I have this post forming in my head and I seem to be having a hard time getting it out in a cohesive manner. It’s important to me, so I want to say things just right.
I feel like I should start with an explanation. As most of you know, Jordan is my step-son. We never use the word “step” in our house and 99.9% of the time we don’t even think about the fact that he is not biologically my child. He and I share a lot of similarities (our stubbornness being one of them!), including our coloring and some facial features. People say that Jordan looks like me and Peyton looks like Steve, and it’s true. We view Peyton and Jordan as full siblings, even though they technically only share one biological parent. In fact, typing that just now was one of the first times it has even crossed my mind that they are anything but full siblings! I really believe that family is what you make it. Children can become “yours” in any way that God sees fit, whether that is biological, step, adopted, whatever. They are not any less your children because of the way they came into your family.
All of that being said, Jordan and I began our relationship when he was 4 years old. He had been through some rough stuff in his short 4 years of life and he and Steve lived with Steve’s parents until Jordan was 9. It was a house without rules or structure, where he was basically able to do whatever he wanted whenever he wanted. Without going into great detail, it basically set Jordan up to have a totally spoiled and entitled view on life, where the child ran the house.
Somehow (probably in part due to Steve’s great parenting and in part due to God knowing what Jordan needed!) Jordan didn’t actually become a spoiled, entitled kid. He is thankful for what he has and understands that you must work to attain things you want in life (whether that’s a toy you have your eye on or a larger goal you are working towards). He has never been a kid that we needed to worry about when things got too quiet. I can only think of one instance (ever) where silence meant that he was up to something naughty (and thankfully it wasn’t even anything dangerous). He knows right from wrong in a pretty impressive way for a 12 year old. (Side story: just last night Steve gave approval for Jordan to download a free xBox game. He told Jordan that because of the rating, he needed to keep an ear out for language, etc. and cease playing if it was inappropriate. At the first bad word, Jordan told his friends, “Sorry guys, I need to delete this game. It’s not appropriate.” Proud parent moment.)
Anyway. This is a super long introduction. I guess what I want to say is that Jordan is a really great kid with an awesome head on his shoulders. Sure, he screws up. We all do. He’s 12 years old and he’s still learning how to behave like an adult. There’s a reason God gives you a whole bunch of years to learn to behave like an adult before you’re actually an adult! We did spend the first couple of years that we all lived together working on Jordan’s habits (basically developing good ones where there were none) on things like where to put his dirty laundry, what to do with his dishes when he is done eating, etc. And I realize sometimes just how drastically different my childhood was from Jordan’s. Sometimes I have to step back and realize that he wasn’t raised by my parents and certain things are not ingrained in his head like they are in mine. And that’s ok! It’s a learning process for both of us.
Ok. So, lately I’ve been feeling overwhelmed. There are days when being pregnant, having a very busy 17 month old and trying to raise and homeschool a 6th grader is enough to just make me want to do nothing. So I take a nap. (You know, while the baby is napping.) This weekend we had a huge snowstorm and then an ice storm and we were stuck inside for 4 days. I started to get very frustrated with being stuck in the house and I felt like I was constantly nagging everyone and having to remind Jordan of every single thing that was expected of him. (Example: I told him to get ready for the day one morning. He got dressed and I asked him if he had brushed his teeth. He told me that I hadn’t asked him to brush his teeth, only to get dressed. This is an ongoing conversation we have because when I say “get ready for the day” that means I expect him to do a certain set of tasks (get dressed, brush his teeth, comb his hair, feed the cats) without me having to list every single task every day. He is forever saying that I didn’t ask him to do a certain task so AGAIN we had a talk about the expectations for him getting ready for the day. I hope we go a long time without having to revisit this one!) Anyway, I felt like I really needed to figure out some changes. I really, really hate feeling like a nag and I wanted to find a way for Jordan to know what was expected of him without me having to remind him of every single thing he needs to do. This was/is true for chores and responsibilities as well as school tasks. I found that if we went into the day without a plan for school, we were lucky if we got one thing done. Which is absolutely ridiculous because Jordan is in 6th grade and can handle an actual workload.
Last night we had a family meeting and we talked a little bit about school and changing some things up. I proposed that we create a list of assignments that are expected of Jordan during the school day. I will be available to help with whatever he needs, but I want him to try following the list himself and work on keeping himself on task (another thing I want him to improve on). At the very beginning of the school year I had created a spreadsheet for this very reason and I’m ashamed to say that we only used it for a few weeks, even though it worked really well. I have it broken down by subject and I can fill in what is expected of Jordan for each subject for each day of the week. My problem is that I have an easy time starting something like this, but once we’ve completed something and it’s time to move on to the next thing (like a math concept, etc.) I freeze and things stall out. Last night I sat down and filled out this week’s list. We are focusing a little bit on the winter Olympics right now and Jordan chose Ireland as his country to root for, so we are learning about Ireland. For English I just picked up where we left off previously. For writing I enjoy getting creative and mixing it up (thank you notes one day, a journal entry the next day, Valentine notes another day). I am planning to take some time this week to really sit down and write out “lesson plans” for the next couple of months so that once we finish one thing, we can easily move on to the next without losing our footing. And by “we” I mean ME!
Today I pulled out the weekly list and gave it to Jordan. He looked it over, decided that it looked “pretty good” (which is about what I expected, haha) and got to work on it. He finished about 2/3 of the day’s tasks before asking to be excused for a break, which I was fine with.
I feel like creating this list and setting up clear expectations is going to help a LOT with my attitude during the day. I have absolutely not felt like a nag today. Jordan has gotten a lot done. This morning he was sitting on one couch reading a book, I was sitting on the other couch reading my Bible and Peyton was pushing her stuffed puppy around in a toy shopping cart. And I thought to myself, “I LOVE THIS.” I have even baked cinnamon pull-apart bread today, just because. Peyton fought against her nap for an hour and a half this afternoon and I didn’t even get frustrated (well, I was a little annoyed) because the day had gone so well and I was feeling great about things.
I talked to Steve earlier today and said that I would also like to add a couple more chores to Jordan’s responsibilities. Right now he basically only has one (feeding the cats) and at 12 years old he can really be doing a lot to help out around the house. This week we will add making his bed (which has really always been on the list but has fallen by the wayside because nobody ever makes sure it happens), doing his own laundry and unloading the dishwasher. The laundry and dishwasher will require some assistance for awhile but that’s how a child learns. (Also, Jordan is pretty short and has to climb on the counter to retrieve a drinking glass, so the dishwasher chore may be a tricky one for him. Or we’ll buy a stool.)
I’m excited to see how the next few weeks go on this new “system” and how we all improve (me with nagging and Jordan with staying on task and being self-motivated). I’m hoping that all of the relationships in our house will improve because everyone will be feeling better about the way things are going. And I have begun to realize even more lately (especially with being pregnant and hormonal) that my attitude has a great effect on everyone else’s in the house. Light bulb! I don’t know why I forget this so much. ;)