Night before last, I told my kids that I was going to have to cancel Christmas this year.
I had spent the morning kicking off the "secret elf" week we started last night by putting a special little gift and note on each child's bed. (Eliza gave an excellent lesson in Family Home Evening and had everyone draw names, then everyone is supposed to do nice services or give nice little notes or gifts to their secret elf during the week. Last year, some elves didn't really remember to do anything so I thought I'd get things rolling with some simple grocery store gifts from their secret elf's mom or wife.)
Then I worked my tail off to get all my Power of Moms work done before the kids got home from school.
The afternoon started off nicely. The twins and Eliza let out squeals of delight when they found their simple gifts from their "secret elf's mom,"
Eliza shared her dragon fruit with everyone as a fun afterschool snack,
Silas got right to work on making the gingerbread cookies he's been wanting to make with the molassas I got him (he's so into baking - and he made amazing gingerbread cookies totally by himself!), and Isaac seemed quite impressed with his giant avacado (he LOVES avacados and none of us had ever seen one so big). Ashton was totally focused on the exciting new tablet he's saved up for that arrived in the mail so he didn't venture up to his room for his prize. But that was OK. We were all so excited for him to finally have this new tablet that he's worked so hard for and talked about so much.
We went for our daily walk around the park and I had Ashton tell me all about his new tablet which he was very happy to do. And the other kids had a great time scootering and rollerblading in the surprisingly warm weather we've been having.
So it was seeming like a really good day.
But then everything started to fall apart.
I pointed out that I'd been happy to help them get their rooms clean as a special extra service for them but that I needed them to hop right to it on doing their "zones" (they each have an area of the house that they are in charge of - and the whole house was quite dirty and messy because we've been so busy - a trip to CA, Thanksgiving, putting up all the Christmas decorations... no one had worked on their zones for a LONG time.) And I needed a little help chopping things up and setting the table for dinner (I'd made their favorite dinner and wanted to have a nice un-rushed family dinner before getting Eliza to dance and the boys to scouts - Tuesday evenings are usually stressful and rushed but I thought I'd gotten ahead of everything for once and only planned on a little seemingly-very-reasonable help from the kids.)
With every little thing I asked the kids do do, there were issues. There was complaining. There was forgetting. There was whining. I tried to be patient. But EVERY kid was giving me a serious attitude about doing EVERY little thing I asked them to do.
But I kept my "nice mom" hat on through it all,
Jared got home, we had a nice dinner and got everyone to where they needed to be and enjoyed scount Pack Meeting with the twins.
Then when we got home and I asked each child to do one small thing to finish the after-dinner clean up we hadn't fully finished before heading out for scounts and dance and then to please please please get right up to bed, things really went downhill. Complaining. Remembering forgotten homework. Forgetting to do the small thing I'd just asked them to do or claiming that I had NOT told them to do it rather than saying they were sorry they forgot or admitting that they weren't listening. Throwing stuff on the floor of the rooms I'd just cleaned. Messing around in the bathroom when they were supposed to be brushing teeth. Forgetting to brush teeth and wash hands and faces (how is it so hard to remember something that you are reminded to do EVERY SINGLE DAY?!) and being bugged when they had to get out of bed and go do their teeth and hands and faces...
Needless to say, my "nice mom" hat finally got knocked right off my head and was replaced with my "seriously angry hat."
I went off on a tirade about all the things I do for them every day and how very little is expected of them in comparison. I told them that one person simply cannot do everything for 7 people and that I couldn't imagine that I'd have time to buy and wrap Christmas presents for them and make all our traditional Christmas meals and do gingerbread houses and take them to Christmas events on top of everything else they were forcing me to do by not doing it themselves. I told them Christmas would have to be cancelled and stormed off downstairs.
Where I found Eliza. She said she just had to finish polishing up a couple slides for the Powerpoint presentation she was supposed to give the next day. I'd offered to help with this project a couple weeks ago when she first started on it but she was in a huffy mood at that time and didn't like any of my suggestions so I told her she'd better just do it on her own. So she'd done a lot of it. But that small polish on a couple slides actually proved to be a nearly-two-hour project as everything needed some cleaning up (spelling, formatting, punctuation) and Powerpoint kept doing weird glitches. We were both in tears by the end.
When Jared got home from meetings, I told him I'd cancelled Christmas. He gave me a nice back massage while I tried to finish the Power of Moms newsletter that was involving WAY too many glitches and when I broke down in tears, he put me to bed and assured me that everything would be better in the morning and that the newsletter could wait.
I found a nice note from Eliza on my bed and got lots of hugs and "I'm sorrys" from the kids the next morning. I said a lot of "I'm sorry's" myself too.
I told them that Christmas isn't cancelled, but it can be a lot better if they step it up around here so I have more time to do the things they love at Christmas. I promised to explain things well and make sure they understand what needs to be done and would love for them to do the relatively small things I ask of them PLUS notice what else needs to be done and do it. I love being their mom and doing lots of things for them. I love all the joy they bring to me and they are my top priorities by far. But I do have other obligations and priorities and I need them to do a better job taking care of their rooms, their homework, their zones, and their after-dinner jobs if they want me to have time to do fun Christmas-oriented stuff for the family. They seemed to really get it.
After dropping the kids off at school, I went for my weekly hike with friends and that cleared my mind and lightened my heart like it always does. Then I got caught up on a lot of work and got that newsletter sent out. Everything felt much better.
After school yesterday, I had a list of totally spelled out and clear tasks for each child to do and they did their work cheerfully, happily and well (that's our little motto for how we should work "cheerfully, happily and well"). I've realized I haven't been the best "household manager" so our kids haven't been able to be as good of "household helpers" as they need to be. Having general responsibilities doesn't work for them. They need specific lists of things to do on specific days. I need to take the time to make sure they fully understand what they're supposed to do. And they need to report back to me and I need to take time to check their work. They also need to learn to notice what needs to be done and do it - so as well as the couple of things on their list each day, they are supposed to think of one thing to do on their own and report back to me on what they did. I know I've got to put in more time to get everyone into better habits after a couple weeks of travel and holidays. They aren't going to be self-motivated, detail-oriented household workers without a strong manager to guide them through lots of supervision, instruction, encouragement and follow-up!
And I need to get more sleep so I can do a better job of keeping my "nice mom hat" on when things get dicey around here.
So we're all working together to get Christmas back on track.