Friday, February 15, 2013

Random Thoughts on Energy

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By my very nature, I am an energy conserver (to the extreme!). By their very natures, all four of my children (and my husband) are energy expenders (to the extreme!). When energy is being drained, or when anything feels out of control, my first instinct is to contract my world, smaller and smaller, until energy or control returns. My children are like corn popping on a stove. They hurtle against all boundaries. When it is my job to maintain boundaries, routines, productivity, and behavior for six people (four of whom are popping corn), the amount of energy I am required to expend is extraordinary.

When laundry, dishes, dirt, character, and popping children feel out of control at home, the last thing I want to do is expand the boundaries of the world I’m responsible for keeping under control—the behavior, the interactions, the safety, the productivity. It’s a beautiful day, but I have no desire to even step outside.

How does one let go of being a control freak in such situations, but still be productive? Still have relatively well-behaved children? Still monitor interactions with others? Still keep children safe? Still participate and serve in community?

When laid-back but effective nurturing/guiding/inspiring is not in one’s nature, it takes twice as much energy to be calm and consistent (and keep track of and follow through with all consequences). Honestly, implementing consequences is the most colossal energy-sucker of all.

And when four children are popping in opposite directions, how do I parent one without the other three running amok (other than contract their boundaries to a great degree)? I now have a serious case of ADD and can no longer do even one task effectively. I certainly can’t socialize and parent at the same time. I can’t even make dinner and parent at the same time.

Can anyone relate? Are you an energy-conserving introvert? Do you have multiple high-energy, high-volume, action-seeking, boundary-pushing children? How do you cope without squashing them into a tiny little manageable world?

13 comments:

Misha Leigh. said...

Oh do I ever relate. And that's why there is evidence all over my life of this constant dance of contracting & trying to release, contracting again etc. it seems my body takes the biggest front line toll in this. I often think, man!, think of what life could look like if the things I have to do gave me energy! I constantly feel guilty for my limitations.

Anonymous said...

Obviously there are no easy answers to your situation. Just hang in there and do your best. Grandpa says he thinks you are being too hard on yourself and for you to "take it in stride". We pray for all of you everyday and will pray you will have daily wisdom. Love, Grandma and Grandpa.

Anonymous said...

Heidi, we both noticed how each of your kids expressed his/her personality so well in the picture. Grandma

Anita said...

Even though you do not feel like it, outside is probably the cure for this! Let them run off some energy and you take deep energizing breaths of fresh air. Then you can go back and try again to be productive. Even better if you can get them to do a 10 minute tidy up before venturing out of doors! Remember all mothers with young kids feel this! You are not alone!

Stephanie Shepherd said...

I think you just described me! I have noticed this about myself lately ... the louder/busier/more playful (none of them bad things) my little people get, the more I want to hole up by myself and take in silence. Your comment about consequences is so right where I am struggling with now, too. I just keep reminding myself to do the next thing and that I am not made to do this on my own, but with the Lord's help. I still want to curl up on the couch in my bedroom sometimes, though, and hide. : )

jeana said...

I relate to this as well. I'm also the only one who is this way in my house full of boys. It takes an awful lot of energy and courage (ha) to sign up for anything that has a weekly commitment for all of us for fear that my low energy, introverted self just can't commit. I can barely keep the laundry done or the bathrooms clean! Er... Ok, I can't keep those done, no barely about it.

carole said...

:)

My 'energy' comes from alone time, organizing time, reading, or a good chat with a friend. It's hard to find quiet moments in a big family to recharge and refuel when your energies come from sources like that. Kids are kids, though, don't you think? I mean, sure, they are super energetic and boisterous and loud and needy - but each one will end up having quite a variety of ways to recharge when they are older. I'm sure you have at least one who'll end up recharging like you do (they all read very well, which gives them some serious 'alone' recharging time!).

Sometimes when people ooh and ahh about the fact that I homeschool I tell them, "Homeschooling is great for my kids. But it is not so great for me." Because the reality is that being with people all the time is not my first career choice! ;)

So - all that's to say, yes, I can relate!!

Heidi said...

I do agree that kids in general expend and require a lot of energy. But I'm talking about the difference between a two year old needing food cut and cleaned up after a meal and the two year old who will not sit in a seat for more than 20 seconds. Or the difference between taking kids in public who are somewhat reserved and the kids whose energy level is *exponential* in public...those kids who go berserk when the UPS guy shows up. The difference between kids who go outside to ride their bikes and get a little dirty and the kids who find matches and light fires for the fun of it. The difference between a two year old who plays with dolls and makes a mess in her room and the two year old who swings from the top bunk of the bunk bed onto the book shelf or stacks bins to reach shoulder-deep into the fish tank. The difference between kids who throw a ball back and forth and the kid who picks out the dad (or the older boy) who is playing and tackels him repeatedly. The difference between kids who play on play structures at a park and the kids who run from the play area (toward the road, of course). I realize that many kids display those behaviors occasionally, but having four kids in a row who are on the extreme end of the scale is...

They do read, which is my saving grace. But I still have the two year old who must be watched every second. Nap time is the only time I'm able to do the exausting work of one-on-one focused lessons in the most dreaded subjects or finally get on top of the disaster in the house. It will be interesting to see how they recharge as they get older, but I think extroverts in general recharge by activity rather than down time. I don't want to rush Lola getting older because she is also great fun at this stage, but I can't deny that I'm looking forward to not having kids in the super physically needy stage of 0-5 years old.

I don't mean this to sound like my kids are awful or that I'm losing it, LOL, just that my energy does not come close to matching theirs, and I'm not sure what God was thinking when he gave me four extroverts! (Though I'm sure he had a good reason...)

Christie said...

My kids are similar ages to yours (12, 10, 6, and 2). I think your grandpa is right about being too hard on yourself. I do it too. This is a busy time and we're juggling a lot.

And i think its okay that introverted moms are the way we are. We bring balance to our busy kids, just as they urge us to balance in the other direction. :)

Heidi said...

I don't think I'm being hard on myself, so much as being realistic about the situation. ;) I've been an energy conserver since childhood (proof that some kids truly are energy conservers rather than expenders--even if it takes some amount of energy to parent any child). The reality is that I have no choice but to figure out how to raise these kids (and it is an honor to do so) on an energy deficit. I can't change my personality or theirs. :)

Anonymous said...

Oh THANK YOU for being so articulate in your post about your need to contract when things get so... popping! I am the same way and I couldn't quite put a finger on how to explain what I need in those times. I've always had a habit of sitting on the edge of my bed (even as a child) and just staring off into space in the quiet- no rhyme or reason or purpose. I have 3 extroverted, popcorn boys (11, 8, 6) and a *very* extroverted husband who can't stand to stay home all day. I don't think I have particularly good advice on how to manage, because I am struggling myself. But I do find some peace in the bathtub (my get away), or by shoving them all outside and reading or even just doing dishes in a momentarily quiet house. A friend used to harp on me to "get out of the house" for a break. She just doesn't get it.

Sarah in AK.

carole said...

I get it. Really! My four are all very busy! Very. A fellow mom of four watched my youngest about a year ago for a few hours. When I went to pick him up she said, "He is WAY busier than any of my kids ever were!" (she knew I'd been feeling stressed because chasing after him was such a full time job) Yep. That's my fourth. Each child has been exponentially busier than the previous.

Sarah said...

You and I sound like twins! And two year olds are exhausting : )