Friday, October 8, 2010

Charting the course.

It came in a flash, a bolt. A thundering epiphany. A revelation.

You know what you need, Rachel?
Do you want to know what you. really. need?

Scrapbooking scissors.

And a Chart.


The voice came as I was vacuuming a few weeks ago, shortly after an experience that easily illustrates my recent loss of control as parent. Jacob and Erica's reception at my parent's house had just wrapped up nicely. Tyler had returned from an out of town trip on time to be there, and my job of decoration and preparing everything had turned out well. Lily and London were primped and curled, twirling around the whole affair in their fluffy white flower girl dresses.

It was time to go, and Lily had just caught a toad in the yard with Pop. She carried it over excitedly in her hands and begged and pleaded to keep it. It was 9:30pm, well past bed-time, and toad keeping was just not an option.

"No Lu, can come back and catch it next time."

Enter earth shattering tantrum.

She collapsed, kicking and screaming in her white dress in the middle of the dusty driveway. She arched her back and attempting throwing Lily-punches as Tyler wrestled her into the car and I climbed into the driver's seat and hurriedly started the engine. Shrieking and sobbing, tears flying everywhere, she issued Lily-profanities in her loudest voice. Her curls were now a matte of tangles and sweaty heat as her red faced crinkled in fury.

I drove approximately a third of a mile, and just as her lungs had surpassed all humanly possible decibel levels, I slammed on the brakes dramatically and issued my command:

"Okay, that's it. Get out.
Get out.
Get out."

There was a brief silence. She looked back defiantly, squinting with her fluid filled eyes. Unbuckled all of her satin and chiffon and stood...


She proceeded to unlock her door, opening it to the dark night and vast landscape of lonely sagebrush. There was only a brief moment of hesitation behind her scowl and rosy cheeks, but she meant business. So did I.

"I mean it Lu, if you act like can't stay in the car. Get out."

Enter Tyler into the conversation.

Rae, what are you doing? Lily, just get back in your seat."

He hopped out of the car and went back to her seat to help her buckle, all while trying to console her cries. He explained everything was okay, and that she just needed to calm down and we would be home in a few minutes. I shot him the look of marital death.

You just broke the cardinal rule of co-parenting, buddy. You're being the good guy! The good cop! In front of our child, you are undermining my authority! How dare you! I think any expert would agree you have just made a serious please allow me to proceed with kicking our four-year old little girl in a pretty dress out of our car at 10pm to make her way alone in the desert.

He knew the look, and firmly responded,

"I know, I know, Rae...I'm not trying to go against you in front of them, but this is NOT how you should handle it. You know what she's doing? She's pulling a Rachel. She's tired, exhausted, and has lost a little control. You don't kick her out in the sagebrush. That's just not what you do."

What do you mean?! You've kicked me out into the sagebrush plenty of times.

{Okay, maybe not.}

She fell asleep in her booster seat minutes after we resumed our drive home.

He was right. So right. {dang}


I had been pulling too many "Rachel's" myself. With each push of the vacuum, motherhood's difficulty was apparent. I was tired, yes, and needed to regain control. So when my epiphany came, like manna from heaven, I was so grateful:

Exactly!!! I need scrapbooking scissors and a chart!

All Amazing Mothers have scrapbooking scissors and charts. This is truth. Call me crazy, but I challenge you to find a mother who has things under control who does NOT utilize these two materials. I've seen it first hand plenty of times. That one Mom who seems so. put. together. Her children say please and thank you and do chores and have never heard the words "Damn you all!" spewing from her lips. Search behind her scenes, and you'll notice there is always an element of color coding, chart progressing, sticker sticking, scrapbook scissoring going on. I swear.

I identified a few areas of aggravation in my life. And especially dealing with the children solo so often, as I had been with Tyler traveling, it was up to me to change the landscape of home. We needed a few simple rules. Cardinal rules. And, we needed a schedule. Nothing ridiculous and extremely regimented, but a general pattern that my children needed to follow. Morning and evenings were the most difficult. So I charted two separate posters.

We had a family home evening. We went over the schedule and the girls excitedly colored and decorated our kitschy little posterboard. We practiced and detailed rewards for following the schedule.
Side 1

Side 2

It is borderline freakish how these simple posterboards have changed our lives.

Our rules chart is wonderfully generic and awesome. I pretty much summed up three rules that I can apply anything too. For example, the other day when I caught Lily taking a pair of scissors to begin cutting up one of my favorite aprons, I simply asked,

"Lily, is that LOVING OUR HOME?"

Or another day when London was acting like this...

"London, is that ACTING SASSY?"

Inevitably, a brief recollection of our
infamous chart comes to their minds...

And all is well. (Mostly).

So, if anyone needs to borrow a pair of scalloped scissors, I'm your girl.
I think I have about 7 sets. We've turned a new leaf in the past few weeks and I can't deny, they have worked miracles for me.


Natalie said...

Is it bad that I saw nothing wrong with your knee jerk reaction to kick your screaming child out of the car? At least for a moment. I would do it if I was out in the middle of nowhere and needed a minute to find my sanity or see the humor in the situation=) I loved your description of the whole ordeal, and your long term solution is right up my ally. Who know why kids love charts? They just make the world make sense to them in a miraculous way. Loved this post.

Joan said...

Rachel act dramatically!? Her daughters follow suit?! NEVER! haha.
I love teasing you. I hope you are in the mood to accept it with a smile :)
I miss our conversations on the couch and foot rubs...ah, blessed foot rubs.
Guess what I bought and it makes me think of you: Martha Stewart glitter (for a Halloween project but also for my TOES!)

Alexis said...

Oh no...somewhere in the far recesses of my memory is a time I GOT OUT OF THE CAR and left all 6 or 7 (or maybe it was 8) of the children in a parking lot along Interstate 5 on a trip back from Disneyland (without Dad)- found a lounge chair near the pool of a random motel and sat there while the rest of you...
(DISCLAIMER: it was mild weather so no one was threatened to die of heat exhaustion...and the biggest offenders were the "children" ages 17, 16, 14, 12 etc)
...yelled back from the car "Mom, wait, where are you going? We were just kidding...Hey guys - she's serious. Oh no!"
I guess I emotionally scarred you and now you are threatening to abandon my darling grandchildren in the dark desert. Oh dear...

RusticOkie said...

I can not even begin to express to you how much I love this post. I've been having a few of those moments lately with my daughter (who I'm told is just like me). I think it's time to bust out my scissors as well.