot* of work to do every day. They did not have a lot of time to devote to a 2-year-old who was determined to interfere with everyone and everything.

Don’t get me wrong. I love Mark (28 months) very, very much. But it is because I love him so much that I need to put more work into setting limits on behavior.


Quick update – MIL Visit, Son “holding and wetting” October 12, 2010

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Hello friends,

I say “friends” because I feel a certain kinship with you, my readers. So many people come here looking for information about “SAHM Burnout,” “SAHM Depression,” and so on. I really empathize with your struggles, every single one of you. Being a mom brings with it some very tough days, weeks, months, even years! I definitely don’t have all the answers, but I want you to know that you are not alone, and if you are tired of feeling like the “only one” who’s not sailing through this mom/SAHM thing, then you’ve come to the right place.

This week we are approaching my younger son Mark’s second birthday. This is an exciting and happy time for me, and I’m looking forward to having friends and family over for birthday cake on Saturday. However, this is also a stressful time because my MIL, who moved halfway across the country a few months ago, is coming to visit [NOT stay with us].

The last few years of our relationship with her have been volatile and full of change. To make a long story short, over the last 1-2 years, Hubby and I decided that despite all of MIL’s wonderful qualities, we needed to create some more boundaries between her and our family. (We have gotten help from a family therapist in navigating this trickiness, thank God.) MIL interpreted our actions and decisions as hurtful and as “pushing her away,” and she decided to move to a different state.

She told Hubby that her reason for the move was – me! Yours truly. I guess this Honest Mommy was a little too honest for MIL’s liking.

Over the last year, MIL has done some quite hurtful and passive-aggressive things, such as sending a change-of-address card to every member of our family except me. Such as neglecting to send a card for our 10-year wedding anniversary, though she did wish Hubby a happy anniversary on the phone. So classy.

I don’t think I feel too hurt by these sorts of things, BUT…. now that MIL is coming to town for a visit, I feel a little lost about how to interact with her. She will probably see the children’s artwork collecting on our walls and wonder why we (I) haven’t sent her more pieces for her artwork frame that we got her a few Christmases ago. But, why would I bother to do that sort of thing for her very often, when she so clearly dislikes me?

In any case, I have been doing a few things to prepare the house for her eyes. I took down some quotes that I had posted above the kitchen sink; it feels too personal to let her see those. I tucked away my journal so no one is likely to just “come across it.” I edited our framed photos to prevent her from gaining ammunition about how we favor certain parts of the family. And so on.

After she moved away a few months ago, it was a relief to me to let my home be as I wished it to be. I am thankful that I need to MIL-proof my home only a few times per year now. It’s not that she is snoopy (that I know of), but it’s that there are certain expressions of who I am that I do not feel comfortable sharing with her.

Another interesting issue will be the disciplinary process which we are taking Jakob through right now. We have a system where, if he wets his pants at home, preschool, church, etc., then he loses most of his privileges until he keeps himself dry for ten days in a row. The wetting is due to his reluctance (or whatever) to use the toilet when he would rather “hold it,” and we believe that he is very aware of what he is doing and what the result will be.

(For a while, he would secretly [so he thought] “hold it” while he was at home, to the point of wetting himself before he finally darted to the bathroom, then later he would hide his wet underwear under his dresser and put on clean underwear. This kid is smart, and getting more sneaky by the day. I just can’t accept that a kid who can pull of this kind of plan doesn’t “get” that he needs to go potty.)

So anyway, John Rosemond calls this approach “kicking out of the Garden of Eden” and it is designed to a get a child’s attention by removing many of the things that a child enjoys on a daily basis. We remove pretty much everything of interest from Adam’s bedroom so he is left with furniture, bedding, and so on; anything that’s left he is not allowed to play with (for example, the board games that are high up on shelves).

Adam attends preschool, church, errands, and some other necessary activities. He eats meals and snacks with the family. And obviously, he bathes and uses the toilet as usual. Other than that, he is expected to stay in his room and, while he’s there, to conduct himself in a manner that is not overly disruptive to the rest of the family. All the while, whether at home or away, he is expected to take responsibility for going to the toilet in a timely fashion, and we check periodically to make sure he is dry.

At the end of each day, if he has stayed dry, he puts a smiley face on the calendar. Ten smiley faces in a row earns him his privileges back. If he has eight dry days and then slips up, the ten days start over again.

Hubby and I *hate* that we have to do this, but darling Adam is so stubborn and has wet himself so many times (for no good reason) that we see no other options. At this time, we are willing to go through the inconvenience and heartache of kicking Adam “out of the garden” with the hope that he will learn valuable lessons about personal responsibility.

We see this issue not as a potty training issue or even a toileting issue, but rather as an issue of stubbornness and defiance. We have even done a hands-on demonstration using water, cups,bowls, and so on, to try to help him understand that his bladder can only hold so much and that it’s always getting filled up, little by little, by his body, therefore “waiting too long” can only have one result — wet underwear.

