Inconsistency

12 08 2008

I am frittering away my afternoon dipping flowers in scented wax.  Some of Neal’s roses dried beautifully, and before the color fades, I am trying to preserve them.   I have a passion for Glade’s Spiced Rose & Vanilla scented oil candles.  I burn them frequently and keep the spares in my dresser drawers.  I am trying to reach the point where the scent so permeates my room it is like a light haze when you walk in!

I should be folding laundry, doing dishes, teaching spelling, and disciplining children.  Instead I am floating around my bedroom as dreamily as the Lady of Shallott, and my children are watching something on television.  I hope it is educational, but am not prepared to go find out.

The weather is lovely again today.  I have all the windows open and hung freshly washed sheer curtains in the living room just so I could see the breeze lifting and releasing them in long white billows.    I forced my eldest son to help me pull the trunk into my room yesterday.  It’s sitting at the foot of my bed now with my grandmother’s quilt folded on it looking lovely and nostalgic.  I also hung the cross stitch of 1Corinthians 13 beside my bed.  It is taking a good deal of self-restraint not to get on line immediately and order the curtains I have picked out for my room.  They’re Victorian reproductions in a pattern called “floret” and they’re dainty and beautiful.

I suppose I should go do something busy and improving, or at least pray, but all I seem to be capable of these last two days is wandering around fluffing my house.  Lord knows it needs it.  I probably vacuumed miles of spider webs out of the windows yesterday.  I have never lived in a home so infested with tunnel web spiders!

Lisa 2 (Janeofalltrades) commented yesterday that I shouldn’t let my children tell me what to do (by which I presume she means order me out of bed and drag me blueberry picking at 7a.m.)and that I should remind them who God’s delegated authority in our home is.  The problem is that I am generally so taffy-headed that the children need to tell me what to do.  They are quite used to asking things like, “Mom, isn’t that where we were supposed to turn?” and “Mom, didn’t we forget to do history today?” and  “Aren’t we supposed to be going to dance lessons tonight?”

The keyword to every discipline system I have ever read about is “consistency.”  Everyone on earth, it seems, knows that consistency is the way to raise well-behaved mentally healthy children.  I have tried to be consistent, but only in the most inconsistent way!  I will occasionally announce, with great gravity, that we will from now on do thus and such.  My children slink away knowing that if they behave well for a day or two, I’ll forget the whole thing. And I do, very consistently!

I am not, and have never been, a consistent person.  I do things in great feverish rushes.  I become infected with cleanliness and clean passionately for several hours.  Then, for the next three days, I barely lift a hand.  I do great masses of laundry one day, spend the next day reading three books and practicing piano, pay all the bills at midnight, wake up miserable and tired so I take the children shopping and we buy a weeks worth of food and new socks and underwear for anyone who needs it and fix an enormous supper.  The next day we all do research projects and lots of math… at which point I realized the house is filthy and clean passionately for several hours.

It’s not a well-regulated life, I can see that.  And I can certainly see where we would all benefit from more method and constant application.  I am simply unable to do it.  My mother tried for eighteen years to straighten me out, and if I have managed to arrive at the age of 35 without being straightened, well, I’m afraid I’m hopelessly crooked.  My children, like theater children, will just have to scramble up as best they can on irregular hours, famine or feast, and inconsistencies of every kind.

Fortunately the little wretches seem to thrive on it.  This is possibly due to another bit of child-rearing advice I did take very much to heart.  One child-raising book I read said that when dealing with toddlers you should try to say “Yes” as much as possible.  If the child wants to blow bubbles, you shouldn’t say “No, not right now,” you should say, “Yes, as soon as we finish picking up.”  Or if they ask for a cookie, instead of “No, it’s 6 a.m.!  Have some eggs!”  you should say, “Yes, you can have one right after lunch.”  Of course, there are times you simply must say no, and I do.  But whenever possible, I try to say yes.  I started this when Donal was two, and nine years later I think I just forgot to quit.

If my child wants to fingerpaint, my son wants to research Koalas on the internet, my daughter wants to braid my hair, my two-year-old wants to blow bubbles in the bath, my 5-year-old wants some rubber bands, my husband wants to buy a motorscooter, my mom wants me to come see her, my friend wants to meet for a playdate, my daughter wants a slumber party, my children decide it would be fun to hold a back yard fair… I try not to reflexively yell “NO!!!”  I stop and think.  Would it hurt anyone?  Or interrupt something critical?  Or would it just be a little messy, troublesome, and not quite what I had planned?  If it’s the latter, I try to be flexible.  I say yes when I might want to say no.  And most of the time, it turns out to be fun.

So yes, between me wandering around with my head in the clouds, to use my mom’s phrase, and the kids feeling free to try and start their own projects going, I guess our house is a little messy and strange. My children have now turned off the TV.  Brenna and Michael are making musical instruments with tupperware containers and rubber bands.  Patrick has gotten out a roll of sewing ribbon and is experimenting threading it through the hinges and latches of the sewing cabinet door, and Donal is watching his lava lamp and working on a detective story he’s writing about a dog named Holmes.  Meanwhile, I have finished my roses.  They turned out well.

Hopefully the kids will, too.

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2 responses

13 08 2008
Luke Holzmann

I will share this with my wife… you seem very similar!

Thanks so much for sharing!

~Luke

15 08 2008
Linda Miller

Dear Angel,
From looking at the pictures of your home, loving family and well nurtured pets, it seems to me that you’ve got your priorities in the proper order. Neal & you snuggling to watch a movie and him making you snack that you praised and enjoyed sounds pretty good and loving to me. Don’t forget what a short time you’ve had to pick blueberries in this home with Mike. It sounds as though all of you are flourishing and spider webs can wait for rose dipping, it really sounds delightful with your lovely scented wax.
Love you,
Mom

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