I struggled for a few hot minutes on what to title this post. Should I title it, “The Good, Bad, and Ugly of Home Renovating” or frankly, “Home Renovation Turned my Preschooler into a Monster”? The first seemed a little too vague and the latter a little overdramatic and harsh. The reality: home renovating is totally fun, awesomely rewarding, and a complete life ruiner of well-established rules and good intentions. Let me paint this picture for you (Eminem? Why not?) Here are the ways, in our house, home renovations equal parenting fails.
Disclaimer: this is not a post about one or more persons in the family being bad, or lousy, or better than the other. It’s just an honest glimpse at how home renovations can take the wind out of your parenting sails and set you off course quicker than you can say, “hand me that open end ratchet wrench.”
A few months ago, our new home was completely gutted. Walls had been ripped out, carpet and tile pried loose and removed, bathrooms demo’d, and kitchen cabinets tossed out. The only thing that remained in the house was a trail of debris and dust, and in the basement, all of our personal belongings stacked in one room. We’d wiped the dust from our bruised arms and legs, gave each other a high five and a wink of, “Whew! Wasn’t that fun!?” We skipped off to one of our few local dives for dinner with high hopes that since it didn’t take that long to tear the house down, it surely wouldn’t take long to build back. We’d be completely done by the middle of June and life would be all relaxation and those silly plastered on smiles like you see in the kid’s commercials.
August is in three days, my friends, and I can tell you the looks on our faces are no longer saying, “YESSSSS!!”, but instead would be much closer to an infomercial for Squatty Potty. A lot of discomfort and irritability, truth be told. Kids are fighting with each other. We’re fighting with the kids. We have completely gone separate ways on what is deemed acceptable behavior and appropriate reprimands. Everyone thinks they are the one in charge of the situation at hand and we all look like a bunch of Larry, Moe, and Curlys trying to figure out how to solve even the simplest conundrums. Our wheels are no longer spinning out of control, they have fallen off entirely.
Last week, as my cabinet maker installed kitchen cabinets on the main floor, we reenacted scenes from the Battle of Gettysburg in the basement. Something had triggered the “ticked off” button in my three year old and there was no reasoning with him. The more we tried to understand him and work out a resolution, the madder he got and the more hideous his behavior became. I joined the husband’s side and it became an us against them that no one wanted to be the one to back down from. Mostly, we just stood staring at each other wondering what the heck was going on with our kids!?! Whining had hit an all-time high, they were not playing well with each other, and listening and following directions…forgettah bout it. The worse the kids acted, the more we responded in an equally whiny and aggressive display. We went blow for blow with kids under the age of six and no one was winning.
In attempts to regain our status as heads of the household, we reflected and realized five important things that were likely the key components of our family train coming off the rails.
- Poor diet- a doctor probably would have told us our children’s nutrient intake was fine, but I knew that we’d really been slacking on meeting all of our daily requirements. Not only had it been far too long since our kids had tasted a cool glass of milk, but I was well aware that milk had been replaced by Sonic slushies (don’t forget the rainbow candy, mom). A balanced meal with proteins, fruits, and veggies had fallen slack when the nicest option for a family meal was found in a corner booth in a chain restaurant. If we were lucky enough, we could find a restaurant where they could get orange slices or applesauce to go with their chicken strips, but mainly what our kids have been served for meals for the last two months have been junk and sugar. SO MUCH sugar. Having a house without a functional kitchen was starving our kids’ bodies of the good stuff and I really believe that was part of the cause of their poor behavior. I’m no nutritionist, but I really think that we feel the way we eat. Eat like crap, you’ll feel like crap and our kids clearly felt tired and cranky without the necessary fuel to keep them going.
- Lack of sleep- I’m not afraid to admit that the amount of sugar our kids have consumed in the last few months would shock Willy Wonka himself; it just is what it is. Our son, now two weeks into the new house, is waking up every night with a bad dream. Could the amount of sugar he has had be the cause? We thought at first the nightmares were just part of getting used to his new room, his new house. But it’s still going on. And, you know, it isn’t making the bad attitude any better. A poor nights sleep and a bad attitude seem to go hand in hand and around here it’s on repeat.
- Establishing new guidelines- I took the opportunity of having a new house, to set some new ground rules. I felt like our kids had reached a certain age where momma shouldn’t have to be doing their bidding all day long. Time seemed to have gotten away from me somewhere and one day I had realized that I was doing things for my kids that they should have been doing for themselves a long time ago. Things that I wanted to be done a certain way and I hadn’t wanted to hand over my control. What kinds of things, you ask? Wiping butts. There I said it. We moved into the house and I pulled one of our favorite lines from Mulan, “don’t look at me I ain’t
bitingwiping no more butts!” They thought I was hilarious until they realized I was totally serious. Other things: making their beds, taking their dirty clothes to the laundry room, clearing their plate at the table, putting away toys they got out, and brushing their own teeth. I did it all. New house/new rules. Game on. The funny thing, when I started getting them to do things on their own, they did it. Really, honestly, good enough and without complaint. Color me impressed, but it has taken them by surprise that they are big kids now and can do for themselves.
- Miscommunication- All of that being said, rules haven’t gone completely without a hitch. In fact, I brought back an old forgotten rule at the dinner table and it has gone over like pulling teeth. Long ago, our pediatrician gave us some very helpful advice when it came to meal times for our kids. She told us our kids were to try one bite of each different food on their plates equal to their ages. Three year olds would need three meat bites, three vegetable bites, and you get the picture. If they didn’t comply, no sweat, but under no circumstance should they have anything else to eat until the next meal. This became our game plan and for the most part, we stuck with it. We stuck with it until our meals became rushed in between projects or paper sack orders on the go. Last week, when we had, for the most part, settled into our (almost done) house, I took a deep breath and brought the old rule back at lunchtime. Holy Gunsmoke. It was war. I held my own and told them they were going to get pretty hungry because they weren’t eating again until dinner. Just as I thought I couldn’t take any more of their begging and negotiating for something else anything else to eat, the husband pulled into the driveway. The kids hopped down from their chairs and ran outside to greet him. I watched from the window as he pulled a movie theatre size box of Mike and Ikes from his pocket and loaded the kid’s fists with them. My entire stand-off had been for nothing. We really needed to get on the same page.
- Screen time- we have a kid that is a crazy person when it comes to tablets or phones. Our oldest still enjoys playing on a phone when she gets the opportunity, but really she could do without it. She likes to color, read, or craft and has pretty good self-control when “times up” on video games. Our other kid? No self-control what so ever. It must be his age (because I remember this same phase with the other one). If you give him an inch of social media time, he will take a mile. If you try to take the device away he melts down. I don’t actually think we have allowed more screen time than before renovations, but there have been times when it has been a last-ditch option to let mommy or daddy finish up on one thing or another. And unfortunately, those times have added up and our little guy is in withdrawals. I saw a recent commercial about the differences in our childhood and the things kids do for fun now and it was alarming. I told mine they were playing outside for the rest of the summer!
All in all, the process of home renovation with kids underfoot has been pretty easy. The kids have more or less entertained themselves for their entire summer vacation and I’ve been pleased with how much time they’ve spent outside and with each other. I would be a fool to expect that with the lack of routine, poor diet, and little sleep, anyone’s kids would handle the situation any differently. They very much need the routine of school (ok, maybe it’s me that needs school to start) and to see each of their family members faces around the dinner table again. Things will settle down soon, I know it.
Have you gone through similar experiences lately? How did your kids cope with having their home under construction? What did you do to keep them entertained?
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