Sunday, May 3, 2009


Last night we took the kids out to dinner. Yes, we were one of those families - you know, the kind that you probably wouldn't want to have to sit near in a restaurant because of all those kids. They were pretty well-behaved and I don't think we disturbed our fellow diners too much.

We don't do this often, for obvious reasons (it's a hassle, it's expensive, yada yada yada), but the excitement that showed on all the kids' faces when we said we were going out to dinner - all of us - well, it was worth it.

Afterwards, we took the kids all out for ice cream! They must have thought Dad and I had lost our minds.

It was fun. The kids were all so happy, and I've been thinking about this, about why this made them so happy. The thing is . . . it's a constant struggle to make the time to do things as a family, things that center around the kids. They were happy because we were all going to do something together. I mean, we eat at home together all the time, but that's different. This was an outing of which the focus was being together, and not just getting through a meal.

Most of our weekends are full of errands that have to be run, chores that need to be done, and the like. And the kids? Well, they're mostly expected to entertain each other and themselves and let us do what we need to do.

I think a lot - a lot - about my shortcomings as a mother, and I know that one of the biggies is that I don't make myself available enough to my kids. I'm here, I'm with them almost all the time, but it's really hard for me to get down on their level, to play with them, to have fun with them. (That was really hard to write here.) I really didn't get to be a kid much when I actually was a kid; I had a lot of innappropriate responsibility on my shoulders from a very young age, and I'm sure that's had a lasting effect on me. It's hard for me to relax and just be, to not feel like I have to be doing something productive all the time, and sadly, my kids are impacted by that.
Anyway, I've been struggling a lot with the kids lately. It seems like it's near-constant conflict. I can blame it partly on the various ages and stages of the kids: Kevin, prepubescent extraordinaire (need I say more?); Joey is suffering from typical middle-child syndrome, lost in the shuffle and acting out with high emotions and obnoxious behavior (such as stuffing markers down the toilet); Annabelle has been behaving aggressively towards Lilah; Daisy, on top of her usual uber-emotional state has now added snotty-attitude to her repertoir; and Lilah is at that two-going-on-three stage where everything is a battle. So there's that. There's also my personal stress level with Finn, with Michael and everything he's going through. But regardless of all of that, I know I'm not being the best mom I could be. I have to find a way to rise above all that and be there for my kids - really be there, be with them, and not just try to get through every day, which is how it's felt for a while.
Last night after we got home from dinner and ice cream, I started making the muffins that I had promised the kids I would make to have for breakfast. Joey wandered into the kitchen and I asked him if he wanted to help. His eyes lit up. See, usually I would just be like "No, I'll just do it myself, I don't want the mess, blah blah blah." Sad. I let him stir the batter and a small thing like that just made him so happy.

I have the power to make my kids happy.


Jen said...

I have a hard time playing with my kids on their level too. There's just always something else that I need to be, or would rather be, doing.

It's pretty powerful to realize, though, how little it takes to make them happy. A little extra attention, playing a game, reading a book.

Thanks, once again, for making me think.

Kristin said...

You would have been the family that we asked to sit next to. I had to give dirty looks to an old lady in a Mexican resturant last night. The kids were busy but not over the top and she complained TO THE MANAGER! It was 4:50 pm when we were seated. If you want to eat in a child free resturant I would suggest waiting until after 9.

Karly said...

I really relate, Lisa...and I only have two. That should make it easier, right? This is actually one of the reasons that I think two kids is our "number," because if I don't spend the time "with" them that I should now, I am only going to be more stressed with another one I would guess. Part of my problem is the mess factor, which I just need to get over.

Hmmm, I could go on and on, but I think I need my own post on this subject. Thanks for bringing it up.

Kim said...

Lisa, cut yourself some slack. :) I struggle with the very same things and I only have 3 kids! I love the two-buck chuck in the background....I knew I liked you! ;)

Kim said...

Oh, my mistake....I think it's Barefoot. But I like that, too. :)

Anonymous said...

Sniff sniff.... yeah, the messes ( and not freaking out over them) are worth their smile.

Powerful words: " I have the power to make my kids happy"


Tricia said...

As Jen said, I SO get this. I have been feeling really guilty about it lately too. It brought a tear to my eye to realize that other people feel the same way and have the same problem. I so get this: "It's hard for me to relax and just be, to not feel like I have to be doing something productive all the time."

You are a great mom.

Tara said...

I can completely relate. Stress makes me focus on just getting through the crisis, to the detriment of those around me. Having six kids with all the inter-relationships that goes with it can be so overwhelming by itself. Add in Ds, and I feel like I'm losing it much of the time...and that's without the cancer! Rest assured that none of us is the mother we want to be, no matter how fabulous we are. Today, I just keep repeating, "The joy of the Lord is my strength." I'm hopeful the words will make there way to my heart (aka: attitude).

Oh, and I completely understand the freak show that is taking six kids out to eat! You guys are super parents to add in the ice cream! :)