The Peacemakers Guide to a Happy Home

Jenny Arndt Family

homeFelix dropped a ball of poop on the floor of the library this afternoon.  We were making a stealth run for the washroom when that little piece of poop went flying from his hand and rolled through the non-fiction section.  I quickly swooped down and grabbed that ball of poo like a pro.  I managed to get myself and both boys into the washroom stall before anyone was the wiser.  Why was Felix carrying a handful of fecal matter through the library?  He was reading a really good book and didn’t want to interrupt it by going to the washroom so he pooped in his hand.  I was busy intercepting Henry from setting off the fire alarm so I wasn’t aware of the situation as it evolved.

My children keep me awake, literally and figuratively.  You will often find me up at 3am nursing the little one, resolving a night terror, massaging growing legs.  Felix whispered in my ear at 2:30 the other morning, ‘Mommy wake up, I need a massage.’

These days I have to stay awake because every moment there is something. Pay attention, be alert … someone is pooping in their hand, Henry is sticking a crayon up the dogs bum, someone’s tag is itching them, Felix’s pee was flushed down the toilet the wrong way.  (As I type this I just caught Henry drawing on the wall with a permanent marker.) Whatever – these days I just have to keep letting stuff go.  If I didn’t I would spend a lot of time being angry.  Radical acceptance.  Loving what is.  Having no expectations. My day feels like a continuous stream of mini-explosions.  I am trying to embrace it, somedays it feels harder than others.

I have no choice but to embrace it because I am the mothership.  If my anchor isn’t deeply embedded in a firm foundation we are out at sea.  The emotional climate around our house is pretty volatile these days and everyone is looking to me for stability.  The changes that are sweeping through our family are pretty big.  Felix is moving out into the big wide world and becoming a person, breaking free from his tribe.  Henry is discovering the amazing and wondrous things his little body can do.  And after closing in on 7 years of being a full-time mama, I am starting to outgrow my role.  The pieces of myself that I have put aside to do this job are starting to make some noise.  My children are needing me in different ways.  I am needing myself in different ways.

As we change, the way we relate to each other changes.  It seems one of us is always needing support as we deal with our physical and emotional limitations, or we need a lift to break free from these limitations.  My question as the mama is, ‘How do we keep peace in the home during these periods of turbulence?’  Our home should be a safe place, the place where we centre after being out in the wild spinning world.  As parents it is our responsibility to provide this for our children – but there are days when I feel like I am not up to the task, days when I do not feel like I am succeeding.  A teacher once told me, when things don’t feel right – be still, breathe and don’t move until it feels right again.  So instead of moving forward I sat down and took a deep breath.  In the middle of a dirty kitchen, crying children and piles of laundry I took a seat at the table and closed my eyes.What do I want? A peaceful home.  How do I get there?  I looked at everything; how we spend our time, what we are eating, how much we were sleeping.  I became a detective and left no rock unturned.  What worked for me was to look at our daily living closely.  My formula was this; if it didn’t bring peace to our day to day life it had to go.  We sat down, created a new set of rules for our household and started to make some big changes.food

Our nutrition had started to slide over the past few months.  I was tired and being the one in charge of feeding the family, I got lazy with our food.  This is where I lifted off – it felt like a good place to start.  Instead of buying prepared foods, chips, juice and refined sugar I focussed on fresh, live food.  I involved both kids and we made a list of all the healthy foods that we like to eat and created a weekly menu.  Getting organized about food actually revolutionized how we eat in our home.  We all have more energy and our moods are more stable

Here are some other changes that we made (or are attempting to make);

Television:  the kids can watch only one hour a day, no news, no scary, violent or otherwise dark programming.  We only watch things that make us feel good about life

iPad, phones etc:  we have severely limited our use of electronics.  I have restricted the iPad to one hour a day (but not in one chunk of time)  and my phone goes away when the little ones are awake.

Boundaries:  We have created some new boundaries with family and friends.  We no longer say yes to every social invitation, we don’t feel compelled to take part in every family event.  This is creating some much needed quiet space for our immediate family.

Sleep:  This one seems simple but it isn’t always so easy to follow through. I have successfully moved the kids bedtime from 8pm to 7:30pm.  It is a bit more difficult for us adults to put ourselves to bed when we are tired.  I tend to try and get a bunch done once the kids are sleeping but somedays I actually just want to go to sleep at 8pm too.  I am trying to listen to that more often because I am a happier person when I am well-rested.September

Get outside:  Every single day, rain or shine.  

Read:  We have been diligently making weekly trips to the library and I am happy to report that my kids actually salivate over books just like their mama.  And reading new books every week creates all sorts of opportunities for new conversations, new ideas, new insights.  I can actually see our minds expanding.

Creativity:  We are making room for more creativity in our lives.  This change has surprised me the most.  It appears that creativity is a very effective outlet for all of our frustration and complicated emotions.  Whenever Felix is feeling angry I sit him down at the table with a pile of white paper, crayons, markers, pencil crayons and give him space to draw.  Sing, paint, cook, garden, dance … creating space for creativity has turned the chaos into something beautiful.

Before I became a mother, I didn’t realize that creating a peaceful and happy home took deliberate intent.  I guess I kind of thought that it just happened.  That if the parents were happy people, the kids would be as well and the home would be a peaceful place.  What I have learned is that you can’t be lazy about happiness.  You can’t just go with the flow, because sometimes the flow isn’t going in a healthy direction.  Sometimes things get off track, sometimes someone needs to put things right.

I am embracing my new role as peacemaker.  The job changes on a daily basis; whether it means chasing a ball of poop across the library floor, turning off the television, taking the kids to the park or going to bed at 8pm – it is something that I have to be committed to at all times.  Every morning when I start my day I remind myself of my goal.  Today above all I choose peace.

Maybe world peace would be possible if we all had a peaceful place to call home.  These days I am feeling optimistic.

Big love. J

Jenny ArndtThe Peacemakers Guide to a Happy Home