It’s time for a moment of honesty here. I’ve been really tired lately. I’ve been drained. The change in seasons has caused my arthritis to flare up, something I should be used to by now, given I’ve had arthritis since I was only fifteen. I’ve been having horrible cramps. My stomach has been upset. I’ve been tired all the time. I’ve been cranky. My head starts splitting at the smallest of things. This is what happens when I go off my diet, a diet I really can’t afford to keep. Why? Well, our food stamp budget has been cut so we’re now receiving significantly less than $1 per person per meal. Given Luca is put on my food budget, if we divided it up, I’d get a double allotment, allowing me a whopping total of $1.50 per meal! It is completely impossible to eat three meals a day that are free of dairy, soy, gluten, MSG, tomatoes, and honey. That’s not even counting my preference for non-GMO and organic.
That being said, I haven’t been feeling well and I’ve been highly irritable. On top of that I’m worried about the cat who is not being herself lately. The last thing I need are kids running in and out the door, bouncing off the walls (literally), jumping on the furniture (also quite literal), climbing the closets (yeah, that too), and hounding me for attention every five seconds. I’m very close to my breaking point right now. As a result, I gave Corde and Beekee very specific instructions. They could go outside to play, but they have to stay on our lot or the two empty lots in front of our trailer. They can play with their friends, but their friends are not allowed inside the house for any reason unless it’s a life-threatening emergency. Normally I don’t mind her friends wanting to chat with me a little bit or wanting to see or hold Luca, but today I was not in the mood. I didn’t feel well and everyone was just going to have to respect that.
Of course, that’s not at all what happened. Maddy kept coming up with excuses to come inside and bother me. She wanted to ask how the baby was doing, then tried to start a big long conversation about how cute the baby was because he was naked on the floor and pleased as could be. After that it was to show me some giant piece of tree branch Beekee had found. Then she came to the door because they made me a little flower bouquet, though there was only one closed up flower and a bunch of leaves. It was pretty, but I was definitely not in the mood to be harassed over it. She later had to tell me that her sister was outside and they didn’t want to play with her and how much she wished they could play in Corde’s room. Then she had to poke her head in to tell me she wanted Corde to come over and they both begged me. Then she told me that she wanted me to go over and hang out with her mom because she’s not allowed to have friends in the house unless their mom comes over and they were bored outside. I know for a fact that was a lie. Next it was to tell me they were bored and they wanted to come in. After that it was another bouquet, this time accompanied by a cheer that I had to tell them to quit and go back outside because Luca had just fallen asleep and would startle at their every jump and cry. After that Aubree came over and they all wanted to go to her house, and I HAD to let Corde go because they’ve formed some club and they all have to stay together, or none of them can be together. Every time Corde was in tow, going right along with it, though she claimed later that she tried to stop them. I had to inform her that “tried to stop them” comes in the form of telling them I wasn’t in a good mood and shouldn’t be bothered instead of getting all excited and trying to convince or harass them right along side them. I was very disappointed because I didn’t want to be bothered today and she was just as bad as everyone else today, knowing exactly how I was feeling.
In the house wasn’t much better. The baby was thankfully not cranky, but he peed on me a couple of times. That didn’t help my mood terribly much. He’s been unhappy if I put him in diapers, so we’ve been trying out this EC thing. Of course, with the kids busting in every ten seconds to demand my attention for this and that it doesn’t work so well. Three times today I got peed on because I couldn’t pay attention to his cues because they wouldn’t leave me alone.
Then there was Sander, who was literally jumping all over the furniture, climbing the closet, and screaming at the top of his lungs every time he didn’t get his way. He’s been really sensitive lately over just about everything because the other kids come in the house and get him all kinds of riled up. Every time they come flying in and out of the house he gets worked up and starts screaming like someone’s trying to kill him because he’s not old enough to go with them and Corde’s not responsible enough to look after him. I can’t trust her or her friends to keep after him. Though the temperature has cooled down significantly, I haven’t been feeling well and don’t really feel up to sitting outside to watch him. Especially with a baby that I can’t follow the signals of and refuses to be in a diaper. It would also only open me up to even more harassment by the neighborhood kids, something I really don’t want to deal with on a day like today. It’s meant I have no peace even when the older kids do stay outside and don’t harass me every five minutes. I just don’t get a break.
