Thursday, December 10, 2015

Lazy Parenting

I had my first four babies at ages 24, 25, 27, and 28.  I was young and full of energy and good intentions.  My husband, who is 19 months younger than me, was even more energetic and optimistic.  We really put our everything into parenting that group of little kids.  We disciplined strongly, we hovered appropriately, we played and taught unceasingly.  

We planned outings and adventures, we withheld junk food and sweet treats on a daily basis, we kept charts for behavior and were so involved.  We had to be!  They were all so little and needy! Overall, we really were the best parents we could be to those four babies.  I'm not saying that to brag, we weren't doing anything extraordinary, just fulfilling our vocation's duties.

Then things changed.  Those four babies grew up, and  I started working outside of the home more. We sent our kids to school.  Teachers were now in charge of their days, and they all thrived, but it meant we got used to spending less time with them.  They didn't need  We let go a little and it didn't backfire. They were growing up and becoming independent, and it was wonderful!
  We had a 3.5 year break before another baby came along.  By this point, I was working full-time.  We sent that baby and the next one (three years later)  to home day cares.  While we love the amazing women who cared for our babies, it was somebody else doing the "dirty work" all day.  We would get them home for all the good stuff - dinner, bath, a show, a snuggle, and bedtime.  Weekends became so busy with sports and activities for the older kids, that we rarely have time for family outings like we used to.  

It's as if we are raising two separate families.

Family One:

Family Two:

The younger two boys are living such a different childhood from the older four.  It's mostly been out of our happens and we all have to adjust accordingly.

But, but, but, somewhere along the line, we also got older and more tired and more lazy.  

While our younger two have the benefit of older siblings who can teach them all the cool things (they really are adored around here), they can also teach them all the bad things.  While JP, Andrew, Eamon and Maggie were only allowed to watch Sesame Street or Veggie Tales at young ages, Alexander and Declan have seen the occasional Spongebob episode or The Thundermans.  It's very hard to keep the house at a constant toddler rating when your oldest is almost a teenager.  

These little ones have a built-in audience for their class-clown ways.  It's difficult to get the older kids to NOT laugh at the misbehaving antics of the little ones, which only eggs them on.  And most times I can't blame them, it IS funny, but unacceptable nonetheless.  

 It's also hard to literally get off my behind to discipline a naughty toddler when I am explaining the Pythagorean theory to a middle school student working on his science project.  It is so much easier to just say "Stop it!" then to actually go and remove him from the bathroom and set the timer while he sits in time-out for teaching his baby brother how to throw cups of water out of the bathtub.

But just because something is hard doesn't mean we shouldn't do it.  

So, we are trying to establish the rules we used to have back in the throes of raising babies and toddlers.  The toddler will get time-outs.  The baby will not get his pacifier unless he is sleeping or at Mass.  The toddler will get a smiley face drawn on the calendar every time he comes home from school "without getting spoken to".  Big kid shows will only be allowed on weekends after the littles are in bed.  During the week, only PBS or Sprout or Mickey Mouse Clubhouse or VeggieTales will be watched.  More family outings will be planned, and even if we can't leave the house, there will be more of an effort for family play time.  Etc, etc, etc.

I know this "second family" of mine will receive benefits from their position in the family (more independence, more street smarts, more playmates, more attention and love) but I can't use that to justify being a lazy parent anymore.  Order will be restored, and with that hopefully peace and joy.  Heaven help me.


  1. I can relate to so much of this right now. The family dynamics changing as the age span increases among the kids (for better and worse)...figuring out how to navigate that right along with you :)

  2. Colleen, you're such a great mama, and such a wonderful example for us who are still raising babies. Honestly, I seriously applaud you for recognizing these things and striving to work on them, I feel like the temptation is to just give up, but it's so admirable that you're not-- thank you for this post!

  3. So true! Such a beautiful family!

  4. I make this resolution every few years. It works - sometimes! I do want to stop parenting vocally so much and be physically present for middle and younger kids. My first kids are really wonderful, and I'm sure they benefited from the museums and the activities and the parental involvement.
    But, as I get older, I also relax about the structure days and the Spongebob episodes. The younger set learn a lot from the big kids, the big kids will take on some extra responsibility, and sometimes there are no playdates or museums. Different kids will need different things, and providing for their needs with love and consideration is my goal. Anything else is a nice extra.
    Also. I feel now some of what we do is guided more by the kids' interests rather than what mom or dad thinks is "right" - this leads to a little more independence and a sense of validation for the kid. (That might not make sense, but I'm working on not much sleep and too much grading right now.)
    Now I need to corral the 3 yr old before she destroys the TV room , and see if my college age girl wants to go shopping.
    Good luck as you revamp your parenting approach!

  5. This is EXACTLY what I've been saying to myself for the past year with Miss Clementine. My husband would say, "I'm too tired for this," and laugh knowing that was true, but a cop out (he is 47). I've been feeling guilty about not doing as much with her as I had done with the older four. I find the older ones doing with her what I should be. Some moms told me that is what being part of a big family is about...helping, learning, growing together. But I still feel guilty. This past fall I have made a greater effort in getting down to her level, and both David and I have been "correcting" more like we should have been all along (like we did with the older four). It's tough though, but a must.

  6. I can relate! Four in four years (the first when I was 25), then a five year break before #5 came along. The older four had to be 12 before they were allowed to watch "the Simpsons." The youngest was not even close to 12 when he got the same privilege, because he was always sad yo be left out, on his own, when the big guys sat ogether and watched it. And his bedtime was never quite as early either...

    I don't think we ruined him, though, thank goodness. He grew up to be a pretty incredible young man (said his mommy).

    1. Just re-read this and yikes--the typos!


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