So. Totally. Infuriated.

blue cfl light bulb against black background

Well, folks, this blog is about the good and the bad of parenting, and today we bring you the bad.

Right now, the older boys are in their room and I’ve told them not to talk to me for a while.

I’ve been frustrated for the past several days at the increasing lack of sensitivity to my voice on the part of the older boys. Seems like I have to ask them to do something, then ask again, then raise my voice to get them to do it. And this is just to get them to eat breakfast.

Yes, I have tried to come up with some Love and Logic techniques to address the situation. No, I haven’t thought of any. Part of it is me just not sitting down and refreshing my mind by reading a chapter or two in the book. I’ve been occupied a bit too much with too many things. None of them take a lot of time individually, but my focus is spread too wide. (I did start taking steps to remove some activities from my life and I’m hopeful that by the end of the month I’ll have 2 responsibilities removed; I’ll be working on cutting something somewhere else as well.)

Anyhow, back to today’s little problem. After breakfast we started schoolwork. Got right through spelling and Latin no problem. Then we got the writing work out. Today’s assignment is to address an envelope. I had to go to the bathroom and couldn’t find my box of envelopes, so I called down the hall and told them they could play for ten minutes while I was in the bathroom and subsequently locating my envelopes.

My new quilting magazine was in the bathroom, and I was just looking at the second article when I heard the glass shatter. Thudding footsteps came toward the bathroom and I heard The Mercenary say they needed to get something to clean that up. I hollered for them to come tell me what happened. Turns out they were throwing balls at each other and one ducked and the ball broke the glass.

Who threw what was immediately the subject of an argument. Of course. Remembering some pretty good advice from Stu yesterday, I told them calmly but directly that I was very angry that they didn’t obey house rules while I was in the bathroom. They’re almost ten years old, and EVERY time they get rough they hear the same thing from me: someone’s going to get hurt, you’re being too wild, that’s an outside activity.

That’s when I asked them what broke.

I was expecting to have to clean up a plate or glass in the kitchen. Wrongo. They broke the glass shade off the light in the younger boys’ room. Did I mention that there was a CFL lightbulb behind that shade? Yeah. There was. So now there’s mercury contamination in the room. On their beds, in their sheets, and on the carpet. And you’re not supposed to vacuum it up.

I told the boys to go to their room and close the door because I was too angry. Then I called Hubby and updated him. I didn’t realize at first that the bulb was broken and thought that it was just a glass cleaning effort. When I went back in to start cleanup, I noticed the bulb was broken. Called Hubby back and told him, then I went and yelled at the boys.

Yes. I yelled. All they had to do was obey the house rules. “No throwing balls in the house” has been in effect since they were about 3. In my humble opinion, 6+ years is enough time to learn the rule. Even the Love and Logic book says that the occasional parental meltdown can be instructive for children. If the parent is severely inconvenienced by the infraction then the child can learn from the whole thing. Did I think that all out before I yelled? Nope. Just got mad and yelled. I’ll admit it.

So. I’ve calmed down considerably while telling you the whole story. I’m off to check the EPA guidelines for cleaning up broken CFLs and then have a calmer talk with the boys.

Wish us luck.

Earnest Parenting: help for parents who are really, really, mad.

The editor-in-chief of Earnest Parenting, Amy is the mother of two sets of twin boys. Yes, they drive her crazy, but they also make her laugh occasionally. Amy enjoys writing, quilting, reading, and working on her burgeoning cyber empire.

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  • Bob Younce March 11, 2008, 10:09 am

    G’luck, Amy!

    For what it’s worth, I’ve got a 14 year-old who’s still trying to learn the rules from when she was 3!

    Reply
  • Amy March 11, 2008, 11:08 am

    Thanks Bob. I know children aren’t going to remember to obey the rules all the time. Heck, we adults don’t. It just freaks me out how simple it would have been to obey the rule.

