I have a confession. Yesterday morning, I bribed my kids with marshmallows at 7 am. I am not proud of this, but after the insanity I experienced previous morning (just ask my neighbor I totally lost my shit in the driveway trying to wrestle my hysteric son into his car seat), I decided to take my chances with sugar induced obedience.
It started with the usual battle of getting dressed. At 4 and 7 years old they both know how to dress themselves, but for some reason during the week when I need to get 100 things done in an hour before we leave the house, they both always want my help getting them dressed. Now if they both would actually allow me to dress them, I would just do it and get it over with. But no, they “want” my help, but just not right now. Maybe later. Or my son says he wants my help, but then as soon as I attempt to assist him he freaks out and wants to do it himself. Sure buddy, you do you. When I walk away, he starts screaming again that he needs help. This darn kid just can’t make up his mind, and I think is just determined to slowly drive me insane. This is how our mornings usually go, and it just continues from there. Not being able to dress themselves turns into not being able to brush their own teeth, not being able to find their shoes, and having no clue where they left their library book last night.
As soon as my son saw a bag of mini marshmallows in the pantry, I decided to use the gleam in his eye for my own benefit. I told them that whoever can get themselves dressed while Mommy is in the shower can have a marshmallow.
And guess what? All of a sudden they both knew exactly how to get themselves dressed! Thank the Good Lord, those magic marshmallows taught my children how to be independent human beings!!
When I got out of the shower, they were both standing in the living room, proud of their accomplishment and waiting for their reward. So I gave them each one marshmallow. As they ate them, they stood silently and stared at me waiting for their next assignment. I figured since the first task worked so well, I gave them another. This time, whoever could brush their hair and teeth could get another reward (ok, I didn’t think it through enough to really understand that offering a marshmellow to a child as a reward for brushing their teeth wasn’t a very smart idea… but hindsight is 20/20).
In the end, they were both able to get themselves completely ready by themselves. My daughter even made her own lunch (including 3 deserts of course). We were able to leave the house with smiles and some pep in our steps, because we managed to get through the morning without fighting. I can’t say that my plan worked perfectly, but I didn’t have to threaten to leave my son in the front yard while I took his sister to school this time, so I call it a win.
Parenting is hard work. It is without a doubt the most difficult job in the world. The most thankless job in the world. There are no rules, other than to keep these tiny humans alive, and try to turn them into decent people. There is no manager looking over your shoulder to tell you if you’re doing it right or wrong, or to offer guidance. There is no paycheck, or raise, or a bonus if you get it right.
One thing I have learned recently on my journey to be a better version of myself, is that I have to give myself some grace every once in a while. I will never be a perfect mother, but I can find ways to get through each day and forgive myself when I make mistakes. I lose my patience, I yell, and I often say things that I regret afterwards. I am working on these things, and am doing the best I can to control them better.
And that means that some days I will give my kids marshmallows to get through the morning, because don’t we all deserve a little motivation every now and then?