Today, I worked for several hours in the morning before Charlie headed in to his office in the afternoon. But all morning, while I worked, I was thinking about the fun things I wanted to do with the kids. When Charlie and I finally traded off, I sat reading stories for about an hour before I implemented a new "Reward" chart that I had formulated.
Our children, for the most part, are very good. But there are three of them at the exact same age. And quite honestly, the challenges of having three children, the exact same age, can not be fully understood and appreciated unless you experience it.
The theory behind my reward chart is that it will serve as a means of encouraging positive behavior. When I catch the kids being helpful, kind, polite or listening - they will get a star. At the end of the day, whoever has the most stars, will be "Leader" for the following day. Now the role of "Leader" is coveted because it is the leader that gets first dibs to help me on big activities such as cracking eggs for breakfast - pouring detergent in the washer - or putting mail in the mailbox. And at the end of the week, whoever had been the Leader the most times during that week, would have a special day with either Charlie or I, where we would take them out for lunch. Or a matinee. Or something fun to celebrate their good behavior.
Today, once I finished the chart and reviewed it with the children - I tried to test it's effectiveness. I told everyone to put on their shoes and within two minutes, all three of them had put on their shoes - after having been told only once - and they had also fetched Henry's shoes for me to put on his feet.
I was thrilled and could instantly envision world peace and a Reward Chart for Korea.
Everyone climbed in to the car and buckled themselves in to their carseats while I loaded Henry. We set off for REI where I had intended to buy some new shoes for Carolyn who is going through yet another growth spurt and has shot up more than three-inches in the past six months. The kids do fairly well in REI. Minus an event where they hid themselves in a clothes rack and almost flipped it over. And the small scale fight that broke out when Elizabeth pushed the up button on the elevator, and then held her hand over it so no one else could take a turn.
We left REI and we go to the car. The kids buckle themselves in to their carseats while I load Henry. In the backseat, Carolyn and Elizabeth are fighting over my water bottle. Carolyn has already consumed more than 1/2 the water in the bottle - and Elizabeth now wants to take a sip. Carolyn won't give her the bottle. Elizabeth is flipping out. I remind the kids of the Reward Chart and Carolyn passes the water bottle to her sister - but her sister hasn't had the bottle to her lips for more than a second - when Carolyn throws a conniption fit that Elizabeth is going to DRINK! IT! ALL!
Followed by a full body convulsion, with arms flailing, legs kicking, head slamming in to the carseat. I summon calm and tell Carolyn to take a breath. Then I tell Elizabeth that once I finish loading the stroller in to the car, she needs to give Carolyn another sip. Another 30 seconds lapse and the stroller is loaded. I walk around to the side of the car and tell Elizabeth that she needs to give her sister the water bottle. Carolyn, at this point, has resumed her conniption fit SHE'S DRINKING IT ALL! SHE'S DRINKING IT ALL!
Elizabeth just sat with the water bottle to her lips and continued to sip. And sip. And sip. And her eyes gleamed and sparkled and I could just see that in her four-year-old mind, she was teasing Carolyn, "I'm DRINKING IT ALL!" and to me, she was taunting, "YOU CAN'T STOP ME!" So I climbed over the back seat, popped her on the leg, snatched the water bottle away and flipped it at Carolyn while yelling something in Vietnamese.
I'm flushed and angry.
Why can't they just act CIVIL?!
Reward Charts are CRAP!
William, meanwhile - who sensed all this was going on directly behind him - in an attempt to lighten the atmosphere asks me, "Hey MOM! Why did the chicken cross the road?!"
"I don't know!" I answered. "I'm going to guess to get away from her baby chickens?!
We then drive to the local duck pond where our plan was to feed the ... you guessed it ... ducks. I'd post pictures of this outing, except my Macintosh has crashed for the second time in two months and is in the shop.
The whole way to the duck pond - all three miles of it - I ranted from the driver seat, "YOU KIDS NEED TO BE KIND! YOU NEED TO BE RESPECTFUL! YOU NEED TO LISTEN! It is entirely up to you. Do you want to have a GOOD day or do you want to have a BAD day? Because when you act NICELY - you will have a NICE day. When you act UGLY - you will have an UGLY day. Do I make myself clear?!"
Then I repeated that same exact spiel at least four more times. Because there's nothing like kicking a dead horse repeatedly. repeatedly.
So we get to the duck pond. The kids are doing well for the first 3/4 of the walk around the pond. And then, someone sticks their hands in to what they thought was mud - but turned out to be duck poop - and then tries to rub their poop coated hands all over their sibling who was wearing a WHITE shirt. While someone else climbed a tree and broke off a small branch, which they then swung around their head, hitting random objects, including me. And someone else, jumped in to what they thought was a puddle, but turned out to be a small sinkhole that engulfed them to their knees in muck.
