What I'm doing about it

When your own children gaslight you

I just got all the kids off to school and I am FUMING and I need to sit down a minute and FOCUS and CHILL and THINK CONSTRUCTIVELY. It's either this or tear into all the candy I bought for teacher presents. 

I feel like I can't have nice things, and I can't have nice things because I have kids and a husband. And my standard for Nice Things is VERY VERY LOW. As in, a playroom that isn't covered in Legos. A bedroom with art above the bed and clothes put away. Toilets that aren't growing things. A living room where you can sit down. 

I CAN have these things, but only if I 1) yell and scream and stomp my feet and FUH-REAK OUT on people, or 2) do it myself. 

I end up doing it myself, almost always, even when I WANT to scream at everyone at make them do it becauuuuuse often by the time I realize no one made their beds or they didn't pick up what I asked them to pick up or remember what I told them to remember, everyone is gone for the day and it's just me at home. And I could save up my rage all day and let it out when they get home, or I could do it myself, breathe, and try to think about how to make things better. 

Except I can't figure out how to make things better. Not REALLY better. 

My ideas for Sorta Better are as follows. Ahem. 

  1. Make a giant poster that says BEFORE YOU HAVE BREAKFAST, YOU MUST: WASH YOUR FACE, COMB YOUR HAIR, BRUSH YOUR TEETH, AND MAKE YOUR BED. DO NOT EVEN THINK ABOUT BREAKFAST BEFORE THESE THINGS UPON PENALTY OF NO IPAD FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIVES. And taping to the cupboard with the cereal. 
  2. Take time at night to lay out clothes, pack lunches, make sure everyone has picked up rooms and put away their clothes, instead of slogging through the pajamas/books/bed like zombies and then passing out on the couch in front of Netflix like I usually do. (Unrealistic? Requires personality transplant? Cooperation from the other parent?) 
  3. Find a way to talk to them when they get home from school in a way that actually makes a difference and ISN'T me screaming. (HAAAAAAA)

Because I hate screaming, you guys, I really really do. It makes me even more mad. Because what are they supposed to do while I'm screaming? The moment I'm upset about is long past, most of the time, and there's nothing they can actually go do. I never make their beds for them and rarely pick up specific messes - I do make them do that later on - but things like "don't leave giant globs of toothpaste in the sink" are probably daily issues and I don't see them unless I go in the kids' bathroom (which I don't have to do anymore on account of having spent their college fund on my own bathroom) or when they put clean clothes in the hamper so they don't have to put them away.  

Clearly 99% of the problem is that Phillip and I are incredibly lazy and often choose the path of least resistance and conflict and while we ARE getting better at having the kids help with the house, none of us Cheungs are consistent about anything and there's no obvious Cleaning Up routine. It's "We're having dinner in 15 minutes, put everything away!" and "I need you to clean up all your dolls before school" and there isn't enough time and "OH MY GOD STOP DOING THAT AND DO THE THING I TOLD YOU TO DO." And things that I think ARE clear expectations - comb your hair! before the last minute! - are daily fights.

Sometimes I think: if I worked, if I was GONE all day and not STARING at all the things that make me RAGEY, maybe this would be better. But I think that's probably wrong. I wonder if it would even be worse, because my options would still be scream/do it myself, except with way less time to do it, including time spent darkly brooding on the couch with a mug of Ear Grey/half and half/Splenda.  

Then there are things like: Jack couldn't find his black binder that holds his copied piano music from lessons. It wasn't anywhere. Not in the car, not by the piano, not in the entry way where everyone leaves their crap for me to yell about, not in our HOUSE, SURELY IT MUST BE AT THE PIANO TEACHER'S HOUSE!!! I even texted our teacher to ask. We had to skip lessons yesterday on account of holiday madness so it wasn't the worst thing ever, but then this morning when I was rushing around looking for the reindeer antlers Emma was supposed to wear to school, and were no longer hanging on the hook by her backpack where I put them because some child had made off with them, I saw a black binder. On Jack's desk. On top of a giant mess of papers. Like, there was a giant mess on Jack's desk, but a black binder was sitting on top of all of it, in plain view. I opened it. Fur Elise.

AND NOW I AM RAGEY. I can't even yell at him about it, because he's at school, and the next time I see him he'll be performing with the after school drama class and I'll be so happy and proud and this, like everything else, will go Unaddressed. My family is constantly gaslighting me and I'm going to die of it. It must not be here. No one can find it! It wasn't anyone's fault! No one knows what I'm talking about! They'll just nod and stare slightly to the left while I yell at them, waiting until I'm done and they can go make their next mess and I'm left to slooooooowly go insane. 

