Let’s face it. In this kids-eat-your-treats-and-break-your-things world, it’s every mom for herself.
How many of you moms out there have faced this scenario: It’s 11 PM at the end of another homeschooling day. Miraculously, the house is still standing, you have raked up the day’s broken pencils and crayons and other debris (sweeping is too mild a term), the search for everyone’s toothbrush is over. Night prayers and Rosary have been said, the house is finally quiet (well, relatively so), all the children are tucked in their beds (or at least sprawled across yours).
You run down the stairs in anticipation, eagerly awaiting a bowl of ice cream and some peace and quiet. You open the freezer and gasp in horror.
No! It can’t be! Not again! The carton is gone. You search behind family-sized bags of frozen vegetables. There must be some mistake! Reality sets in. The sticky spoon and empty carton you find behind the couch seem to mock you and confirm your fears. One of the kids must have made a mad dash and grabbed the carton while you ran to change the twentieth diaper of the day or were otherwise preoccupied.
Nothing is Safe
It doesn’t just happen with the ice cream and all things edible, either. If your house is anything like mine, nothing is safe. Everything is up for grabs by little hands. As my sister was known to say when her children were younger, and which I often find myself saying, “I can’t have anything!”
Mothers of small children are particularly vulnerable, as are mothers of big families living in small spaces. The $10 framed picture you bought recently at the thrift store? Not safe. Ask your husband to bolt it to the wall. It could be knocked down at any second, particularly if you have sons. I have several framed pictures on my wall without glass that attest to this reality. In an effort to spare you my pain, I present to you the following tips, with the disclaimer that I do not in any way intend to endorse selfishness or gluttony… but sometimes we mothers have to stand up for our rights!
Look at it as something you are doing for the good of the family. Remember, a treat-deprived mom can be a mean mom, and you don’t want your family to suffer, do you? Seton English counselors, please pardon my improper English, but, as the old adage says, “If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy!” Nothing can put a mother in a bad mood quite as quickly as an empty bag of chocolate that was full at lunchtime, or one more thing she likes being broken or destroyed.
So, to assist you in defending your dessert and protecting your possessions, I present to you the following suggestions, using humor and hyperbole:
1) Be prepared. Learn to outsmart your children.
When you arrive home with bulging grocery bags, if you have an alternate way to enter your house, don’t come through the front door! They will be watching you as your car pulls up the driveway. They know where you were, and they know what you have—food! They know there could be some goodies in there. Their mouths are salivating. Their stomachs, which should still be full from their tenth snack of the day, are making room for more. You’ve got to avoid their path. Once you set the bags down, the children will pounce on them like hungry lions at feeding time. Your boys will smell that steak you bought for tomorrow’s dinner. The younger ones will ask you in their sweetest voice, “Mommy, did you get me a treat?” They will see the cookies you plan to eat at midnight when they are asleep. They’ll try to ask you for one. Protect yourself, and your treats! If no alternate entrance to the house exists, enlist the aid of your husband. Ask him to read them a really good book to distract them while you try to put away the groceries. Run to the kitchen if you have to. . . if they see you and the bags, it’s all over.
2) Be cautious.
Of course, we are called to think the best of people and assume they have good intentions. Yet, we homeschooling parents know that not every one is on our side. This can be applied to our children as well. When you are just sitting down to enjoy the last piece of pie, the only one that the children didn’t devour after dinner, does your preschooler seem extra friendly? Does she tell you that you are the best Mommy in the world? Is she casting longing looks at your plate at the same time? Be careful… or the first bite of pie you just took could be your last.
3) Hide things.
My dear friend’s husband has been known to hide chocolate and pull it out for her when she really needed it. Have you had a particularly hard day? When the children are occupied in one of their usual tasks during the day, such as throwing things at the walls or flooding the bathroom floor, look around you and make sure little eyes are not watching. Mothers of many children, look around you again. Remember, you are really outnumbered. When you think you are in the clear, tip-toe up to that pantry, grab a treat, and hide it for later!
4) Employ kid-locks.
This suggestion is for mothers of calmer children, and mothers of girls. For mothers of boys and incredibly energetic children, I am afraid there is not much I can do to help you. Let’s pray for each other. My older son prides himself on being able to outsmart any kid-lock on the market. When I attempt to pull out such devices, it’s like one of those old Western movies, where two men stand at opposite sides of the screen and stare each other down. It’s clear that he is not on my side. His mischievous grin seems to say, “Go ahead, Mom. Give it a try. Let’s see how long the kid-lock holds up”. He has even been known to share his lock-busting secrets with his younger siblings. For those with better odds, perhaps kid-locks can help!
5) Put things out of their reach.
Tall bookcases and the top of the refrigerator can be your allies. Try to place special, breakable things, and your favorite treats, in high places such as these. Again, mothers of boys, I empathize. This might only buy you an extra three seconds, while they grab a chair or step stool so they can reach their desired object. In extreme cases, consider a homemade alarm system! Pre-record your husband’s voice. As soon as your son’s hand touches that bag of cookies, he’ll hear something to the effect of, “I will be home in three hours. If I find this bag empty when I get home, we’ll be having a little conference. Choose carefully, Son.”
6) If all else fails, employ theatrics.
After all, they do it to you all the time. Look sad. Appeal to your children’s sense of love and compassion, and fairness (ha, ha). As you see them reaching for the last piece of your birthday cake, give them one of those little talks, the ones they always ignore. “Mommy does so much for you. I stay home with you all day, homeschooling you, washing your clothes, doing the dishes. If it weren’t for me, you wouldn’t get to baseball practice. You wouldn’t even have a clean uniform! A mother sacrifices so much for her children. Don’t you think I deserve to have that cake?” They will probably ignore you and try to eat it later when you aren’t looking, but it’s worth a try. If you catch them trying to seize it later, you can meet them at their level. Grab the cake back, head to the nearest corner, and hold onto that piece of cake for dear life. If they are brave enough to approach you, use bribery—“if you come near this cake, I’m making liver and onions for dinner tonight!”
In the end, if your kids still outsmart you, and you are cleaning up another broken picture frame, or staring at the empty freezer at midnight, remember that Our Lord, in His goodness, is teaching you detachment through your children. Hopefully, learning to practice this virtue will bring you closer to obtaining a beautiful crown in Heaven. . . and that is one thing that no one will ever be able to take away from you!
A homeschooling mother, the Costanzo family welcomed Elizabeth on December 5th and now have 7 children. She lives in the Shenandoah Valley in the northwest part of Virginia. When she finds spare time, she enjoys reading and spending time with friends. Oh, and she loves coffee.