Okay so that title might be a bit overstating it but parents, when we find something to ease our woes it feels that way. And we need to share the love. So here you go.
A little back story. My 9 year old is a scaredy-cat. He is afraid of EVERYTHING. It started when he was about 5 years old. I kept thinking it was a phase and he would outgrow it. Not only did he not outgrow it, it got WORSE. And then his younger brother started following suit.
These kids WILL NOT BE ALONE. EVER. If I go into another room, he (the 9 year old especially) goes right behind me. He is constantly saying “Mommy”. When I respond with (an annoyed) “what”, he says “never mind” or “just checking”. He is just checking to make sure I am still there. This happens all day, every day. It is crippling for me and for him. The (2 younger) kids won’t go upstairs to get their clothes or shoes on, won’t pee or poop alone (our only bathroom is upstairs), won’t do quiet time alone and on and on and on.
People, we have made baby steps here and there. When he first started this trend, he wouldn’t sleep unless the lights were on in his bedroom. Then he had to have one of us in the hallway when he was going to sleep. We have weaned him of both of those things and he now goes to sleep on his own in a dark (ish…hall light is on) bedroom. He used to come into our bedroom upwards of 4 times a night because “he had a bad dream”. We have also finally broken him of this habit and now he only comes in occasionally. Which is good because I do not like to be woken up in the middle of the night and I become “mean mom” and usually have to apologize in the morning.
But now that we have two scaredy-cats in the house it is getting ridiculous. Fighting always ensues because one of them always needs someone to go with them to pee, poop, get dressed, etc. Mom and Dad refuse to enable them, so they were always conning each other into coming upstairs. Mom and Dad don’t have time to sit upstairs in the bathroom 1-2 times a day for 20 minutes while they poop (the Lord boys spend WAY too long in the bathroom).
Funny story…….one time I heard a commotion upstairs so I went up to find one boy on the toilet, one boy sitting next to the toilet (keeping first boy company) and the third boy peeing behind the behind of boy one because he refused to go into the other bathroom (BECAUSE THEY ARE ALL SCARED ALL THE TIME and even though the bathrooms share a wall, they are too scared to go into the master bathroom alone).
We have had hundreds of conversations about what they are afraid of, how to conquer their fears, and how we can help them. We have memorized bible verses about having courage and being strong. I have asked friends, doctors and other moms about how to deal with this issue. We have prayed about, yelled about it, scratched our heads about it. Nothing worked.
Then one day….inspiration.
I saw on Pinterest (duh) about a reward jar where they filled it with marbles with the kids did something wonderful. So I decided to adapt it for my terror-filled children (who never really seem to know what they are afraid of—-except that the 9 year was originally petrified of Plants vs. Zombies, he couldn’t even listen to the music without freaking out—-now, who knows). I told them I would buy some marbles and every time they went upstairs alone, or did anything alone, I would put a marble in the jar. When the jar was full, we would do something fun…….perhaps Mom would even spring for a trip to the much loved (yet dreaded by parents) Casa Bonita.
They were intrigued. But as life goes…..I kept forgetting to buy marbles (not quite the same as losing my marbles but trust me it was going that way). Where does a desperate mother buy marbles? No where. Because she keeps forgetting.
So one day I put it on the list and set out to buy marbles. However, the groceries got in the way and took priority. And I forgot to buy the marbles until I was in the checkout line. I furiously looked around hoping to find marbles mixed in with the candy bars and lighters near the checkout line. No luck.
But this mom was getting desperate. I HAD to get marbles. It was the only way I was ever going to be in a room alone again. Or not have to listen to my kids fight about who sat with whom while they pooped last time.
I did not find marbles. But my eyes rested upon something else instead. Big, beautiful, colorful containers of Tic Tacs. Could this be the answer to my problem? On a whim, I stuck 2 packages of Tic Tacs on the conveyor belt.
As I was driving home, I realized the genius of my purchase. I was thinking how do I fill the jar with the Tic Tacs? Do they take a Tic Tac from the containers and put it into the jar once they have completed a task alone? What do I do with a big jar of Tic Tacs that have been touched by little fingers?
Nope. Even better. The kids get instant gratification for completing their task by EATING the Tic Tac. Then once the jar is EMPTY we go to the dreaded place of food poisoning (aka Casa Don’t-eat-a).
You guys. My kids now LOVE going upstairs alone. They pee alone. They get their shoes alone. They even poop alone (and get a bonus Tic Tac because they are up there for an extended amount of time). They have even started searching out reasons to go upstairs alone just so they can get a Tic Tac. Fine by me. They still sometimes pause at the top of the stairs and look around. Or run to get their shoes. But it is progress and I’ll take it. I think more than being scared they were just in a rut and once they had it in their mind that they couldn’t do it, they WOULDN’T do it. Perhaps we can learn a lesson from this too. Get out of your rut. It isn’t really that scary! All you need is a little incentive!
Tic Tacs. How I love thee. Where have you been the last 4 years? Thank you for your tiny delicousness and your ability help bribe little Lord boys.
And all you moms and dads out there. Tic Tacs. They work. Try them. NOW. Don’t wait 4 years. Don’t underestimate the value of a tiny, colorful, sugar filled, pill-looking candy. It might just save your life. Or at least your sanity.