Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Extreme Parenting: The Vacation Edition

The beach is my happy place.
My husband and I had three lovely days at the beach this summer. We slept late. Bought fancy cheeses and desserts at the grocery store. We read books, watched movies, and took long walks on the shore with our dog. We had a long, relaxing lunch at a nice restaurant with good friends who live at the beach full-time.

What we didn't do is take our children with us.

Oh, we were supposed to. We were all supposed to ride down and spend the first three days with just the younger two  before their older brothers joined us. You see, we've entered that stage of parenting where older kids have real jobs and can't always take a whole week off to go on the family trip to the beach.

So it would be just us and the youngest two.
For three days.
And I was not happy about it.

Here's the back story:

See? Aren't they cute? We even dressed them alike.
My two youngest boys don't get along. It wasn't always this way. They used to be best buds.

But as they got older, they turned, just like milk left out in the hot sun.

I'm not talking about your run-of-the-mill brother arguments. I'm talking about incessant taunting, name-calling, hitting, violating personal space and rooms, taking things, one-upsmanship, and just generally being unadulterated jerks.

It does ebb and flow, but when it's bad I don't want to be around them.  And before you chime in with suggestions, know that We. Have. Tried. EVERYTHING.
Forcing them to be together • Forcing them to be apart • The t-shirt of brotherly love • Shared bedroom • Separate bedrooms • Sending them to their separate rooms with instructions to lock the doors • Sending them into the yard to fist fight until they got tired or someone won • Losing privileges • Losing activities • Taking the thing they were fighting over • Chores done together • Chores done separately • Discussions on brotherly love, forgiveness, and turning the other cheek • Writing 100 times "I will not hit my brother" • Incentives and rewards of all types
You name it, we've tried it. Nothing works for long, if at all.

It's so bad that we intentionally sent them to different schools and didn't let them play the same sports or participate in the same activities. "Nope, you can't play lacrosse/play football/play piano/take dance lessons/whatever. Your brother does. And you don't need one more thing to compete at."

But the week before our vacation, I had a realization. I did not want to go. Or, more specifically, I  did not want to go with them. They were going through one of their vitriolic stages which climaxed with older brother putting his lacrosse stick through younger brother's door. (Yes, he's paying to replace it. That's not the point.)

The point is I was dead tired and needed this vacation, but I didn't want to go. I knew I would come back more tired than when I left.

So when Herb walked into the bedroom the day before we were supposed to leave and looked at my face, he knew something was very, very wrong.

Me: I don't want to go on vacation with them. I don't want to be in the same room with them. If I have to drive to South Carolina with them, we may not all make it alive.
Herb: Do you want me to send the boys to bootcamp at Torrie's instead of taking them to the beach?

Me: Yes.

Herb: I was kidding.

Me: I'm not. Call her.
Torrie and me (and Grace in the middle)
You see, Torrie is my neighbor, girlfriend, girl-crush, and just all around amazing friend. We met three years ago when her husband asked to borrow our mower, and we have been like family ever since.

I have seen her cop an attitude with her own kids that can best be described as, "I love you dearly, but I'm considering selling you. Keep on doing that. Help me make up my mind."

I trust her with my kids, and she has my full permission to parent them however she sees fit whenever they are in her presence, whether I am there or not. So when Herb suggested sending the boys to Torrie, he knew exactly what he was suggesting.

A few phone calls later, and a discussion between Torrie and her husband Joe, and the plan was set. The kids were going to Camp Brotherly Love, and Herb and I were going to the beach.

My boys and Torrie's son
And I had a wonderful trip.

My boys slept in a two-person tent in Torrie's sunroom. This was not a "sleepover" with her kids.

They worked at the Atlanta Streets Alive Festival with Torrie and Joe and the booth for their bike rental business. #BikeBox They earned their keep.

They ate leftovers when Torrie didn't want to cook. This was not vacation, y'all. You're missing that to be here.

They wrote letters of apology to us and had heart-to-hearts with Torrie and Joe.

And when they drove down on Tuesday with their older brother, Sandy, he said they were perfect gentlemen to him and to each other.

And the rest of our vacation was lovely.

When they got there, Herb and I took them out to breakfast to talk, and it was good. Very good. We learned some things that we may have done wrong as parents. (Ok, treating them like twins when they're not wasn't necessarily the best thing.) We were able to pinpoint when their relationship turned and why. And we were able to talk ... and laugh ... and listen ... and even cry a little.

And I returned home rested and happy.

Every mom needs a Torrie in her life. Thank God I found mine.