Cup of coffee in hand, children off to school, it’s 8:30 in the morning and I’m feeling great.
I sit down to write this post and the phone rings. It’s my seventh grader saying he forgot his socks and needs me to bring him some.
Roll my eyes and deliver socks. Switch laundry. Change god-awful diaper. Re-heat coffee. Deep breath.
Sit back down to write this post and the phone rings. It’s the school nurse telling me my third grader is having chest pain. Rush to the school, fearing the worst. It was a minor case of indigestion that a giant belch cleared up.
Return home. Fold laundry. Throw dinner in the crock pot. Kids come home and after-school chaos commences. I still haven't showered.
Finish Homework and kids run out to play. Once again, I re-heat my now stale coffee. Deep breath.
In walks my ten year old. He’s holding a severely injured and dying dove wrapped in a plastic bag. Tears streaming down his face, he mutters, “We have to bury him mom.”
My heart sinks. “Ok buddy.”
We venture out to find a proper burial spot and say a tearful goodbye to the now deceased little bird.
It’s dinner time. Clean up time. Bath time. Story time. Bedtime.
The coffee still sits, cold on the end table. I replace it with a glass of Pinot. Deep breath.
This is motherhood.
The details differ from day to day and family to family, but the chaos isn’t going anywhere.
I’m told we’ll miss it. I’m told the silence of an empty nest is haunting. But for now, all I want is twenty minutes of silence. Hell, I’d take three.
Take it from me, a mother of seven. I get it. To say this job is a difficult one feels like a preposterous understatement. But three little nuggets I’ve acquired over the past 13 years have literally saved my sanity. If put to proper use, I have no doubt they’ll change your world too.
Sanity Saver Number One: Think of a Solution
“I had it first!” “It’s my turn with the remote!” “I get to sit in front this time!” “I want to choose the show!” “I’m telling Mom!!!”
Put an end to all of it overnight. I promise, your kids will hate it at first. I can also promise that if you eliminate yourself from playing referee, your kids will figure it out. You’ll be a happier mother and they’ll be much more capable humans.
Here’s how it works: Whether it’s a game, toy, or virtually any other situation in which two or more kids disagree, calmly instruct them to move away from it and think of a solution.
The most difficult but important rule here is that you as the parent have to force yourself not to get involved or make suggestions. This will be tougher than you might think, but it will get easier over time.
Trust your children's ability to figure it out and watch as they sharpen their problem solving skills while relieving you of the headache of playing Mommy Referee.
*Hint: If a child is figuring out a solution in a negative or unkind way, that child loses the privilege.
Sanity Saver Number Two: The Whisper
"What the heck mom! Pizza without cheese is NOT pizza! That's disgusting!"
"I'm going to need you to show some gratitude."
"Gross. This is so dumb. It's not a fun pizza and movie night if the pizza is disgusting. I'm not eating it!"
Do you know what is ten times scarier than a yelling mother? I’ll tell you. It’s a mother who, in the heat of a child’s misbehavior, leans in real close, looks that child square in the eye, smiles, and whispers.
"You will eat the cheeseless pizza, or you will have no dinner at all. You choose. And if you use that tone one more time, I can promise you there will be no movie."
The eye contact. The calm control. The graveness in your voice. The smile. That child will not know what hit him. The quieter you are, the harder he’ll have to work to hear what you’re saying. He’ll grasp your instruction and you won’t lose your voice trying to convey your message. You can thank me later.
Sanity Saver Number 3: The Bubble
This one is near and dear to my heart. I have had some of my most intimate and meaningful moments with my children in what I call The Bubble.
What is it you ask?
The Bubble is a figurative place your child can go if given permission. It’s a place they feel safe to communicate whatever they want, however they want, without consequence.
If they want to scream the f-word until they’re blue in the face, they’re allowed with no consequence. If they want to tell me they hate me or someone else, it’s allowed without consequence.
But these things rarely happen. What does happen is that kids feel safe to express feelings they otherwise might not. They tell you things they otherwise would keep inside.
In The Bubble, the child feels respected. The child feels heard. And when that child knows you’re present and listening and not ready to discipline, she wants to behave, and more importantly, she feels loved and fulfilled.
I hope these three sanity savers help you as much as they’ve helped me. Not only have they made this crazy, chaotic life a little easier for everyone in our home, they have improved my relationships with my children and helped them become happier, healthier, more capable humans, and that's my ultimate goal.