Monday, August 25, 2014

Controlled Chaos

     Do you know that folks actually believe that large families must run like a military post? They do! I have been asked countless times about my complicated scheduling for chores, school, grocery shopping, church, laundry, and errand running.  I find myself wondering if everyone is so regulated, and how did I miss this? When was the Mommy Scheduling Class, and how did I miss it when I was signing up for all of those birthing classes?
     Another Mom of Many Blessings announced once to a crowded room that a large family must be run with precision or else everything will be chaotic, no discipline at all! All I can imagine, is that this mom was blessed some kiddos that truly value precision.  I have a couple of kiddos that do. I also have a few that don't.
     There is, even at TheZoo, a place for precision. When Mr.TheZoo does a tune up on one of the vehicles. When we have math lessons, when someone is practicing an instrument, when anyone is cleaning the toilet (please, always insist on precision with this one). Our towels must be folded the correct way so that they will fit where they are stored. Only so many articles of clothing per person will fit in a closet, and please keep your backpacks free of loose paper.
     Then, there is life. It tends to be a bit messy. Learning to handle emotions isn't a precision lesson, it's chaotic. Dealing with other people's emotions is chaotic. Laundry is chaotic! There are guidelines that we use for most of life around here, for example, 'Be respectful, even if you don't feel like it.' It's a great piece of advice for anyone at any point in their life. Is it precision? Not really. There are going to be times when we blow it and we raise our voice, or accuse in anger, or vent irrationally. Maybe that person wasn't being respectful, even when they didn't feel like it. What about the rest of us? Are we realizing that sometimes we feel similarly, and that the out of control person might just need to be heard for a moment? It isn't fair, it isn't controlled, it doesn't look good, it just is.  So, the shouty person gets heard, they are acknowledged, and then we work it out. This is time consuming. It's calm, it's loving, it's gentle, it's corrective, and it's healing.  This means that whatever was on the docket before the outburst is either scrapped, or pushed back. Everything else down the line for the rest of the minutes of the day have to change. I then must decide which things get done, and which ones wait for tomorrow. If I held a precision calendar with every last thing marked out with no room for interruption, for correction, for moments of "I need a hug and a story", then all would would have to show at the end of my Mommy years would be a bunch of calendars with completed check lists.
     Deciding what needs to be on the calendar, then shuffling those things around from time to time require that I write it all in pencil, and that it gets erased and re-written. It's messy. Sometimes things fall behind, but hopefully they are the things that don't have much impact on whether someone is getting my undivided attention while they are growing up. So folks can judge me today on the state of my windows, but I'd rather have doggy nose smudges on my windows than children who feel unloved.
     If you have managed to live a precision life with a large family, and still have time for gentle discipline, please continue to do so without judgement from me. I'm not throwing stones at you. I'm saying that it doesn't work here. I have a rebellious nature. I balk at lists that I make for myself! I have learned to keep myself organized as the primary educator for our children, and have learned to put major tasks on my schedule so they the time doesn't get away from us, but the daily activities are in my head. We do what we do daily, why do we need a checklist? Someone asked me for my weekly and monthly food plans. They first asked how to feed a large family inexpensively, and were looking for some quick meals. I answered the questions with some ideas that are in my head. I don't have them written down. Weekly and monthly food plans? I used to make menus, shop off of them, and never waiver. It's rather time consuming! Did I save money that way? Only if I researched sales ads and coupons first, then made my menus based on those, AND shopped at three or for different grocers to get all of the ingredients. I saved a fair amount of grocery money. I spent quite a bit of money on fuel for the vehicle, and the time It took to research, create a menu, create the grocery lists for each store, stop and shop at each one, and then be able to execute the plan was vexing. Now, I have a good idea of what tend to eat on a weekly basis, and I purchase those items. We do change things up, but for the most part, I have a fair idea of what we will be spending each week at the grocery store. I know for certain when prices go up or down on particular items, or if I shop in another store, whether their price is high or low. It isn't precision because it isn't engraved in a life planner, but it's routine. It's what we do. I can send my newly minted adult daughter to the store with a verbal list, and she knows what to get and whether it's a good price. She has come home and said to me, the brand we usually get wasn't on sale, and I know it usually costs less, but this brand was a better deal today. Not precision, but she made an executive decision, one that she knew I would make for the family, all on her own. She wasn't forging ahead, eyes on her toes, rules etched in stone, unwavering toward her goal. She was forging ahead, eyes taking in things around here, guidelines etched in her mind, helping her family toward the goal of grocery getting, and aiding her family in a second goal of money saving. She has learned to be savvy. I like a savvy girl. She learned that because she's had to embrace a little chaos. That girl can make a quick decision in the even that a sibling gets hurt, or spills something, or is out of control for some reason.
     At TheZoo, we don't create chaos to come up with teachable moments. There are enough children here that chaos of some kind is inevitable. If our household ran like a well oiled machine at all times, then no one would ever have to leave the house barefoot, or in unmatched shoes, learning for themselves that it is, in fact, worthwhile to put your matched pair of shoes on the rack next to the front door for next time. Or to put your socks in the hamper when removed from your feet, otherwise they won't emerge from the wash clean and matched and ready to use again. Instead, they will lay outside next to the trampoline, soaked with morning dew, or under your bed growing some kind of mold creature, or in the back of your closet, never to be seen again, until you cry that you have no socks to wear. Chaos happens. We won't stamp it out by insisting on precision instead, but we can teach through the chaos.
     That said, I will be trying my hand at a "Life Planner" this year. One kiddo going to college, but living at home, Five school age children from 7th grade to K, and one pre-K kiddo leaves me thinking that if I don't get precise about some things, it won't just be controlled, teachable chaotic moments, but it'll be a big ol' nasty, tangled up mess. Moms, if you are precision people, I may seek you out to cry about how long it takes to write everything into this planner, and I may ask you to help me when I feel the urge to rip out check lists because I don't WANT to clean the trap on the washing machine again! I admit, there's a place for you precision folk. Please admit there's a place for us chaotic folk, too. If nothing else, we provide you some comic relief form time to time, eh?



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