September 24, 2014

Finding Our Way

Our family of three went away this weekend--leaving behind the stress of school, commuting and a (seemingly) crumbling-all-around-us house.  We stayed at a hotel with a pool and brought lots of snacks to enjoy while watching television from well-jumped-on beds.  I made sure we spent lots of time outdoors and I purposely did not pack my tablet or the boys' iPad.

All this was in effort to "reset" our family life.  The daily frustration and petty annoyances have been building since mid-August.  I don't think anyone who observed us would describe us as a happy family.  In fact, I'm pretty sure they'd call Supernanny.  The stress and anger were spiraling out of control--it was something we three passed back and forth, back and forth until I became scared and desperate.  Something had to be done and I was pretty sure we all needed to get away from our physical surroundings in order to regroup.

The book Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids has been a tremendous help.  I started reading it last month but was able to concentrate more fully on the chapters while away this weekend.  I first came across this title on Chasing Rainbows, a blog by another choice mom.  I am very grateful to Shannon for sharing this resource that is changing our lives for the better.

There's also a companion website (or is the book the companion to the website?)  Either way Dr. Laura Markham's Aha Parenting has been a lifesaver.  I can't say I've perfected her strategies/techniques but I am constantly trying to apply them throughout the hours of our long, exhausting days.  Parenting is hard work.  Don't be fooled--it doesn't get easier when they are out of diapers.

When my vocal chords have completely recovered (I'm on day 9 of a full blown, textbook case of laryngitis) I plan on having a family meeting to introduce implementation of one of Dr. Markham's tips--fifteen minutes of special time, alone with each child, each day.  Even more difficult than scheduling this into our crazy busy schedule, will be getting the other child to understand he's on his own for fifteen minutes.  Henry may be able to handle it--with Liam it's going to be touch and go.  But it's worth a try...once I can fully explain it to them.

One piece of advice I didn't wait to implement was more hugs.  Dr. Markham recommends 12 per day.  Apparently humans need 4 hugs/day to survive, 8 for maintenance and 12 for growth.  I don't actually keep count, but I'd say I've increased the amount of hugs I give by about 200%.  I have stopped using the car line at their school; I park instead and get out with the boys.  That way I can sneak in another hug before we start our demanding days.  It is helping.  Sometimes they are "side hugs" and sometimes it's a kiss on the top of the head--I've yet to find a wrong way.  I think Liam has been caught off guard at the hugs he's received when his behavior is less than desirable.  He'll start whining about what I packed for lunch and say that I'm the meanest mom ever.  Before he can finish his complaint, I hug and kiss him.  He doesn't know what hit him.  At the very least, he loses his train of thought.

I'll finish up with a few photos from our outdoor adventures during this healing weekend.  I can only hope to keep the positive momentum going now that we are back to our suburban work/school routine.  I'm certainly going to try.

The boys spent hours swimming while I sat and read.  Talk about win/win!


  1. I too have gained so much from Dr Laura Markham. It has made the world of difference in my relationship with Elena. I'm glad you're getting good results too.

  2. Good for you for taking the time to "reset"!! The hardest thing I find when I do get crazy and stressed is to slow down. My instinct is to try to move faster to catch up and that never works!!

  3. I love your honesty! Sometimes I feel like I have lost all control, and I only have one two year old! I find that it comes in waves though which is my only saving grace. Great idea to get away! I think it is so important to get away from "real life" and enjoy being together without the distractions of technology. (By the way, I went to Rock Cut State Park when I lived in Chicago.)

  4. Even though my kids are younger, I completely relate with that negative feeling you're describing. I'm so glad you're finding the book helpful, too. It's hard work, and I mess up a lot, but it's getting better here.

    Love the weekend away! And the extra hugs, I'd forgotten about that.

  5. I'm also a devotee to Laura Markham. And the 12 hugs is originally from Virginia Satir - a family psychotherapist who my mother studied - she started an experimental "Satir Family Camp" in California in the 80s that my family attended for several years. I'll have to write about it on my blog sometime. A life-changing experience at a very tender age. Anyways, I'm a believer in hugs, physical contact, expressions of affection even when you are not "feeling it." Anyways,... I think you're a pretty great mom.