Gosh, I like you :) Your honesty is refreshing, and you seem very balanced and healthy.
Yes, this is very, very hard. Wouldn’t it be easier to put them in preschool and let someone else deal with it? Yes. That’s why so many moms do it. Let’s be honest- preschool isn’t about getting an education.
This has been a crazy week, and so I need to answer you systematically tonight or my brain can’t process anything. So here goes:
First of all, the situation you have with Jilly and Jonathan is something that happens to me with every child. It’s like I’ve not been paying attention and suddenly the light bulb goes on and I think, “Hey! He’s not obeying me!” And then boot camp begins.
Boot camp can last as long as a month (!) and as short as a day. Depends on the child and what exactly we’re working on. For yours, I would let up only when I see some lasting improvement in basic obedience. Then expect relapses. I think what most people don’t realize is how looooonnnngggg this process of discipling is. Precept upon precept, day by day, week by week, year by year. The good news is that while the days are long, the years fly by. This too shall pass. How many more clichés do you think I can pack in that paragraph?
My older kids have a lot more freedom. We learned something very valuable from Growing Kids God’s Way: the idea of the inverted funnel. When children are very young, their measure of privilege is very narrow- the neck of the funnel. As they grow older, more faithful, more responsible, the measure of privilege broadens, like the widening part of a funnel. That is why the older two are finally playing a team sport and can have some freedom in friendships. But the younger ones have differing privileges based upon what we’re observing or what they’re working on in their lives. The six-year-old is not in any classes except our tennis class we all take together. She also is super, super social and tends to cling to other women and older girls and so I guard that very closely. I don’t want anyone else totally influencing her heart but her daddy and me for a few more years. So until I know she is completely faithful to me, she stays with me at church and I pour extra physical affection on her so that she’s not looking for approval from outside our family.
As for your kitchen... That’s tough... But if I were you, I would do everything I could to prep meals when the little ones are napping or otherwise occupied. You just don’t have the space. So here’s what I’m thinking- how would this work? During breakfast prep, they must sit on chairs where you can see them. To give them victory quickly, plan to make breakfast either super simple (cereal) or pre-done (muffins) until you see that you can trust them to stay put. During lunch prep, plan some meals for a few weeks that can involve them all, like peanut butter spread on celery (Abraham can do this), grapes (Amelia can wash them), crackers and cheese (J and J can dump the crackers in a bowl while you slice cheese- or buy it pre-sliced just for this!). And dinner... I would have something going in the crockpot and a simple salad and store bought bread or a meal you can entirely prep while they are napping. While I believe “It’s a stage- they’ll grow out of it” is a terrible cop-out, I also think there are seasons in which we can take an easier route in some areas, as long as training is still occurring and we’re not ignoring the problem altogether.
Remember the section on pausing in my talk? I firmly believe that when we are parenting and training at this level, we moms need rest. So don’t feel guilty if during boot camp you need to park them in front of a video. 30 minutes of something good while you fold laundry, or pick up your computer and check email, or read through the Psalms, or sip iced coffee in the same room as the video watchers might be what gets you through to the next thing.
I’ll keep walking alongside you in this!