One plastic poker chip, one puzzle piece, two rocks, one dog-chewed Ping-Pong ball, one plastic railroad track, one pink princess lid and an inflatable something pink…all in the trash by 8:30 am. I’m tossing out bits and pieces of toys like this every day. I’m already overwhelmed with toys and here comes Christmas when Target throws up in my house all over again.
I will take some ownership of the problem. I do buy my kids toys fairly often, rewards for good behavior; and the many toy bribes, “just sit still a little longer and you can pick out anything you want…. please don’t yell, stop hitting your sister, sit down in the cart….don’t you want that toy???”
And what about birthdays? For my son’s third birthday party I said, “No gifts please.” But a few gifts is nice….right? It doesn’t quite feel like a birthday with out a few presents but how do you get a few gifts without being overwhelmed with gifts? How do you find something between zero and nausea?
Last year, my kids were crazed and over-stimulated for an entire month after Christmas. They screamed and threw toys and ran around like maniacs until half the toys were broken and the rest I gather up and tried unsuccessfully to hide them in the closet.
I do want to be kind and respectful to the gift-givers. They are my friends and family who are well meaning and loving. I don’t want to offend anyone who contributed last year when my two-year-old girl received nine Barbies for Christmas. Nine!!! Do you know what a two-year-old does with Baribies? Undresses them, looses the shoes and the clothes. In the first day, they were striped down. I redressed them, they were de-clothed again the same day. They have been naked ever since. I personally don’t like to see nude Barbies scattered around the house, so I boxed them all up and hid them in the closet. The kids continually found them and nude little ladies were dancing all over the house again. One morning, I was unloading the kids for school and a naked Barbie slid out of the vehicle and sprawled in the school parking lot, making me feel more like a pervert than a Christian mom. I mean, Barbies have well-defined breasts, not just a lumpy center like de-clothed baby dolls. After than morning, I instituted the rule, “No Barbies are allowed out of the bedroom without clothes on!” Of course, all the clothes have been lost or chewed up by the dog, so at this point a mini-nudist colony resides in my daughter’s room. One day soon, I’ll get up the courage to relocate this bunch out of my house forever.
I woke up hearing my four year old say, “I’m gong to cut your head off with a knife!”
“Go to Time Out!” I yell before my eyes are even open. He walks in from outside with a dinner knife in his hand! Here I was sleeping away on the couch while my three and four year olds are running around fighting each other with real knives! I’m horrified!
So began my afternoon. My snooze on the couch was less of a nap and more of a knock-out from the blows I took before lunch. I wanted another Splat the Cat book for my girl, so all four of us headed to the library. I looked for one minute at the card catalogue and by that time two kids had disappeared and my 18 month old was screeching and twisting in his stroller. Forget Splat the Cat, we’ll just grab whatever we find. I chase down my other two who think playing hide and seek from mommy behind the shelves is giggling fun. “Get back here and stay with me,” I snap, along with an extra loud “shhhhhhhh! “. They race down the isle like a crisp breeze, pulling books off the shelf and tossing them at me. In 30 seconds my arms were full of random selections and I was playing librarian, reshelving half of them.
I let my toddler out of the stroller and he squealed with delight, pushing his stroller as fast as he could for the door. I redirect him two or three times. The other two, who are out of sight, start yelling and crying over a pretend book drop in the kids area and I yell from behind the shelves “You must be quiet in the library!!!” and I realize I’m the loudest person of all and announce we have to leave because THEY can’t be quiet.
Books get dropped, my daughter cries, I’m carrying my squirming toddler, pushing the stroller, sweating and panting.
They cry and fight over who gets to hold Brave and a page gets crinkled up in the tug-o-war. I growl and snap at them like a chained rotweiler all the way home as they jockey for books and fight. One book has applesauce on it by the time we reach home. (it’s too hard to explain how this happened)
Next time I feel like I want to be completely exhausted, I’ll go back to the library. Now, I remember why I order books from Amazon.
Home again, three cups of coffee before making lunch and just beginning to unwind when my doorbell rings. My neighbor. She lets me know the normal concofincy of my kids outside playing is bothering her and I need to make them quiet down!!! I am speechless. Deer in the headlights. “Well, I don’t really like the screaming and crying either,” is all I come up with. She leaves, I’m defensive and suddenly exhausted.
After the nap and the proceeding knife fight, I actually feel better. Hours later, the defensiveness rolls away and conviction fall like gentle rain. Okay, my kids ARE loud, I could have/should have responded more maturely.
It’s Halloween. We slam down dinner and all five of us scurry through the house looking for costumes, masks and wigs. We can’t find the baby’s spiderman costume anywhere. (I found it two day later under a pile of homeschool books.) Where are the kids candy buckets? Still in the attic, get the ladder, the kids are crying, can we go now!? We put an extra costume size 4 on my 18 month old and roll up the legs and arms and we’re out the door.
Fun, fun until we come to the neighbor with the complaint. I humble myself, I apologize for being defensive and whisper I’ll try to keep the kids quieter. I leave with rain on my checks. This is my life on Halloween 2012, pregnant and mother of three.
One of the gifts we receive from our children is humility. It’s not my favorite gift as it’s normally preceded by embarrassment. I hate to be embarrassed. I have a sneaky desire to look put-together, polished and have my little angels following me around with smiles on their faces. I dress my kids in stylish clothes, name brands, tutu’s and bows in hair. I know they are adorable, so let’s show the world! But then, chopping right into the heart of feeling like I am a good mother because I have well-dressed and well-behaved kids, tramps the very opposite.
Last week, I took a memorable trip to the Grand Canyon with a girl friend and two of my kids. We had just arrived and our eyes were still sparkling with the wonder of the view when we got in formation for a perfect photo. Two middle-aged men were standing near by and one offered to take our group photo. I scoop up my daughter so all our heads are close together and we smile…we smile for a mere second until we hear a voice yelling out, “My xxxxxx hurts!” (Insert a word similar to Virginia that you don’t want your daughter yelling in public.) Again and again, “My Virginia hurts! My Virginia hurts!” Our smiles crack…I’m waiting for the strangers to just take the picture already so I can put my daughter down and get out of this situation and he seems to be waiting for me to address this loud complaint so we are frozen in an awkward pose, none of us moving while my lovely daughter bellows her complaints.
This event and another public tantrum involving flailing limbs, crying/screeching and falling on the ground that left me steaming. Ahhh humility! I was angry and defensive. I was blinded by embarrassment. There was a slow trickle of truth, taking several days, before I allowed the painfully awkward moments to shine into my heart. Revealed was my superficial need for approval. My own self-worth attached to the behavior of my children. Humility settled in as my motives were laid bare. From painful to thankful.
I accept this gift of humility. I need it. I am reminded God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble. I want to be close to God, close to my children and walk through life with graciousness. Embarrassment, I welcome you. When I untie the bow and lift the lid, I’ll find the treasure of humility within.