Once everyone comes in for the night the kids are hyper and won’t wind down. I end up with yelling and screaming. Today they brought it to a whole new level with physical violence towards each other, which meant Beekee and Sander both got hurt because Corde shoved one and hit the other. Realizing that Corde is much too rough for both of them, the two start roughhousing with each other, which always ends with one of them getting hurt, but they’re all riled up and can’t calm down, so they do it anyway. Poor little Luca spends all his time jumping in reaction to all the screaming. He fusses endlessly because he can’t relax and calm down. It breaks down to me yelling to be heard over all the noise, which is hitting the point of being unacceptable and violating the noise ordinance after 10pm because trailer walls are so thin. We could easily get a complaint on us and the cops at our house because the kids are yelling, screaming, and fighting. Tonight it got so out of control that I had to quit all my attempts to EC with the baby and I blew out my voice by 9pm, just one short hour after the kids came in.
Once upon a time the kids could respect “I don’t feel well today. Can you guys try and keep it a chill day?” They didn’t bother me with a thousand questions. I could tell them their friends couldn’t come in the house, I didn’t even want their friends on the porch, and they’d respect that. They knew that I only asked for them to keep from bugging me and to have a chill day if I really needed it. Otherwise I wouldn’t have a problem with their friends coming to the door a dozen times and being ambushed with a million questions, comments, and things they really wanted to show me. They would come in the house an hour or two before we requested quiet time and they’d play. They’d get a little rowdy, but it was never out of control. It never got to the point where I seriously had to fear that, if they didn’t stop, walls would have massive holes, shelves would fall over, furniture would topple, and I’d end up with a hospital trip because all of the insanity meant at least one person got hurt in the process. Quiet time would come and they’d go to their rooms and play quietly, read a book, either together or apart. Fighting was kept to a minimum at all times. They respected the rules of the house and didn’t treat it like a jungle gym. I rarely had to yell just to be heard. It was a lot more peaceful.
I don’t know what happened, but I don’t like this change. I deserve to have my wishes respected just as much as they do. I don’t like the chaos and the violence. I don’t like seeing my baby upset because of all the insanity going on. I don’t like seeing Sander so wound up that he can’t settle down to take a nap, all because there’s just too much going on. I really miss my peaceful, quiet house at night, and I definitely miss everyone having respect for everyone else.
Today feels like a total failure. I know everyone needs some quiet time. Everyone needs a break. It’s not a bad thing to need some quiet time, or to have a day where I’m not ambushed with a million questions by inquisitive kids. Normally I don’t feel bad about that. My kids generally get that I need a day off and as much as I support their interests, I really just don’t feel up to being in their lives the way I am every other day. I ended up getting so frustrated that I made up an excuse to walk to the store just to get away from it all. I definitely wasn’t feeling up to the walk and very shortly after starting on my trip my muscles ached and I felt like I just wanted to curl up somewhere and wait for a ride home, not that it was an option. I pushed on anyway because I knew I needed the break. My muscles would recover, especially since they were just sore from being more active than usual and not exactly feeling my peak self. It was better to get away for a while. It improved my mood for a while and I did come back refreshed, even if it didn’t last terribly long. Still, my children’s educational interests have kind of gone out the window since they’ve been spending so much time with the neighborhood kids. It’s like going through the deschooling process all over again. It would be different if I felt like the kids were still actively pursuing their interests and doing something educational with their time, but the lack of that made me feel like today was a complete and total failure on my fault, especially since everything got so far out of control. It didn’t even feel like I had my own kids anymore. It was like their minds had been taken over by some alien creatures that just pretended to be my kids.
Of course, deep down I know everything will be okay. Tomorrow the kids will not go out and play with their friends. I told them I needed a day to recover, which was supposed to be today, but because I didn’t get that, I’m taking steps to ensure I get what I need tomorrow. If Corde and Beekee can’t keep their friends from coming repeatedly to hound me, they simply won’t play with them. They can go outside and play before everyone gets out of school. I feel like a horrible and mean mama for doing it, but we’ve had kids at the house to play every single day and Corde had an overnight on Saturday. One day off isn’t going to hurt them.