So anyway, when MIL comes to our house, she is going to see that Adam’s room is pretty bare, and she will figure out what is going on, either by asking or figuring it out on her own (she is aware that we have used this disciplinary technique). And I am pretty sure that she will flip out, even if she tries to hide that fact. One time, she told Hubby that she thought that Child Services would be “interested” to hear about some of the things we do. Really!

It goes without saying that Hubby and I completely disagree, but that doesn’t change her opinion on the matter. She also has a hard time seeing all aspects of Adam’s personality. Everything that’s wonderful is, well, wonderful, and everything else either doesn’t exist (in her eyes) or has a good excuse behind it, or is simply Mom and Dad’s fault. As a result, I doubt she would ever truly grasp the situation with Adam’s “holding and wetting,” and she certainly wouldn’t understand why we kick Adam out of the garden.

This week looks like it will be interesting. I will keep you updated!


Self-directed activities for kids September 13, 2010

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Thought of the day:

I think that some of children’s best, most positive, memories come from things that they come up with to do on their own, without adult participation or direction. It could be a craft, a game (even a board game that they play by themselves), or any activity that they dream up.

At present, my 5yo son is riding a “Big Wheel” through a loop that he discovered on his own. The loop goes through our garage, out the door, through a fence gate, and back in through the garage door. Clearly there is something imaginative going on, since he is talking to himself and is very intent on this activity.

If I were outside with him, even keeping to myself by reading the newspaper, he probably wouldn’t have come up with this idea. I think that the very presence of an adult can keep a child from fully exploring his/her imaginative protential.

I don’t advocate neglecting a child, and I believe that babies and younger children “need” more from adults than older children do. But all in all, it seems to me that a preschool-aged child benefits a great deal from having time to him/herself, with no direction or any kind of interference from adults.


A new era has begun (I hope) August 25, 2010

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Is this the beginning of a new era at our house?

  1. Yesterday, I took our regular kitchen trash can and moved it into the kitchen. And put it on the floor. For the last year or longer, we have used a tiny little trash can on the kitchen counter, due to Mark (age 22 months) constantly getting into the trash. Having the trash can on the counter was somewhat convenient, but also made me sad because we have such little counter space to begin with. So, the trash situation has returned to normal – for now, possibly for good – in our kitchen. What a relief.
  2. I am currently sitting in a comfy chair and am surrounded by my laptop, my coffee, my phone, a pen, my GTD Coordinator, my Bible, and a few other things. Mark is playing at the coffee table just a few feet away, but (here is the important part) he is not attacking me, my laptop, or any of my belongings. When he starts to get a little unruly, I remind him about time-out (in the Pack & Play). Since he is well rested and not hungry or ill, he seems capable of reigning in his desire to “get into everything.”

This is a giant step forward from the chaos we have been living in for the past year. Not being able to sit down and think, plan, read, pray, or type (without fending off a very determined toddler) has really done a number on me, and it feels terrific to be able to do these things again at a time other than naptime or bedtime.

From Rosemond I learned that around the time a toddler turns 18 months old, it is the parents’ job to gradually, lovingly, and firmly build boundaries around themselves so the child learns that s/he does not have complete access to the parents any time s/he feels like it. This makes a lot of sense to me, and it seems clear that a toddler who starts to learn these boundaries has the opportunity to grow into a child who is pleasant to live with, can handle a classroom environment, can be a joy to have as a guest, and so on.

It is a great relief to me that I can finally draw some boundaries around myself. As a mother, I live with so many interruptions and intrusions – on my body, time, and attention. (Yesterday morning, for example, Mark needed to go “number 2” at least six times, all before lunch! Since he’s young, it requires a lot of time and physical labor to get through the whole potty process.)

It’s no wonder that I often feel burnt out and that I’ve lost my sense of self. It’s not uncommon for me to struggle to finish anything without interruptions or downright intrustions, whether it’s making a simple grocery list or wolfing down a microwavable meal.

This morning, I am thankful to God for these bright spots of hope, and I am thankful that He has brought me through a challenging season of parenting.


Dodged a bullet, at least for a moment August 3, 2010

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Adam, 5 years old, has been particularly underfoot today.

A moment ago he came up from the basement, where he and Little Brother had been playing. It seemed that Adam was getting ready to, well, talk at me (something I have had more than enough of today).

Mom: Adam, do you need something to do? (undertone: chores)

Adam: No.

Mom: Okay, then I expect you to not bother me right now.

I think John Rosemond would be proud. And, I got a few more minutes of relative peace and quiet.


My 5yo – Honing his skills at Being Outside Playing On Your Own July 28, 2010

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Lately I have had very little down-time or time to myself. Hubby was out of town for a few days (not long by many people’s standards) and as a result, I felt like a hamster in the wheel from the moment I woke up until I fell into bed at night. Mind you, I have only two kids (one 5 years old, the other 21 months old) and my commitments outside of the home are minimal. That is to say, I am not Miss Suzy-Super-Volunteers-for-Everything; quite the opposite, in fact.

Even so, the simple (?) responsibilities of keeping these kids fed, clothed, and entertained (I use that term loosely) is enough to make my head spin some days.

