Thursday, September 10, 2009

Clever Thoughts -- Setting the Tone

In my worst moments, I tend to let everything in my life slide into chaos. This is partially because I enjoy the swirling adrenaline rush of chaos, and mostly because I am easily bored by routine and repetition. I would rather think up some new and novel way of doing things every few weeks, in order to keep my mind occupied, than keep to a functional schedule that works. I tend to get caught up in grand schemes and plans rather than actually attending to the things going on around me.

Unfortunately, this is not a very effective way to operate as a parent of small children, especially if one is the primary care giver and home manager. So every few months, when things start spiraling into chaos, I tend to get frustrated. My first reaction is to get angry at my children for not being innately good and well behaved, and then frustrated with the lack of self-cleaning my house seems to be capable of. I wonder when someone will invent a machine to fold and put away my laundry. I wonder why no one has thought to create a carpet that eats dirt. I wonder how long it will take my children to figure out that eventually someone is going to get hurt if they keep swinging plastic golf clubs around.

Then the realization dawns: There is a miraculous invention whose purpose is to teach children to be well behaved, to tidy up after themselves, and to put down that golf club before someone gets hurt. It is called a parent. It is actually my job to set the tone for my household. It is my job to make sure everyone is clean and fed and relatively content and disciplined. If I think the kids need a new activity, it is up to me to pull out the playdoh, or the crayons, or shoo everyone out the door and off to the park. If I think someone is about to get hurt, it is up to me to stop the dangerous activity. If I think something needs to be changed around our house, or in our daily or weekly schedule, it is my job to figure out and implement that change. If I don't do it, it will not get done.

Inevitably, if I don't set the tone, my children will. And soon, things will resemble W.B. Yeats' Second Coming:
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned

And we don't want that, do we?

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