I JUST DON'T WANT TO YELL, OKAY?

Comments

Sarah

Solidarity!! It's minus 500 degrees outside (Celsius, but still), and could one child find his snow pants? No. He insisted he had brought them home AND hung them up. I, oh so helpfully, pointed out they must be magic then if they can disappear on their own. Sigh. I usually try to have one room that is clean and tidy that I can hide out in, but that's not even happening these days.

Taylor

Hi! I had a similar problem with my 8 year old. I hate to nag. So, we implemented a chore chart. He has to complete all the chores before he can have his ipad time each evening while I cook dinner. It's so motivating that he usually tries to do most of them in the morning before school. I just say, "did you finish all your chores?" when he asks if it's time to play the ipad at night. We bought this chore chart on Etsy, but you could easily make it or something similar: https://www.etsy.com/transaction/1162543264. He's 8 and has 8 chores each day; make bed, tidy bedroom, tidy bathroom, practice piano 15 min, practice handwriting 15 min, tidy family room of toys and books, water plants, and practice spanish 15 min.

Suzanne

Preaching to the choir -- the sad yell-y choir who haaaaates yelling and does it anyway. BLARGH. Yes. That's my contribution to your angst. When you figure out The Secrets, lemme know, pretty please?

Sarahd

If someone knows the solution to this problem PLEASE let me know ASAP! Because 1) I do work full time and 2) my kids are MUCH older (11 and 14) and things are not really any better:(. Yes, they CAN do more for themselves but it still mostly involves me nagging at them before it's done. I'm so tired of it and it's sad when you have two boys you love SO MUCH and yet you still fantasize about what it would be like to live in a pretty, clean little apartment ALONE!!!

AmyRyb

Holy crap, you just put my daily frustration into words, and much more entertaining words than I would use, at that. I have a husband and two boys (8 and 3) who do not take action on this stuff, AT ALL. I will say that I do work out of the house, and it does help. Yes, there is less time to deal with it, but I was much more bothered by messes when I lost my job and was home all day staring at them. But I feel like nothing gets done unless I do it myself or yell about it. Nice, calm asking seems to do nothing, so it always escalates. My 8yo has always had some behavior issues so we hadn't pushed the chore thing with him. It was a "pick your battles" thing, and in retrospect, we should have picked that one. Most of his elaborate toy setups have been allowed to stay out for days, which is fine as long as it's reasonably contained. But since forcing him to do chores was just one more argument we didn't need, it's been a slow process teaching him to participate now. It took months of reminding him to get him to regularly rinse out his cereal bowl instead of leaving it on the table. I still have to tell him to brush his teeth almost every day because he rushes off to play a video game before school. He forgets/loses everything, and it is exhausting because I don't have the capacity to know all....even though I apparently am expected to. I honestly thought of doing something very similar to your poster suggestion, no joke. And honestly, I don't even know how people do a pre-bedtime cleanup, as it is hard enough for me to drag them to bed without adding a chore to the mix. It's exhausting and I am so SICK of hearing myself yell. ALL. THE. TIME. Which I wouldn't have to do if they just freaking listened and obeyed the first time. The problem has only gotten worse this time of year since there are Christmas decorations everywhere and lots of projects waiting to be completed and things like that. The stacks of paperwork and catalogs and cold weather gear are starting to make me lose my mind! My husband and I have our first real vacation alone since we had kids in April and I am just looking forward to not yelling at anyone (or being annoyed with my husband's role in all of this) for days on end for the first time in ages. Heavenly.

K

THIS. With 5 kids almost 8 and under, I feel this way most of the time. I do stuff myself or get so mad when I am yelling/nagging.

My older 2 are 15 months apart like Jack and Molly. Since switching to Catholic school, and talking with my son's teacher, we have realized that yes our son is incredibly smart and sweet, but we really need to up our expectations with our older 2 turning 7 and 8. They need to know what we expect and to become more responsible (they do some things but not as much as they should be.)

So we talked and while the full plan isn't set in stone yet, we have decided to let the kids know what we expect with their behavior and what they need to be doing like setting the table, helping clean up, putting away their toys, clothes etc instead of me always doing it for them. Better they learn now rather than later. And honestly it's my own fault for just doing everything for them myself for so long! We will need to decide what the outcome will be such as chores aren't done, there will be no TV time before bed and the key: STICK TO IT.

Let's make a pact we can do this together !

Karmin

I like what you've done here. #teammaggie

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