Therefore, today I am drawing some firm lines in the sand in order to protect my sanity. This morning I read an essay by John Rosemond in which he describe’s his mother’s practice of sending him outside to play in the morning, with firm instructions not to return until lunchtime.

This being a beautiful day around here — sunny with a nice breeze — after Adam’s lunch, I gave him the choice of resting in bed or playing outside until Mark wakes up from his nap. Adam has been in and out several times, and each time he comes inside, I remain firm about this arrangement. We have a fenced-in backyard with plenty of shade, a playset, a hammock, and so on. I really feel it is time for Adam discover the finer points of Being Outside Playing On Your Own.

I feel a bit of sympathy for him because he really wants to play Legos in his room right now. Nothing wrong with that at all, but it never fails that if he is indoors, he manages to be underfoot in some way, and I firmly believe in the importance of Mom or Dad having true downtime. There are plenty of other opportunities for him to play indoors, and once those opportunities arise, his Legos will be that much more fun.


No discipline is pleasant at the time: Thoughts on rewards June 23, 2010

My recent post about helping my almost 5yo son overcome his desire to withhold his urine has garned a fair amount of traffic and comments. I want to thank Trish and Flybaby for taking the time to share their thoughts in the comments section.

I agree with Trish that the chart was helpful for him, especially since his grasp of time is still developing. I think it’s interesting to note that a chart which keeps a track record is different from the “reward charts” that we as parents are accustomed to. With a reward chart, a sticker is emphasized as the reward (or, a sticker is used as a way to mark progress toward some type of reward, like a trip out for ice cream). If such a chart is being used with a child, s/he can easily decide at any time that s/he is no longer interested in the reward, however enticing it may be.

In contrast, a chart that’s used to keep a track record of how a child is progressing toward earning back normal, everyday privileges (in my son’s case, the privilige of being out of his room, playing with toys, and so on) isn’t really a rewards chart at all, but rather is a visual aid to help the child understand things like the passage of time. It is also a memory aid that allows the parent to point out, for example, “Yesterday, you got a sad face because you chose to wet your underwear after lunch instead of using the toilet.”

I suppose I’m in the minority because I am not a fan of rewards. It’s not that I never, ever use them, but I use them so seldom that it’s hardly worth mentioning. (Recently I used small candies to get my 20mo son over a potty training hump, and I took them out of the picture after a very short period of time.) I am truly grateful to John Rosemond for educating parents, and anyone who will listen, about the farce of rewards. I feel it has saved me a good deal of time and heartache to avoid the topic from the get-go.

I don’t claim to be an expert on the topic, but I imagine that my grandmother would have frowned on reward charts or any kind of special privileges bestowed on a child for doing what s/he should be doing anyhow (keeping pants dry, doing homework, etc.). And I think she did a pretty fabulous job of raising her five children!


No discipline is pleasant at the time… June 10, 2010

Oh my, what a day. The extent to which we are trying to compel our children to do the right thing is something I think few, if any, of my friends would understand.

First there is my son Adam, almost 5 years old. He has had a “hold and wet” habit for years, where he will withhold his urine until he slowly wets himself. This goes on for hours sometimes, and I refuse to accept that he isn’t aware of what’s going on. Last weekend, DH and I had had enough of this habit of his, and we agreed to confine him to his stripped-down room until he kept himself dry for three days in a row. A “mistake” would start the three days over again.

Sunday was the day of his offense, so Sunday he spent the entire afternoon until bedtime in his room (except for meals and necessary outings). On Monday, his one break from his room was an outing to Mommy & Me, where he decided he “just didn’t want to go” potty there, and therefore wet himself. On Tuesday, during/after a trip to the grocery store, he wet himself. Wednesday, he managed to stay dry all day, with no real reminders from Mom or Dad. That brings us to today, Thursday. He has kept dry, but has broken the rules a few times, with compelling consequences afterwards.

His first infraction today was that he took a book from a shelf (one of the few things I hadn’t removed from his room) and was looking at it. He tried to quickly put it away when he saw me coming, and he looked very alarmed and guilty. Therefore, I knew that he knew that he was breaking the rules.

Just last night I was reading in John Rosemond’s Parenting by the Book about how consequences need to exceed the seriousness of the offense. I believe he states that if an offense, on a scale of 1 – 10, rates as a 3, the consequence needs to rate as a 6. Keeping that in mind, I sent Adam to sit in a chair for one hour, with no talking, horsing around, or getting up allowed (except for potty breaks). I do hope that this long hour, with nothing to do, impressed upon him the importance of following the rules.

Later, he kept stepping out of his room to have a peek at his little brother (more on this later). At first I felt sympathetic to the idea that it might be hard to remember the rule (he is used to having the door closed or to having a gate there). But after reminding him of the rule five or six times, I felt I was being played. So, I sent him to stand in a corner for 30 minutes. When the 30 minutes were up, I had him tell me why he was sent to the corner and also why he was spending three days (more, actually) in his room.

It seems to me that he is becoming a little more humble-minded and meek as time goes by. It seems to me that being “kicked out of the Garden of Eden,” as Rosemond calls it, is giving Adam a lot to think about with regard to his normal privileges and freedoms.

To be continued….