Monday, May 06, 2013

HOW TO RENOVATE WITH CHILDREN. AND SURVIVE.


This post should be called We've only renovated with children, and don't know any different or We renovated with children, and they survived. Because it's all totally true.

Our very first renovation as a married couple (my husband had done it all before) was when our girls were in their tweens. I had no idea what to expect, and was way out of my depth. So, juggling renovating with their needs as well as finding out what it was all about, was extremely difficult. Lucky for us, they're awesome and not only did they survive, they are hard workers, have a love for old cottages, enjoy the renovating process, and are actively involved in helping. Kelly is asked her opinion regularly, and Leah calls us "The Renovating Family", and spends her holidays helping us with the renovations.

We hope the same for our lads. Madison, who is seven years old has seen four renovations in his short life. Noah has been renovating since he was a 6 month old fetus.

Before each renovation, I think I have it licked. But during the process there is always a moment of, I totally forgot about this part. Kind of like giving birth: while you think you remember the labour pains, it comes back to you so much more clearly when you're doing it all over again.

While these are the things we have done to make the renovating process easier, let me announce that renovating is anything but stress-free. Yes, there are fights over the bench tops, and grumps over the awful amount of cleaning that has to be done. But adding young children to the mix makes it so much harder. Surprised? But if you're going to be silly resourceful like we have been, there are ways to make it work for all of you:
  1. OWNERSHIP. My husband is just so good at this. He's a born communicator, and shares renovating in a way that is so cool that even I want to renovate! He outlines the facts and the benefits. (Emphasis on the benefits.) To add to the excitement, each child is outfitted - new work clothes, gumboots and gloves. Friends who just visited (the best kind of friends!) bought their son safety goggles, and we think those are next on the list.
  2. LET THEM HELP. They're keen, are dressed appropriately, now let them help. This can be a tough one, because three year olds are keen but aren't as helpful as six year olds who aren't as interested. But let them get involved. Even if it's pushing the wheelbarrow, sweeping or even picking up debris. The excitement may not last for long, but they will experience the satisfaction of being part of the team.
  3. RHYTHM + ROUTINE. Kids need it, and so do you. How is your life structured when you're not renovating? It shouldn't change just because you are. The kids still like afternoon tea and kids television. They still need their favourite toys and bedtime teddies. Their homework still needs to be done, and they still need to go to bed at the same time each evening. After school activities, holiday programs and swimming intensives? Do those too. When their life is turned upside down and there's nowhere to lounge about, at least their routine hasn't changed.
  4. SPECIAL TREATS. If renovating is hard on you, you can guarantee its taking its toll on the kids. In addition to our usual rhythms, we've added some special things in there as well. We stop for an ice cream, or something special from the lolly shop, borrow books from the library, go to the skate park, ride around town on our scooters, hire a DVD, visit the playground, kick the footy at the park, visit the beach. It gives the kids some time with you, doing something that they enjoy which isn't limited inside a house that's in disrepair.
  5. SETTING BOUNDARIES + RESTING. Let's face it, there's lot of tension during a renovation. From the lads' point of view, it must feel like we growl at them an awful lot. To minimise the Growl Factor (a term used often by my husband in my general direction) we all need to take stock. That means we eat together, we knock off at a decent hour (although as our deadlines loom, that has been changing), get eight hours sleep, and we have every Saturday off. That means no picking up the tools. No talk about the work we have to do. A whole day dedicated to resting, unwinding, and spending time with our family.
  6. LOWERING YOUR EXPECTATIONS. While this is the last point, it most certainly isn't the least important. Expecting your kids to stay out of the way is just plain unrealistic. Yes, they will step in the pile of rubbish you've just swept up, put their fingers onto the freshly plastered wall, get paint on their clean pyjamas, and lose tools under the floor you're working on. (Yes Kymmie, they will.) I've learned to take a few deep breaths and remind myself that they are kids. This is what they do. They didn't mean to. And I love them to bits.
Is there anything else you can think of to make renovating with children easier?