In hindsight, I kind of have to wonder if this mama fail day actually brought up a very important point. In all my interest in other families and their homeschool and unschool experiences I’ve noticed the same thing. They don’t spend every day out and about. For every day or two they have doing something stimulating they have a day of down-time. Too much stimulation can cause a whole family to burn out, especially kids. My kids are learning some really valuable lessons about getting along with other kids, but their lessons are wearing them out, which is probably the reason for all the fighting and bad attitudes. Maybe we all just need a day of down time. There’s a good chance all the bad attitudes, fighting, and wild, uncharacteristic behavior could all be coming from a lack of down time, just going and going every day without stop. They don’t get any kind of peace and quiet. They’ve lost all opportunity to truly relax. Instead of being the kids I know, they’re now hyperactive, disrespectful, and are even becoming quite rude. It’s entirely possible that they aren’t pursuing their own interests because they don’t have time between their social struggles with the other kids in the neighborhood and trying to find some down time at home.
Truly looking at it, when Corde’s friends aren’t here she spends a good deal of time just sitting on the couch, either sulking over apparently nothing, staring off into space, or watching other people play video games. Beekee, who has always been my sensitive child and is prone to being majorly hyperactive and incapable of paying attention or listening to even the simplest things when he’s overwhelmed, has been spinning the office chair non-stop and jumping and tumbling on the couch to the point of driving Sander and Corde batty. He refuses to go anywhere or be anywhere without Corde, another classic sign that he’s had enough and needs a break. Then there’s Sander, my chill, funny child who seems to be giving a full-blown demonstration of what “the terrible twos” really are, since I seemed to have missed out on it with my other kids. I know he’s been really put off lately by watching his brother and sister take off and leave him behind all the time. He used to be okay with it and have a good time hanging out with his baby brother, but I don’t think he can handle having kids fly in and out the door all day long. It’s meant he’s been unable to take his regular naps and he seems really stressed about that. Luca is obviously responding to it all because he’s been getting more fussy and clingy by the day. He always wants to be with me or Oz, which is odd because he used to love to lay on the floor and while his siblings doted on him. I can’t blame him for being a little overwhelmed by how incredibly wild they’ve all been. He’s even gotten close to being run over a couple of times because the kids haven’t been paying any attention to where he’s been in their craziness. Even the poor cat has been stressed out and hiding.
Even if my kids haven’t learned anything from it, I think my day of feeling like a failure has really taught me something. We really need down time around here. My kids can’t abandon all of their educational interests and life goals because they’re too busy unwinding from hanging out with their friends. I think we’re all hitting some serious burn-out here. Even Oz is starting to feel it because he’s getting overwhelmed with it all. He’s had his doubts about unschooling and having trust in our kids to meet their own needs and now he’s starting to see evidence of exactly what he feared would happen. At least he’s recognized that it’s not that unschooling and allowing our kids their freedom doesn’t work, but he doesn’t approve of all the time they’re spending out with the neighborhood kids. He thinks the kids are a bad influence and we shouldn’t allow our kids to hang out with them anymore, but I think that’s a bit extreme. Aubree is really kind and respectful. The three girls are a much better balance for each other when they’re all together. I don’t even really have a problem with Maddy and her sister hanging around, as much as they sometimes drive me nuts. I think they’re just much more used to constant social interaction and having almost no down time thanks to school. My kids aren’t used to that at all. They’re used to having a lot of time in their quiet, peaceful home to pursue their own interests. Most people really aren’t wired to be around other people all the time. Even Oz and I don’t want to have friends over every day and neither of us do well living with room mates because it’s too much pressure to really be “on” all the time when the room mates are at home. We need our privacy, our alone time. We’d love to live as a part of a community, a more tribal situation where everyone was as good as family, but that comes with the ability to close our door and to choose not to be a part of the social scene if we’re just not in the mood that day, which is important.
Yeah, this was a long post, and in a way it’s about my own unschooling process (lesson learned the hard way in this case). If you’ve read this far, thanks for reading through while I’ve tried to sort it all out. It’s been a long, frustrating day. I’m burnt out. I’m really looking forward to shutting myself in the house tomorrow, maybe working on my sorely neglected cross-stitch, and watching Corde and maybe Beekee play some video games while we all chill. I have a feeling tomorrow will be a much better day.