Before I Had a Seven Year Old: Kelly of This Ain't the Lyceum

04 September 2014

Kelly of This Ain't the Lyceum is here today for this episode of Before I Had a Seven Year Old. If you aren't familiar with Kelly, the rapping homesteader that she is, you probably need to stop your life and acquaint yourself with her blog. And if you haven't checked out her son rockin' the waves in his new chair, it's a must MUST.
How many kids do you have and how old are they?
Five, Addie 11, Byron 10, Edith 8, Fulton 6 and Teddy 3.

What are the biggest differences in your home life now that you have slightly biggers running around and not just really littles?I don’t have to do everything myself during the day. My older kids unload the dishwasher, clear the table, collect eggs from the hen house, walk the dog, sweep, make themselves meals, etc., etc. If one of my older kids wants something THEY CAN GET IT THEMSELVES. Even if it’s up high, they get out the stepstool. Older kids are also great for getting things for younger kids. So while I don’t get to lounge around all day and eat bon bons, it’s HUGE having so many kids capable of doing things for themselves and others.

What's something you miss about that stage of only really littles?
I need to copycat Kendra here and say the freedom. You can breeze through Pre-K, K and, um, even some of those other lower grades, but once your kids are in public/ private elementary school or homeschooling older grades you don't have the freedom to just up and do something fun. We do still plan beach days or field trips but the older kids know they’re certain subjects they’ll have to make up and instruments will still needed practiced by the end of the day. When everyone was little, I would try getting out of the house almost every day either for errands or social events but now, we need time at home to get some learning done. Plus, evening and weekend activities start encroaching on family time so we have to make an effort to schedule things like family visits to the aquarium, otherwise they might get lost in the shuffle.

What are some things you did with your first baby that in hindsight seem a little ridiculous?
Due to unrealistic expectations, I spent a lot of time discipling her before the age of two. (I cringed typing that.) Addie was an early talker and seemed very old for her age so I expected a lot of her, too much in fact. When she disobeyed I disciplined her severely. I realize now how developmentally inappropriate it was, (she was still learning right from wrong for goodness sake!) but as I had no experience with little children and I was terrified of having a spoiled brat, I over compensated to the point of absurdity. I still apologize to her for what I did, and thankfully she laughs at me for being a bad mom and then she explains how much better of a mom she’ll be, so apparently, no therapy is necessary for now.
Have you ever (metaphorically...or literally) locked yourself in the bathroom to stay sane?
Actually, for the first four or five years after we had kids, I always went to the bathroom with the door open. One, so I could keep and eye and ear on everyone and two, I got sick of the banging on the door. However once everyone got older, it was requested I keep the door shut and so now the bathroom is my go to place for peace, quiet and catching up on my Feedly. I’m not sure if the older kids have caught on yet or if they think I just have a tiny bladder.

Describe a moment, if you can remember one, where you definitely did not have it together.
If you ask my older kids, they will probably remember many times when they noticed Mama lock herself in her bedroom and then they’d hear me screaming into a pillow and punching the mattress. When the kids were all little, and I was almost always pregnant or nursing I had a lot of days that felt completely overwhelming. But now, I can’t think of the last time I had a melt down like that. Maybe because of age, experience, older kids; I’m not sure, but I know that the days of feeling like “I can’t do this” followed by a collapse into tears, or hysterical call to my husband at work, are rare if not non-existent.

What's an expectation for yourself/your kids/your husband that you have totally let go of?
That I could bake bread for us all. I let go of that long before I even had to give up gluten. At the end of the day, the kids will have to settle for store bought honey wheat bread and I have accepted that that doesn't make me the world’s worst mother.

How do you conquer nap strikes?
My kids transitioned from naps to quiet time. Even once they stopped sleeping, there was a set time every afternoon when they had to stay in bed quietly and read or play. That afternoon time saved my sanity many a time and it taught my kids that yes, you can entertain yourself quietly, alone for an extended period of time. I never was able to stick to much of a schedule with my kids, but I’ll be damned if I didn’t get them all on the same afternoon nap/ quiet time schedule even if it meant totally messing with the newest baby’s sleep patterns.

What's one specific thing you're glad that you've taught your older children?
Obedience. I’m not saying we don’t have our bad days and as the older ones get older there is some back talk but probably 95 percent of the time when I tell my kids to do something, they do it right away. Since Addie and Byron were toddlers, I’ve had the same set of rules posted on the refrigerator, and the ones in capital letters are “Obey Mama and Papa the first time you’re told to do something without sass or complaint. Do then ask.” and “Once given an answer, don’t ask again.” Any time these rules were broken, there was a consequence. Period. Yes, it was hard and when I got lax things would get out of control, but now that I’ve put in the hard work, the results speak for themselves. Having very clear rules from the get go meant everyone was on the same page as to what was expected. Now, I don’t waste time arguing with my kids. When I say, everyone out to the van, everyone goes to the van. When I say, pick up the mudroom and sweep the floor, it’s done. When I say schooltime, everyone gets to their desk.
What was your hardest transition after having a newborn? 0 to 1 kid? 1 to 2? 6 to 7? Why?
The first child was the hardest for me. I was so clueless as to what I should be doing, plus I was six hours from family and had no local friends with babies. And there were no other young couples at our parish. There were no blogs or online support groups. I felt utterly alone, wondering why having a baby wasn’t this wonderful experience, when I learned just after Addie turned three months, I was pregnant again. I was like, seriously God, I have no idea what I’m doing here and you’re sending us another one???? All in all, it made for a very bumpy ride for Addie’s first year. We moved shortly after Byron was born to be close to family and while I was still the only person in my circle of friends (or parish) to have two young children, the family help made it easier the next go round. After all that, numbers three, four and five seemed to be pieces of cake.
If you could go back and tell something to your newmom self, what would it be?
I wish I could’ve found a community of supportive moms where I was, but it was hard being in an unfamiliar city and in the early days of the internet. (Good grief, could I make myself sound any older?) Finding a community now is so much easier and SO IMPORTANT. I would’ve been so much happier had I found just one or two other moms I could’ve chatted with over coffee on a regular basis. Part of me thought I could muscle through it alone and that’s probably why it sucked. No mom needs to face the trials of motherhood alone, nor should she. Traditionally women had supportive communities surrounding them. Today that safety net is harder, but it’s worth the effort.

For more Before I Had a Seven Year Old posts: check out Kendra, Bonnie, Christy, and Colleen.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. I love this series.

    My take away--- I need a list of house rules. My three year olds do better with structure and we talk about our five rules... but I think a more evolved list is in order.

  3. I love this series!

    Yes, I totally love having kids old enough to help the younger kids. Makes the whole house run smoother and sets them up to practicing helping others.

  4. Kelly, I want a list of the rules because I'm sick of telling my kids "Fourth Commandment!!" when they are being disobedient.

  5. I love this. So much. You speak from the heart to my heart. The idiotic unrealistic expectations of obeisance from small tots. The desperate need for other moms!!!! Love this. Thanks so much for this series, Kate!

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