Thursday was the worst, and I mean WORST, parenting day I have ever had. Ever.
It started on Wednesday evening. Annabeth had spent most of the day playing "birthday party" in Owen's room. His room is basically a big, open space right now and she was having so much fun that I thought it was a fine idea to play in there. Even though, I generally try to have all of the toys picked up at the end of the day so we don't begin the next day with a mess, we were having dinner at our friend's house so we did a quick pick up and just left the rest of the toys out.
Thursday morning we woke up to the mess still in Owen's room. I told Annabeth that before she could get out any more toys that she would have to pick those up and put them away. She wanted the continue the birthday party game so she played in there most of the morning. We all got washed up, had lunch, and then had a great school session. Then around 3 o'clock it all came crashing down.
She wanted to play in her toy kitchen so I reminded her that she could not do that until all of her things in Owen's room were put away. She was angry but I reminded her that it really should have been done the evening before or that morning. She threw herself on the floor in a huge fit. I quickly saw that she was not going to get to work so I set the kitchen timer. This technique usually makes her focus and hurry to clean up. Not yesterday, the timer just made her more angry. By the end of the ten minutes she had removed every item from Owen's room and thrown it in the hallway. I said, "No. Those items need to be put away." She was screaming and crying even louder at this point and so she pushed them all into the doorway of her room. "OKAY! THIS IS WHERE I WANT THEM!" she yelled. I said, "No. They need to go where they belong so we can find them next time." Wail! "But my hands are tired. They are too tired to pick up!" She probably yelled that phrase at me 20 times.
We sat at "My hands are too tired" for about an hours worth of screaming (by now Owen was also crying).
I debated what to do. Usually when clean up is rough one of two things happens:
1. I pick up everything away where it goes because I do not want to deal with the fit any longer.
2. I pick up everything and put it in bags and take it to the garage. Then she must earn back the toys.
Either way she "wins" because I pick up all the toys. Neither of these tactics have worked in the past.
Finally, at 5 o'clock (yes two hours in) I gave in and bagged up everything I could find and took it all to the garage. She was kicking and screaming and hitting me. I put her in her room, closed the door, and went to cook dinner.
When Mark got home we had a long talk about what the consequences needed to be.
We didn't want to throw the toys away. Some were some of her very nice and best toys that could be enjoyed by someone else. It felt extremely wasteful to even pretend to throw nice things away.
We debated if she should have to donate the toys but we didn't want her to think that giving to charity is a punishment.
In the end, Mark came up with a plan.
He moved every.single.toy. into the living room. Then he moved the toy containers into the room. His new rule is that every toy must fit into one of the totes and all of the others needed to leave the house. If her hands were too tired to pick up her toys than she had too many toys.
Mark and Annabeth worked together, beautifully I might add, and sorted through all of her toys. They filled one bag of trash of toys that were broken or chewed on, one bag for Goodwill, and one bag to save and sell at the Spring Consignment Sale. Mark and I did vote that three of her give-away items had to go to her keepsake tote as we were emotionally attached to them.
In the end, her gigantic meltdown led to a great clean out and a wonderful opportunity for her to work together with Mark to complete a huge task. I was so grateful for his idea and execution of this plan. When she and I clean out toys, I can usually get her to part with two or three but she responded really well to his plan. This was a great consequence for her actions because she really did have to part with quite a few items. I think it also allowed us to show her that we value her opinion and we want to hear her wishes. We allowed her to pick all items that stayed or left and we hope that she felt respected in the process.
It was a great reminder of why I love being part of a parenting team and why I love being married to Mark so much. He has a wonderful way of calming me down and balancing me out. I am so thankful to be married to someone who helps me to be better. God has richly blessed me with beautiful children and a wonderful husband.