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Stairs

Jen Klein is a New England-based technical writer and mother of three. When she isn't asking her kids to stop bickering, "caramelizing" the dinner or actively ignoring the dust bunnies under the couch, she enjoys knitting, gardening, pho...

When one of the kids or the situation in general gets out of control at our house, I send the kids to the stairs to calm down, chill out and refocus in a positive manner. All three kids are on various steps and stairs right now. It is (relatively) quiet for the first time in hours.

There's a certain din to parenting that I have yet to adapt to fully. A level a noise and activity and push my personal stress meter into the red zone, close my maximum possible sensory input. I'm getting better about it over the years, but some days I just need to hear nothing at all, if only for a few minutes. We existed in the red zone for about an hour this afternoon before Woody and Sunshine pushed it all over the edge. And this was after repeated warnings. 

They weren't doing anything particularly bad. It was just a sort of frenzy in which poor decision follows poor decision until, finally, someone gets hurt or the whole house is in meltdown. Fortunately or unfortunately, my level of tolerance of this situation is lower than any one else in the house, and I just had to shut things down. Had to.

Please don't get me wrong. One of my favorite sounds on this earth is the sound of my children laughing together. It means sibling bonding as well as simply joy, and I look for ways to facilitate an environment to hear that. But when that goes several steps too far? You know, when the tickle turns to a hard poke, the teasing turns to taunting, a playful slaps becomes a hard whack. It's off to the stairs for one or two or all… and hopefully a few minutes of peace.

I know that this somewhat my issue, not the kids'. Well, except for the safety aspect. I hope that what I am helping them to learn is how to discern that invisible line that society in general has — that line between okay and not okay, control and chaos. I want to help them recognize their own skills in bringing things back down to a reasonable level when they approach (or cross) that line. If they can learn this in the emotional safety of our home where they will be loved no matter what, rather than in the less forgiving wider world, the better.

After the stairs, we will talk about what happened and what took the situation too far. We'll talk about their abilities and responsibilities in any situation. I am under no delusion that the kids will hear — really hear — every bit of this conversation today, internalize it, and we'll never have the issue again. This is a repeat many times over many years kind of conversation, with evolution of the conversation to include new concerns. It's ongoing. I suspect that only in retrospect will I see how (if?) the conversations stuck.

One more minute and I'll release them from their stair-step exiles. One more minute until the noise starts again. One more minute of peace. Deep breath.

Okay, time's up.

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