June 1, 1989. That’s when it all started. I delivered our first baby. I had absolutely no idea what the next two decades would hold for me. That is a perfect example of God’s providence. Because had I known that I was going to have EIGHT MORE KIDS…well let’s just say I would’ve run out of that hospital dragging my IV pole with the bag of Pitocin still dripping.
I remember very little in the first hour or so after Brendan made his grand entrance. Those were the good old days of Demerol, a sadisitic medication that only succeeded in making you doze off in-between contractions, but did absolutely nothing to ease the pain of the actual contraction. So, as labor intensified, I would complete a contraction, doze off for, say, 45 seconds, then instantly wake up to two minutes of a pain that felt like I had a freight train tied to each leg and they were racing in opposite directions of each other. Then the pain would slightly ease off and I would doze for another 45 seconds. This went on for 12 hours. I know…there are many women who battled much longer than that to deliver their first baby…but really after a few hours, it all feels the same, amiright?
But then he appeared. He was perfect. His head was gigantic, but he was perfect. After a little pretty-party for me, I was ready for the very anxious grandparents to come in and meet him. I may have still been a bit…dopey, but I have a distinct memory of my husband’s mother standing by my bed and thanking me for her first grandchild. It was such a sweet moment. The Demerol, unfortunately, took over my thoughts and I replied, “You’re welcome, but don’t expect another one anytime soon.” She kind of giggled, assuming I wasn’t myself. She was right.
Bridget came into the world 18 months later…
Why am I telling you this? Because having kids is filled to the brim with experiences you are completely ill-equipped to handle…until you have to handle them. I don’t know if that makes sense, but when I look back I wonder how I kept it all up and running and came out reasonably sane on the other side…mostly.
Again, God’s providence, a hefty dose of humor and margaritas (after bed time…obviously.).
Let’s focus on the humor, though… there’s nothing more fun than when all the kids come home for a holiday and we all sit around and they start rehashing some of the more creative ways I took care of the business of discipline. On the occasion that one of the kids would have pushed me to the limit, I would often (again, 9 kids over 2 decades….’often’ might be an understatement) walk away and take a breather to think of exactly how I wanted to handle an issue to get my point across with the most…impact.
Like the time Aidan and Abby were told to clean the room they shared. Remember, Abby struggled with making the right choices as a child, and Aidan was very well aware that her honesty was often brought into question by her actions. So when I went to check their room-cleaning and found some playing cards scattered on the floor that didn’t get put away, Aidan capitalized like any little brother would. “Abby put them there.” Abby denied it and Aidan insisted, round and round we went. Finally, after a decent stalemate, Aidan’s story crumbled and he fessed up. He had thrown Abby under the bus. Not only was he was in big trouble but I owed it to Abby to make an impact so she was not taken advantage of like that again.
“Go get the laundry basket, Aidan.” It came in a very calm, measured tone, but they all knew what came next. They had all heard the command before, some more than others.
When I told them to get the laundry basket, it meant a long road of earning back our trust lay ahead of them. It meant work.
Aidan brought me the basket. I filled it with all his favorite things from his room. His baseball glove, his army guys, his match box cars. I even took his blanket and pillow (I know, I know…not the pillow. But remember the impact was the critical part. He had to understand what he had tried to do to his sister. It was my job, for her as much as for him). The tears and the wailing ensued. I was calm, collected, and quiet. I put the basket on a shelf in his room where he could see all his things, but not reach them. I told him he had to earn back every single item in the basket…but he couldn’t even start until he had had three straight days with no problems. After the third day, I told him I was very proud of all the ways he had worked to be a good boy. He could pick one thing out of his basket. He was so excited! He looked in the basket and the real dilemma began. The pillow or the baseball glove? For those of you who know Aidan, you can guess. He picked the baseball glove and used it as a pillow that night. Always the negotiator.
Then there was the time that, over the course of many days, Bridget and Kelly decided not to put away their clean clothes after I did laundry. “Girls! I told you to put your clothes away!” But I was busy and lost track. After a few days, you can imagine how the piles multiplied! I let it go for a few days, to see what they would do. I guess they thought I wasn’t too serious…until I brought in the laundry basket. They were playing in their room one afternoon and I walked in and started piling all their clothes into the basket. “Mom! Wait…!”
“Too late, girls.”
Again, calm. I took all their clothes and brought the basket into my room. They had to earn back their clothes, one piece at a time. (Don’t worry, moms, it’s not like they were naked and trembling. They just lost all their FAVORITE clothes.) But they needed a lesson on appreciation and gratitude. It took a while, but they earned all their things back, eventually. They left for college fully clothed, so it must’ve worked out.
Raising kids is hard work. There’s no denying that if you’re giving it your best effort, then you’re probably dead on your feet by 9pm. One of my favorite things to do was lay in bed after a long day and replay some of the interactions I had that day. Did I give it my best? Yeah…I think I did, most days. Did I make mistakes? Lose my temper? Many, many times.
Looking back and listening to my grown children, it’s the times that I got creative with the discipline that had the most impact…and these are the ones they laugh about together now. So it all worked out.