I was in the kitchen on Wednesday night scrambling an egg, trying not to burn a piece of toast, rocking the baby with one foot in her rock and play cradle, telling Noah to stop being mean to his brother, and keeping an eye on a grilled cheese frying in a pan next to the egg. Suddenly, I could see myself as a spectator and I was laughing at myself. “What the hell are you doing, you silly, crazy woman? These kids have got you wrapped around their fingers!”
I was so angry at myself because this is pretty much my life every single night. And I get mad at my husband for having to work late and not being there to help me. But in this moment, I realized I am doing nothing to help the situation. I slid the kids their plates and waited for my dinner; the crusts of Noah’s grilled cheese and the bits of egg that Luke doesn’t eat. Ugh. Really?? When did I become this push-over? How do I stop? I hardly slept Wednesday night.
The next day, I went to pick up the boys at school. The teacher’s aid had been in charge of the classroom that morning and pulled me aside.
“We’re having a bit of an issue with Noah,” she said. “He’s…well, he’s a bit of a boss.”
“Tell me about it!” I said rolling my eyes. “We’re working on it.”
“Well, I know he’s a great kid,” she patted my arm. “He wasn’t like this at all last year. But I think since it’s his second year and he has his younger brother in the class he thinks he is in charge of him and a lot of the other first year students. We have this issue with a lot of second year preschoolers, so don’t beat yourself up. But I am concerned because he is being quite mean to his brother.”
I could picture exactly what was happening. I see it every day at home. Noah bossing his brother, our next door neighbors’ kids and even me. This isn’t exactly news to me. I’ve just always chalked it up to him being a strong-willed kid. But I also see Luke going along with it and I am always worried that because of his more passive demeanor it could be damaging to him.
On my drive home, I had a talk with Noah about being kind and being a good leader, not a boss. But I could tell he wasn’t really listening. He was distracted by the Lego car he’d taken to school which I had told him not to. I was noticing a trend. Noah thinks that the rules don’t apply to him. Not just in school, but in everything. And I have allowed him to be this way.
No more. I have to stop him now or we will have so many more problems later down the road.
1. I called his teacher that night and we agreed it would be beneficial to Luke to have a day without Noah at school each week. So now, Noah will be going to school Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Luke will go Tuesday and Thursday. Luke will be able to work and learn away from Noah and Noah will be with more second year preschool kids who will not tolerate his bossiness.
2. I bought a large dry-erase calender board and called it “The Happy Choices Chart.” For each day that Noah gets a good report at school from his teacher about being kind to the other kids, he will get a smiley face. If he chooses to be a boss and a bully, he will get a frown. If we have a whole month of happy faces, we will take him to his favorite restaurant, Applebee’s. He agreed to the plan. I have also told his teacher that I need some sort of a verbal report each day as to how he has done.
3. Noah also understands that the same rules apply at home. He needs to be kind to all of us at home and listen better. We will also give him a smiley face for the days he’s not at school.
4. This one is more on me. I need to be better about enforcing not only a dinner time, but requiring that the kids eat what I make for dinner. This one is really tough for me. It is such a huge commitment to make a real dinner almost every single night. But I need to do it and I have to be strong because Scott will probably not be home to help me with the kids while I make dinner and he probably won’t even be home in time for us to eat as a family. Because he’s in finance, he works late a lot this time of year all the way through April 15 of the following year. But no excuses. I need to do this for my kids.
So last night, I made skillet gnocchi, a salad, garlic toast, and had a bowl of grapes. It was quite an ordeal to get it all ready and also to keep the boys from literally climbing like monkeys into the pantry and fridge trying to get their usual dinner items. But I did it. I kept calmly telling them that they would be eating what Mom and Dad were eating tonight and if they chose not to eat that, they’d get no other food. They were terrified. Noah broke down crying more than once.
Scott actually surprised me and came home at 5:30 instead of going to the gym after work. I had told him about my plan and he was very supportive of helping me on the first night of its execution.
“Boys, I want you to help me by setting the table,” I announced.
“Do what?” Noah asked. I showed them how to set a place at the table and handed them the forks and spoons and glasses to set out. Then they (sort of) helped me set the table. There were four spoons in the salad bowl and napkins on each chair, but that’s alright! The effort was there. Scott sat down at the table holding Grace on his lap and I brought the food over. We said a quick blessing and Scott made his plate.
“Looks great, babe!” he said. I put a little of each item onto the kids’ plates. Luke recoiled as if I had put a spoonful of snot on his plate.
“I don’t wike it!” he said.
“That hurts my heart, Luke. Please say, ‘Mom, I’m not used to this.” I corrected him.
“I’m not used to this,” he muttered.
“Me neither!” Noah yelled crossing his arms.
“That’s okay,” I said calmly. “We will get used to things by trying them.” They quickly ate their grapes. Noah dipped the cucumbers from the salad into ranch and gobbled them up. He also apprehensively nibbled his garlic toast, then to his surprise ended up loving it and wanting more. He wouldn’t touch the gnocchi.
“Everything’s really good, honey. Thank you,” Scott smiled at me from across the table. He could tell I was feeling very anxious about this meal. “I’ll do the dishes,” he added.
“Thank you,” I smiled.
Luke wanted more grapes. He refused to eat anything else. But he did get hungry later in the evening and agreed to try the gnocchi. I reheated it for him. It got to his lips and he started crying. Noah also was asking for a snack before bed but was denied. I was so worried sending them to bed hungry. Especially Luke. He’s so thin already. But they slept through to morning and ate a great breakfast.
It wasn’t really a win, but I feel like it was a solid step in the right direction.