For those of you who don’t know, I’m big on the whole “unconditional parenting” or “gentle parenting” thing. The idea of not forcing or coercing your children to do things has always appealed to me. It’s a very “unschool” way of parenting too, so it’s only logical that I would think in that kind of way.
Well, today I realized I fail at that to some degree. For example, when I know Luca is hyper and it’s only a short while before we hit meltdown lane, I insist Luca lies down quietly for fifteen minutes. Usually this is met with a major “I don’t wanna take a nap!” meltdown, so we wait until Luca is finally quiet, possibly with some compromises on where or with what Luca will lay down. Then within that fifteen minutes, never fail, Luca is asleep.
Now, I know coercing my child into taking a nap isn’t exactly the best thing I can do, but the kid’s got to sleep. When it’s facing a meltdown now over the need to take a nap, or multiple meltdowns later because of a tired, cranky kid, I’ll take the meltdown now. When Luca is getting crazy hyper and out of control, that usually results in boundaries not being respected and sometimes people getting hurt. At the very least it leaves the house being destroyed and me having to clean up in the wake of hurricane Luca.
Yet I know this is teaching Luca, and all my kids, for that matter, a vital life skill, how to recognize when you’re tired and need to take a moment to rest. Sander employs this often. He gets cranky and starts crying at everything. Then the next thing you know he’s saying, “Mom, where’s Minket? I want to take a nap.” Moments later he’s curled up with his blanket, Minket, and a pillow, asleep on my living room floor.
This has also resulted in other situations where requirements have to be made. For example, bed time. Part of that is out of courtesy to our downstairs neighbor. She’s complained to us numerous times about the kids being up after 9:30pm when she’s trying to get to sleep. The other reason is the neighbors waking the kids up at 6am with their noise. Because the kids get up so early in the morning, we need to make sure they get to bed earlier so they get a decent amount of sleep. After all, there’s nothing I can do about the downstairs neighbor, nor the neighbor next door that likes to yell at her kids from the crack of dawn until they leave for school. (And this is where I REALLY miss the trailer park. The kids had virtually no bedtime then.)
As if bed time and naps for Luca wasn’t enough, I’ve also found myself employing the requirement of chores. I could do all of it myself, but it’s often exhausting trying to keep after all of them, manage disputes, help them learn, and everything else I do throughout the day. Having some help with the dishes or the trash may not seem like much, but it helps a good deal. Corde is really the only one resistant to helping around the house. Sander rebels when I ask him to clean up his toys or his room. That aside, the kids are really good about helping to keep after the house. I almost wouldn’t have to require it at all, but instead just ask the kids to help out. The only one that’s really required is Corde, and that’s because she wouldn’t do anything but watch anime on her iPod anyway.
Still, I feel like this is a fail. So many other families manage to just get by on nothing but respect for themselves and others. Am I doing it wrong? There’s got to be a way.
But when I think about it, I have to remind myself that my family isn’t like all families. I’ve got a four year old that sees nap time as missing out on something good that may happen during a nap. I’ve got a teenager that would avoid doing anything that could be considered “work”. I’ve also got stater requirements to keep up with for homeschooling, which means we’ve got to include stuff I’d really rather avoid having to do, like curriculum (though the younger three seem to have no problems with doing it.)
This is when I need to remind myself that this isn’t a parenting fail. My family’s needs are different than other families. Our challenges are different. Just on the fact that we’ve got neighbors in such close proximity alters the reality we face in our own home. Hopefully that will change soon enough. We’re exploring the option of moving back down south where we can afford to have our own place without sharing a wall with our neighbors, but that’s not going to happen this year, or even next year. It’s going to take time. Until then, we’re doing the best we can with what we’ve got.