I turned 30 this year. I know, its shocking. Seriously, how did this happen? Also, I have been mom for just a few months shy of 6 years. That is equally as shocking. Mostly because it feels like I have been in this phase of life for 20 years but also because my little Jenkie boy can’t possibly be approaching his 6th birthday. That just seems wrong. When I go out anywhere with all four of my young children, I like to count how many times we get the, “Oh my. You have your hands full!” comment from complete strangers. Usually we average about three times per outing. As if I am not fully aware of how full my hands are, they think it is their duty to inform me. One time, I politely expressed to one lady at the zoo who was struggling to pick her jaw off the ground, that “yes, my hands are full, and so is my heart”. So corny. But she immediately responded with, “Oh yes. Children are blessings.” Nice cover up, lady.
So I am getting older, been in the parenting game for a bit, and have had new borns most of that time. Basically I am saying that I am tired. Parenting is work ALL THE TIME. I love it. But lets be honest here, its hard. The not so great parts are hard like tantrums, diaper changes, mealtimes ( so much rice on the floor. I don’t know why I keep making it), being in public, not being right next to a bathroom when your kid loudly declares that he needs to go potty. Its just hard. But even the good parts can be hard and painful. She just wants one more cuddle before bed and its so sweet but I am so tired, he wants you to kiss his finger because he bit it while he was eating (this happens surprisingly quite often) and it hurts to see him hurt, they finally get the whole bike riding thing down and show how old they are getting, and when he stopped calling spiders, “black sly-biters”. Tears never stop flooding down my cheeks.
But even though parenting is hard, I don’t want my children to view me as a blob of tears or tempers. The roller coaster of motherhood emotions is real, but I want the smiles to shine through and not the screams of terror. I carry the weight of teaching my children how to become strong, moral humans full of integrity. I want this weight to make me stronger not crush my joy. I have all these desires and I am dealing with a chaotic mess every day so I need a plan. Even more than a plan, I need a script. If there is the tiniest lull in my instructions to my kids, it gives them a chances to throw something or scream or run out of the room.
When I want to say, “Okay, we are about to go outside, but first we need to clean up our room,” I end up saying, “Okay, we are about…Hey come back I am talking to you…No, we do not throw books!….Hey I am talking so be quiet…. Please stop screaming!!!! Get in your room! Everyone get on your beds! No we can’t go outside today or ever!”
Sometimes I just need a script of how to communicate my instructions in a quick, concise phrase. That being said, let me introduce to you a dear friend of mine who has helped me with that very thing, Daniel Tiger’s mom. She is sweet, patient, and most importantly, ready to direct her small child with a clear mind and a calm attitude. Every day I aspire to be more like her.
Yes, she wears the same outfit everyday and doesn’t have to worry about what fits right and whether or not it is recently laundered.
Yes, she only has fur and doesn’t have to bother with fixing her hair or covering up stress breakouts with makeup.
Yes, she has a trolley that comes by her house at the exact same time she is wanting to go get freshly picked strawberries for that morning’s pancakes and the ride is only the the length of one, short song. (Can you imagine this??? She is truly living the dream.)
Obviously, she doesn’t live in our reality. But besides all the too-good-to-be-true stuff about Daniel Tiger’s mom, she has one tool up her sleeve that I think is pretty powerful when instructing children while keeping calm, cool, and collected. That tool is little songs and rhymes with clear instructions or encouragement that she can just whip out at a moments notice. Being prepared with these sayings is key to staying calm and still parenting effectively when put in new, loud, or embarrassing situations. Daniel Tiger’s mom has these songs on hand anytime Daniel has a bad attitude, is struggling with a topic, or needs correcting. I love many of the songs and have adopted them for our family.
- “When you gotta go potty, stop and go right away. Flush and wash and be on your way” – That one has gotten a lot of use in our house. Mostly I sing it when I need to go potty so that my children will cease asking me to do a million things for them. It doesn’t always have the desired effect.
- “Find a way to play together (clap clap)” – this is a good one, too. You can sing it pretty easily through gritted teeth.
I have always loved family mottos, rhymes, or sayings. It keeps the kids on track and also gives me a clear and concise instruction for them. Some of our family sayings are:
- “Family sticks together” – This is a good one when going to the grocery store and having to let some of the little ones walk next to the cart. It also sends a comforting message that we are a team and we will always help each other.
- “No toys at the table” – This is basically just a rule but we say it all the time and it is a practical way to live our lives. Works also for adults who want to bring laptops or phones to the table. Dinner time is for being together.
My friend mentioned to me the other day that her son came home from preschool saying:
- “You get what you get, so don’t throw a fit” – This seems invaluable to have on the tip of my tongue before a storm of tantrums start swirling.
I want to adopt more useful sayings and songs for our family so I have an entire arsenal to use throughout my day when my patience is running thin. You can’t really scream a sweet little song. Its hard to keep a straight face when saying a rhyme.
There is so much nonsense in raising children. I so often feel like Dwight K. Schrute screaming at the top of his lungs, “Buttlicker! OUR PRICES HAVE NEVER BEEN LOWER!” (If you are not a fan of The Office, you should be.) Its easy to get sucked into a ridiculous conversation in which you find yourself proclaiming something you don’t really care about. I have been in so many conversations like:
Del: “Mom, what about a monkey fireman?”
Me: “What do you mean?”
Del: “I don’t know.”
Me: “Are you thinking about a monkey who is a fireman?”
Del: “I don’t know!”
Me: “Did you see a monkey fireman?”
Del: “I Do Not Know!”
Me: “Oh. Sorry.”
Long silent pause.
Del: “Mom, what about a monkey fireman?”
Me: “I don’t know, bud.”
Mothers live in a bizarro world where certain foods can’t touch other foods, and socks are incapable of staying on little feet. We have strange conversations about why we can’t lay on top of the baby or drive to a three hours destination today because we won’t be able to get back before lunch or why we promise that our child will not like raspberry lemonade and milk mixed together. We can’t always explain why eating dirt is gross because it is dirty even though the child thinks that dirty means delicious. We need a script sometimes so at least finding the right words can go on auto pilot for a little bit.
Do do smell what I am stepping in, mommas? What are some of your family’s favorite sayings, songs, or rhymes? Please share! We can help strengthen each other’s stash of quick, specific parenting instructions so our minds can take a much needed break and our faces can express how dearly we love those little rascals that call us “mom”.