Ha ha ha haaaa! Yeah, I’ve got nothing. Spending 15 hours a day with your kids, every day, is flipping hard. Sorry if you clicked on this post with the hope that I actually have 10 tips for stay at home parents. Last summer I probably would have had some pearls of wisdom for you. I was a blissfully unaware stay-at-home mom who thought she had it all under control. The kids were on a tight schedule – breakfast, morning activity, lunch, nap time, afternoon activity, dinner, bath, bedtime stories, sleep. I felt like supermom. Every evening Kendra would come home from classes and the house was clean, dinner was on the table, and the kids had smiles plastered across their cherubic little faces.
This summer, reality hit. Almost three-year old twins are a completely different beasts than almost two-year old twins. Daniel Tiger no longer appeals to all three kids. Their own belongings are now boring – they want whatever their siblings have at all times, and will use any means necessary to wrestle the object of affection from each other’s grasp. This summer’s me would tell last summer’s me to shove her parenting pearls of wisdom where the sun don’t shine. Here’s what she knows now…
Kids do not care if their ear-splitting wails and thrashing bodies disturb the patrons of the local library. Nor do they care that they are embarrassing you, or causing the internalized shame you feel as everyone around you judges your inept parenting. All they care about is that their immediate desires, no matter how ridiculous, are not being met. And until those desires are met, the screaming will not stop. But you’re on your own to figure out what they want – you’ll get no help from them.
No amount of parenting books or articles are going to help you because there is no advice that works equally for every kid. Sometimes getting down on Kate’s level and softly asking her to use her words works. Other days, only the threat of throwing away her teddy bear will get her voice below the level of shrieking.
Siblings enjoy torturing each other. It’s true. There’s apparently nothing as fun as poking your sister until she pushes you in the back, or taunting your brother when he’s in trouble and you are not.
When you think you’ve got everything under control, chaos will burst from the calm. This morning I had all the kids fed, dressed, and ready to walk into town. In the 10 seconds it took me to grab my sunglasses, Evan managed to throw his milk all over the floor. I mopped it up, and while disposing of the paper towels, Kate’s feet flew out from underneath her as she walked over the wet spot I’d left. I spent the next fifteen minutes consoling a sobbing child. So much for getting out of the house with ease.
Unless you’ve only got one kid and can still play man-to-man, once you have to switch to a zone defense, all hope is lost. Most days I feel like a referee, calling fouls and breaking up fights.
Yet as hard as it is, I do enjoy being home with them. In between tantrums and destructive behavior, they are still rather adorable. And things are getting better. Today we even made it through two hours at the library and Kate only had one fit when her toy train went off the track, and I only had to ask Evan to stop throwing things twice.
So although I don’t have any sage wisdom on how to turn your kids into perfect angels, I do have a few tidbits to share.
Reward yourself at the end of the day. No matter how many tantrums were thrown (even if one of two of them were you), you made it! You deserve a prize. I have had Blue Moons, Wavy Lays, and onion dip every night this week.
Don’t give a flip about anyone who judges you. Yesterday, while trying to wrangle all the kids into the one bathroom in the library with a changing table, a woman approached me and asked, “What is going on here? I don’t understand.” I refrained from responding with a string of expletives and instead explained to her that getting three kids five and under into a restroom is not easy. She made a few more comments but eventually backed off when she realized I was not going to hang my head in shame or apologize for taking up space. Remember, you’re doing your best, and anyone who tries to make you feel otherwise is the twerp, not you.
Forgive yourself when you lose your temper, or make a mistake. No one is perfect, and the stress of parenting takes a toll. Own your behavior, make any necessary apologies, and move on.
Hang on to the moments of light at the end of the tunnel. You won’t always feel like a referee. (Hopefully!) The length of time they all play together peacefully will increase. And although the hard moments often feel overwhelming, they are ultimately overshadowed by all the awesome moments. Those are the ones you’ll remember once the chaos settles down.
Finally, believe in yourself. Just do what is best for you and your kids – in the end, that’s really all that matters.