I adore my children and can’t imagine my life without them. But parenting is one tough gig.
Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year. Read all the child rearing books you want. Take every parenting class available. But it’s still a job that is a learn-as-you-go process. What worked yesterday with one kid may be an utter failure today with another.
With that in mind, there are three pieces of advice that have really helped me as a mom these past 17 years, including 10 as the mom of three:
1) Ask your kid to do something only once. Go ahead and laugh hysterically. Smugly call me crazy. Bear with me for a moment. Another mom gave me this advice when my first child, Tom, was about two. She had read it in a parenting book the title of which I, for the life of me cannot remember. It has proved to be an effective tactic with all three of my kids.
Let’s say you ask junior to put his shoes away or clean up his toys. He looks back at you and says, “I don’t want to,” “In a minute,” or something other than, “Of course dearest mother. I will do it right now.”
Ask once. Say nothing else. And don’t take your eyes off them. Don’t even blink. This will probably confuse the little dear for a minute, and may, depending on age and temperament, be enough to get them to listen. Or they might see this as a challenge. However they handle it or use their charms to get you to crack, stay firm and calm. You have made your needs known. Do not repeat yourself. Keep looking directly at them.
I have found that just as I start to fear this isn’t working, my kid understands just how serious I am and does what I asked them to do. The triumphant feeling I get each time this works is pretty darn good.
2) Sing. That’s it. Use this tactic when you feel as if you are going to lose it with your kids. If you’re unsure of your singing ability, try talking with a silly accent or making faces. A therapist gave me this advice, and it’s saved my sanity more times than I care to admit. The most memorable instance took place about five years ago.
That night the kids and I were eating dinner. Each one of them was doing their best to see who could win the Oscar for most annoying child. I was tired, frustrated, and completely out of patience. I felt seconds away from totally losing it when something deep inside me clicked, and in my best soprano voice, I started singing: Tom, don’t argue with me… Peter, eat like a human… Lizzy, use real words.
I then insisted for the rest of the meal that any request or complaint needed to be sung. Suffice it to say that all four of us started hysterically laughing, and a night that could have ended in a lot of crying ended up being fun.
3) Never forget that head wounds bleed. A lot. This piece of wisdom was given to me by my brother-in-law when Tom was only two-weeks-old. While my husband’s sister and father were gushing about our gorgeous progeny, Lars looked up and uttered the advice that would prove to be not only true but also a great reminder that parenthood is messy and totally unpredictable.
Parenting can be full of sweet moments and times that your heart will feel like it’s going to burst, but it will also be filled with times that will completely gross you out or scare the bejesus out of you.
I learned just how true this statement was when Tom was six. One day, he ran up the walkway to our front door as he was coming home from kindergarten and tripped on our front stoop. I can still hear the sound of his head hitting the concrete.
I was scared to look at him when I gathered him in my arms and was shocked that nothing seemed to be hurt. Then about two seconds later blood started gushing out from his head. I mean it gushed like an oil well!
I took him into the kitchen to see just what we were dealing with. Blood continued to pour out. At that point, Lars’s warning flashed in my mind and kept me as calm as a woman can be if she’s eight months pregnant and looking at her sweet child covered in blood. I called my dad who helped me get him and a three-year-old Lizzy in the car and to the hospital. Today he is 17 and still bears the remnants of the scar that required a plastic surgeon and 30 stitches.
Parenting is proof of the line from Forrest Gump – It’s like a box of chocolates, you never know what you are going to get. A strategy that worked yesterday stops being effective today. Some days I consider it a good day if I make it to bedtime with all three kids still breathing, a touch of my sanity still intact, and at least a little laughter.