    Hubby and I have been talking about it, and he agrees that the twin factor is definitely coming into play here. They egg each other on and stop thinking pretty quickly. We’re toying with different consequences (for life in general, not just this episode) and one option is to have a nice woodpile that needs stacking here and there around the yard. My objection to that is that I’d have to police them because they’d either get into a wrestling match or get into a wrestling match. I foresee some dividing and conquering in the future.

    The worst part of all this is that I’m reading online that I can’t wash the bedding that’s been contaminated. I have a question in to the EnergyStar folks about it. Included in that bedding are 2 quilts that I made myself and worked very hard on, so I’m currently pretty upset.

    The boys are very sorry, and seeing their mom cry over those quilts is definitely affecting them. The Mercenary (true to his name) brought me out an envelope of money to try and make it better. TechnoBoy is hiding out in the bat cave.

    Reply
  • Bob Younce March 11, 2008, 5:07 pm

    ROFL, AMY! ” they’d either get into a wrestling match or get into a wrestling match.” Angie and I are busting a gut.

    LOVE IT!

    Reply
  • Crystal March 11, 2008, 7:30 pm

    Oh, Amy! I am teary thinking about the possible permenant contamination of your quilts. Sometimes it takes something drastic to teach a lesson. Whether you have to dispose of them or can clean them, I know that if anyone can come up with a lesson out of this you can. Just seeing you so sad may be the thing. No kid wants to make their mom cry, but seeing how your actions affect your parents is important.

    I see chores to earn money for replacement lights, and bedding and cleaning materials in the immediate future. (Since they can’t exactly help with toxic clean up, can they?)

    Reply
  • Amy March 11, 2008, 9:26 pm

    @Bob: yeah, I cracked myself up a little when I wrote that. Between the tears. Seems like if they’re not playing at beating each other up, they’re actually beating each other up. Life with boys. Sheesh.

    @Crystal: thanks for the sweet words. I talked to my friend who’s a naturopath and she helped me with how to handle it. Because I have a central vacuum that vents outdoors, she agreed that vacuuming wouldn’t be any more dangerous than someone with fillings speaking. So after I aired out the room – all day, because I just couldn’t bring myself to go in without losing it all over again – Hubby and I went in and started vacuuming and tossing. He bought them new pillows on the way home. We threw out all their sheets and old pillows for fear of mercury and glass shards. Then the blankets and quilts got vacuumed. Which is an exhausting job, by the way. Hubby did most of it b/c my arms were really hurting. I’ve double washed some of the laundry, and the other half has been through once. I’ll finish it in the morning. Stephanie suggested I hang dry everything. Which is not an easy thing this time of year when I don’t own a clothes line. We wiped down walls and the hard surfaces. Threw out 3 bags of trash and glass, took down the curtains and vacuumed and will wash and dry those too.

    Hubby had a long talk with the boys after bedtime. I don’t know what they said. We had long discussions between ourselves as well. Ultimately, the issue revolves around their willingness to extend themselves. In this case, I wanted them to exercise some self-control and obey. That’s what drives me the craziest. The entire problem would have been avoided if they’d just honor the rules.

    We also discussed ways of modeling more giving for them to see. A lot of our giving is money, which they don’t see. Hubby wants to look into some volunteering locally. Maybe if they see us doing more outside our own comfort zones, then they’ll start stepping out of theirs.

    Yes, they’ll be buying a new light for the bedroom. They might need to buy some new sheets as well, since I threw out 2 sets tonight. We’ll price that out and find something that makes a point without introducing crushing debt. The Mercenary has a cache of cash (no surprise there) but TechnoBoy is broke so he’ll have to earn it.

    Reply
  • Writing Mommy March 12, 2008, 2:31 am

    Oh my, what a lot of work! I’m also at my wits’ end trying to enforce house rules. My son is six and can sometimes be as destructive as a tornado all by himself. I’m going to have to come up with some effective stuff very soon.
    Great blog, by the way. 🙂

    Reply
  • Marvin March 12, 2008, 7:10 am

    It should be taken as said that all boys are allowed to throw a ball through a window at least once.

