Be warned: this post is definitely of the rambling discussion/analysis type.
This past weekend Hub's little sisters came to stay with us: S is 7 and C is 5. It has been over a year since they stayed last, and that last visit was more of a battle than a fun time with cute little girls. I was determined that this visit would be better.
I did my homework. We really like Supernanny Jo Frost, and we take notes for the future when watching her show; we used her house rules, naughty seat and bedtime routine. I went online and found some strategies for getting kids to eat food that is good for them. I also wanted to spend more time with them than I did last time, so I decided to involve them in whatever I was doing: meal prep, chores etc. I felt armed and ready.
And the weekend was great!
We went over the house rules as soon as we got home on Friday, and I only had to remind them once or twice about the rules the rest of the weekend. No one had to sit on the naughty seat all weekend. The bedtime routine worked very well, though I think I'd like to have a very small nightlight in their room next time and an option for separating them if they won't settle down and go to sleep.
When it came to mealtimes I used the philosophy I found in a comment on this Momversations blog post: We (the adults) decide what and when, they (the kids) decide if and how much. I also resolved to have them as involved as possible in making our meals because I know my palette expanded once I started working with ingredients and cooking for myself.
We made black bean and cheese quesadillas, hummus and pasta salad chock full of veggies. They helped cook on the stove top, practiced their cutting skills (supervised of course), used the microwave, used the food processor, tasted the ingredients. They were excited to be involved, and I was glad we could spend time together in a way that made all of us happy (I have forgotten how to enjoy the fine art of playing dolls, so a lot of time spent that way would be very hard on me).
There were zero mealtime battles this weekend. They were given a plate containing one or two bites of each of the foods we were having with the meal and told that they could eat if and what they wanted to, but anyone wanting seconds of anything had to present a clean plate. And there was no bribing with dessert because there was no way we were subjecting ourselves to those little cuties hopped up on sugar. They had about 3 ounces of chocolate milk Sunday morning and that was it for the sweet stuff.
Last night when we met Hub's mom to hand them over she said, "Kimberly, why are they wearing mismatched clothes!!" I told her that was one area I left to them; we were so strict otherwise we had to at least let them decide what to wear. And we were strict as far as I (a women who has no children of her own) can tell, but the boundaries resulted in a fun weekend in which they knew what was expected of them, and we were all free to enjoy each other.
Was it a perfect weekend? Goodness, no. Someone (I'm pretty sure I know who) drew on the car seat with white crayon; someone blew her nose on Hub's towel (after being told repeatedly to use a tissue, not her bare finger), lied about it and only admitted to it after a very calm, yet serious, heart-to-heart about trust and responsibility (as in once you blow your nose on someone's towel you need to put it in the clothes hamper and get them a new towel); they poked and bothered each other etc. Basically they were 5 and 7-year-old kids.
Was I perfect? Goodness, no. The one time when the naughty seat was not an option and the situation was particularly intense I threatened spankings on bare behinds unlike any spankings they had ever previously received. Hubs let me know later he thought that was a bit extreme. I agreed. I was very calm and spoke in even, measured tones when delivering this threat and thankfully they did not test me, but I'm sure I can come up with a better alternative should that particular situation come up again.
I told Hubs that while they have certainly matured since we last spent a lot of time with them, I'm pretty sure I have changed more than they have which was key to us having an enjoyable weekend.
As enjoyable as it was Hubs and I were definitely beat when it was all over...glad to see 'em come and glad to see 'em go :)