Then the baby started howling.
I'm trying to find the joy as I clean everyone up and load them in to the car for a final stop by Trader Joe's on our way home. It is critical that we stop for popsicles. And lemonade. And fresh fruit. And milk. Once we arrive in the parking lot, I run through the rules before we enter the store. There is to be No Pushing, No Hitting, No Yelling, No Running.
We go in to the store and someone promptly begins constructing a tower out of canteloupes. Someone sticks their finger through a cellophane wrapped package of portobello mushrooms and someone else runs headlong in to a grapefruit display.
(And to whomever it was that wrote me a note last week asking if I make this stuff up for an interesting read ... I will tell you that NO, I DO NOT. Triplet mothers, please chime in, here.)
I'm done with all of our shopping in less than four minutes. On our way out to the car, the kids grab uninflated balloons from the basket next to the door. And before I can stop them, they bring them to their lips and try to inflate. Because our saliva is now all over the balloons, I let them keep them, which goes against almost everything that I believe. Because although balloons are a wonderful toy for most children - very rarely have balloons been anything but a nightmare for my trio. The fighting. The popping. The subsequent confiscation of balloons that were originally not yours. Etcetera. Etcetera.
I blow up the balloons. We get in the car. We drive home. The balloons are blowing around the inside of the car and the kids are all upset because their balloons are on the floor. We arrive home and when I open the side doors to the van, two of the balloons blow out and take off tumbling down the street.
The kids go crazy with hysteria, so me - being the awesome mom that I am - take off running after the balloons and save the day.
Once I catch them - I bring all the balloons inside the house. Then I deposit the groceries by the front door. Then, I bring in the kids, who had been securely strapped in their carseats. Then, I tell the kids to go outside and play in the backyard while I put away the refrigerated items. The kids go in the backyard and promptly knock each other's balloons over the fence, then they come in the house to tell me that they want me to run down the street and get their balloons. That's when I notice that in the two minutes they were outside, Henry has successfully removed every stitch of his clothing.
I tell the kids no, that's what happens when they knock balloons over the fence, and then I set about spraying the baby's bottom with sunscreen.
Just then, Charlie calls.
I'm feeling a little frayed and I want to talk freely. So I go in to the laundry room and while I'm transferring a load from the washer to the drier, I hear the front door close. The front door. That leads to the street. A very busy corner street, where I have seen cars bank the curve at 25 miles per hour. The front door that has a dead bolt and a latch up high to keep small children IN.
While my husband is still on the line, I run out of the laundry room and in to the front of the house - which is less than 10 feet away (because we live in a box) and I see that Elizabeth is sheepishly holding her balloon. While William and Carolyn are staring at her, bug-eyed.
I have a monumental flip out because it is clear that she OPENED the front door and went outside of our house and walked along the street to get her balloon. And if I wasn't scared enough about cars driven by teenagers that go flying up and down our street, oblivious to anyone and anything, I was scared about the convicted pedophile who lives six doors down. Or ... the people who have never been convicted of a crime against children, but are waiting for the opportunity to strike. And the people who come across the border, kidnap children, and bring them back to Mexico where they hold them for ransom.
BECAUSE I THINK THAT WAY.
The kids know this. I tell them all the time that they can't go outside without me. They know that they can't open the front door for strangers (which they have done) and they absolutely can't wander off our property. I lose my cool and I dig in to a defiant Elizabeth for opening the door and going outside without me. For the next two or three minutes I alternate yelling from one child to the next.
WHAT IF SOMETHING HAPPENED?!
WHY DIDN'T SOMEONE TELL ME?!
And right about then, it was as though someone whispered in my ear...
I screamed at the kids, "Where's the BABY?!" but they were hiding under their pillows and didn't even respond. So I ran out in the backyard to see if he was there, but before I completed a full scan or looked in to all of his favorite hideouts, I sprinted to the front door and dashed out to the front yard.
He was no where to be seen.
I ran around the side of our house, the side that borders one of the busiest streets in our immediate neighborhood, and standing 100 feet down our property line - in the nude - was the baby, picking up rocks and throwing them on the road. I ran down and grabbed him - and the whole 100 feet back to the house - I kept thinking that I needed to breathe and decompress because I was on the tippity tip verge of losing complete control.
A few years ago, someone told me that if I can get through a day and my children are all still alive, the day has been a success. So when I got back to the house - I made the decision that the triplets would be immediately put in to their pajamas and deposited directly in to bed, without dinner. Even though it was only 5:00 PM, I knew that if they were up a MINUTE more, there would be no guarantees how the day would end.
So yay for me.
Today was a success.