    Reply
  • Amy March 12, 2008, 9:40 am

    @Writing Mommy: Yes, it was a lot of work. I’m thankful Hubby was so willing to help. I’m pondering looking at them lovingly and saying, “Bummer. I can’t trust you while I’m on the phone so you’ll have to sit on your bed. Silently.” Other than that, haven’t come up with any new ideas. I still need to dig out my Love and Logic book for inspiration.

    @Marvin: ummmm, can it be an OPEN window??? I shudder to think of the expense involved with replacing a window.

    Reply
  • Wendy March 12, 2008, 10:17 am

    Oh Amy! Thank God you were able to save the quilts. All that work!

    CJ did the exact same thing at their age-sans mercury. I thought I was going to have a heart attack over just the broken glass and bulb. He paid for it, plus put in equal amount of work time that it took us to clean up the mess. My lower kitchen cabinets looked lovely!

    Not looking to excuse the boys by any means, but you mentioned having to repeat yourself a lot lately. Has spring fever hit them? I use to dread it when I worked at the elementary school.

    ~Wendy

    Reply
  • Michelle (The Beartwinsmom) March 12, 2008, 8:53 pm

    Whew- I’m glad to read that you were able to save the quilts.

    Now will you get rid of those evil light bulbs? (wink)

    Love ya!

    Reply
  • Amy March 13, 2008, 7:10 pm

    @Wendy: they never stop giving us heart attacks, do they? Spring fever may be part of it but mostly it’s just too much energy and too little forethought. Nobody wants to go out and tromp in the mud when it’s still this chilly. I’m sure that will change shortly.

    @Michelle: Do you want them? 😉 Ha ha. Yes, I’ll be ditching them shortly. Need to go shopping first.

    Reply
  • Stu Mark March 16, 2008, 1:09 pm

    First, you are in my prayers. I can empathize with you completely. My son is *15* and still plays ball in the house. I say don’t, he says ok, then a week later – ball-playing in the house.

    This leads me to my second point: Age appropriateness. Boys are destructive. It is their nature. While I am not condoning the playing of ball in the house (as a homemaker, I see the very practical aspect of an absolute ban on playing ball indoors), I do urge you to consider what others have urged me to consider at times – that my kids are acting their age.

    Now, I get that the lamp incident is heavy-duty for a homemaker (mercury is a serious health hazard). But there is a part of me that thinks, hey, way worse things happen in a home or to a family. I’m not taking away the legitimacy of your anger. But I am attempting to give you another perspective, and that can be illustrated here: My son skateboards. I have *begged* him to wear jeans and long sleeves when he skates, to protect his body from road rash. One day he attempted to successfully skate a very steep hill. He came home bloody and scraped, and as I was cleaning his wounds, I saw that his sleeveless basketball jersey had become ground into the wound, so I was forced to use tweezers to pluck green plastic out of his skin. Of course I reminded him of my instructions to wear long sleeves, but at the same time I was able to calm myself, by recognizing that he hadn’t cracked his head open or broken his arm. This is the thing that keeps my anger in check.

    I hope this was of some help. Hang in there, it really does get better.

    Reply
  • Stu Mark March 16, 2008, 1:16 pm

    As far as the money thing goes, I don’t see that you have to change that. You could just bring the kids over and have them watch you write out the check to whatever charity, explaining the process and showing them the amount. I’m not against voluntarism, just suggesting that showing the kids your normal behavior, including them in these things, is a way to get them to learn by example.

    As always, your mileage may vary.

    Reply
  • Amy March 16, 2008, 8:17 pm

    @Stu: thanks for the prayers. 🙂 Always love those. As for the ball in the house rule, I don’t know if I clarified what “ball” the boys were using. Are you familiar with the ball with a handle on it that a child sits on and bounces across the floor? THAT’S what the boys were throwing. The thing is easily 18″ in diameter. Not only did it not belong to either of the perpetrators, but they’d been told daily that that ball is only for bouncing on the floor and not for swinging around at each others’ heads.

