A night away

We ventured out for one night at a lakeside retreat last night. Something we’d done before, but not in a long time. In the past I would exhaust myself packing for me and all the girls – quizzing each of them on what they wanted to bring and helping them get it all together and then going back through all the details in my head and packing yet another bag: “They might need this, and what about that, and she’ll be glad if I bring this, and I’ll take that just in case,” and on and on. Jerry would usually end up sitting in the car with the girls at the agreed-upon departure time waiting for his totally frazzled wife to finally extract herself with a cooler of carefully-selected snacks and drinks in one hand and the final bag of just-in-case-they-needs in the other. If my own bag made it into the car as well, that would feel like a stroke of luck.

Then when we arrived, I would put on my referee hat and get involved with every little, “No, that’s my bed! … I don’t want to sleep next to her! … You got that one last time!” which would eventually be followed by the bedtime routine-fiasco of them getting up 10 times each and she doesn’t want that music and the light’s too bright and she’s banging on the wall and I can’t sleep … Like I said, we hadn’t done this in a long time … on purpose.

This trip was still a big effort, but nowhere near the amount of work it’s been in the past. We agreed on a time to leave, and the girls packed their own bags. I didn’t even check them. I overheard Charlotte say, “I’m going to bring 2 pairs of underwear, and 2 pairs of pants in case I pee!” Eeeeeexcellent, I thought. That was followed by one bout of crying: “I don’t know how to fold shirts … I don’t want it to be wrinkled!!! … How do you doooo it?!!!” which I promptly ignored until the problem magically went away.

Did they forget things? Yes. Fenner forgot her long pants and her sun hat, and Charlotte claimed she “forgot all her clothes.” I never understood what she meant by that, but we made it work and everyone did fine. And I was a better, happier mother for it.

Relaxed mom

Relaxed mom

Also, our revised bedtime routine worked surprisingly well in the new setting – there was much less bickering and not one girl came out of her room after we said goodnight. Not one.

Meanwhile, Jerry had ample opportunity to practice breaking his old habits of micromanaging and giving praise. This morning, when it was time to make waffles, Ellen called down from upstairs, “Dad, will you please get the waffle iron out? And I’ll be right down!” He looked at me and whispered, “I was going to make them for them this morning, just to give them a treat.” I whispered back, “It sounds like she wants to do it!”

She did. In fact, they all wanted to help and Jerry caught himself several times telling them what to do: “Let me tell you just one thing … Can I give you a tip? … Careful not to spill! etc., etc.” Finally he said, “You know you might want to … never mind! You’ll figure it out!” and he clenched his fist and banged it on the counter in frustration with himself. I said softly, “Honey, just stop talking, just shut your mouth.” “That sounded a little harsh!” he said. “Well, that’s what I have to tell myself!” I answered.

He quieted down, but then found himself watching them like a hawk. He finally decided to leave the kitchen altogether. As he left, he called out with a smile, “Hooooooverrriiiiinnnng!”

Charlotte's batch

Charlotte's batch

I call that progress. He’s also slowly learning the language of encouragement to use in place of praise. I’m committed to helping him make this shift. It’s so, so important. He is the main man in their lives right now. If they stay addicted to his praise, it will most likely affect the way they relate to men for the rest of their lives. They could very well go looking for the same praise from their boyfriends and do whatever it takes to get it. Yikes.

He’s on board with it. It just takes practice.

Explore posts in the same categories: Week 7: The Art of Encouragement

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