    They each have a collection of the small bouncy balls – we called them “superballs” when I was a kid – that I don’t mind being bounced in the house. I do encourage them to try and bounce them in areas where the balls can’t get lost in small crevices but other than that I don’t really throw fits about it.

    I know kids are going to do foolish things. I don’t expect 9yos to act like adults. And yes, I know boys are destructive. Do I ever know that.

    I also know that my personality, the fact that I’m not male, and the fact that I’ve never had a twin makes it difficult for me to relate to them. I try to keep that in mind.

    On the other hand, there has to be some consequence for their foolishness. It’s in dealing with consequences that we learn to change our behavior. One consequence for the boys was me yelling. Not proud of it, but there you have it. Another was them seeing me cry over those quilts when I thought I’d have to throw them out. That was not planned, in fact I tried hard to conceal my sorrow but they caught me.

    At this point, I’m still planning to have them purchase or contribute to the purchase of a new light. I got the last one for $15 but it was on clearance and I don’t know if I can find something that cheaply again. We’ll see. If not, I may just have them contribute. We haven’t gone to the store yet.

    As for the money thing, I’m pretty unwilling to show them the amount on the checks, which are written to our small church. Both Hubby and I are very uncomfortable with the boys having that information because then they’d be tempted to repeat it to other kids. Boys….one-upmanship….it’s a given that if they knew they’d eventually tell someone. That may change when they’re older, but right now I don’t want to burden them with that particular responsibility. That’s why we are looking for other ways to demonstrate helping others.

    Reply
  • Stu Mark March 16, 2008, 9:53 pm

    I agree on all your points. Allow my slight counterpoint, just for conversation (I benefit greatly from such conversations, just as someone would benefit from a book club conversation).

    The money thing: What if you show them everything but the amount, keeping that private? That way the only one-upsmanship that could appear would be “My folks give to charity,” which seems a non-issue (and possibly a good thing).

    The punishment thing: absolutely a brilliant idea to have them pay for the new bulb. I’m thinking that, upon hearing your idea, what I would do even if the quilts weren’t involved. I agree, break a rule that results in breaking a thing, you pay for the thing. That’s just real life.

    As for the ball thing: You are way more flexible than I am on that score. I won’t allow super-ball bouncing or anything of that nature. Anything that can possibly cause damage must be kept in our complete control at all times. No throwing anything, whether it’s your shoe or a ball or whatever. Yes, I’m nuts, I get it.

    Thanks for your blog, these posts of yours are really helpful to me. They give me a perspective that not only helps me as a writer, but as a parent as well. Dig that.

    Reply
  • Amy March 16, 2008, 10:19 pm

    Oh, one more thing. (Sorry I’m such a chatty cathy). The lamp that was broken was actually a wall sconce about six feet off the ground in the far corner of the room from the entry door over the bunk bed. When it shattered, both beds and the curtains on the window nearby were exposed to the mercury and broken glass.

    In order for the light to shatter on contact with the ball, a pretty wild game had to be taking place. The foolishness in this case was rather extreme. I heard the crash from 40 feet away through a closed door and thought it was in the kitchen, which was only separated from the bathroom by a hallway. It was that loud.

    Okay that was more than one thing. Sorry. Shutting up now. 🙂

    Reply
  • Amy March 16, 2008, 10:31 pm

    Oooh, didn’t realize you were commenting while I was commenting. Lol.

    Good idea about the check without the amount thing. I hadn’t really thought of that. I think the boys know that we give but it’s not something we talk about a lot. We have a neighbor whose kid is big into the “my sandbox is bigger than your sandbox” thing. He honestly said that to me when he was about 5. I was floored. I absolutely hate that kind of thing and don’t want my boys to talk that way. I’m sure they do, lol. But they at least know not to do it in my hearing.

    Wow, that’s high praise. Thank you so much, you made my day.

    For the most part I don’t have fragile things out around the house, which helps with the ball-bouncing. And I try to direct them downstairs, which is still unfinished-although that will change over the next few months. I am still considering concrete furniture and/or rubber walls.

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