3 Kids: One Perfect Excuse

One would think that I spend my days lazing about, as much as I write about it. But the truth is that I do often spend some of my time trying to figure out how to do a little less; around the house, for my kids, etc. And while having more kids seems only to increase the demands put on you by them and their need for food and clean clothes, it also gives me a really good excuse to step back from the little moments in their lives and let them experience things themselves.

How so?

Because my hands usually seem “pretty full,” as passers-by like to yell at me when they see our gaggle.

When we’re out, I often have a baby sleeping on me in the carrier. Or I’m helping my 19 month old up some stairs. Whatever the circumstance, folks want to do one of two things: a) help me out by holding a door or some other neighborly gesture or b) give me a wiiiiiiiide berth.

As my brood has grown, I have to prioritize need between the 3 of them nearly all of the time. So often, when I say no to one of them or need them to help me in some way, there is a kind adult (read: stranger) who is willing to lend them a hand. They have lifted my kids into highchairs for me, helped them reach the trash can to dispose of something, offered to carry something when I didn’t have enough hands. One very kind man even “rescued” my middle kiddo as she balked at the top of an escalator, watching the rest of us sail away from her. He picked her right up and scrambled her down to stand beside me. Phew! Thank you sir!

Now I’m not saying that I just want to rely on the kindness of other folks when I’m out with my kids somewhere. I have to be ready to do everything that is required, but since these friendly adults do often help out, my kids are learning what community really means. If I were able, I would help someone if they needed it, so why should we not accept help when it is offered? Besides learning (slowly) to wait until I’m free to tend to them, they are also learning that their immediate family members are not the only people who they can trust. In that same vein, I have never said that they shouldn’t talk to strangers, or to be wary of them. That conversation will come in some form when they venture out on their own, but for now I talk to strangers, so why shouldn’t they when we’re together?

My occasional “unavailability” also gives my kids opportunities to be more self-reliant and to actually start to grow their own relationships with other adults. When I’m around, I try hard to keep my mouth shut, but since we adults are quick to make sure that our kids are understood, I inevitably intervene and then it becomes “my relationship” with the other person rather than my kids’.

If I were just sitting idly by (without apparent reason) while my kids struggled with things, then I would have to imagine that other folks would wonder why I wasn’t more helpful. But once they see me with a baby and another kid, they tend to excuse this very real, hands-off parenting choice. I like the freedom that these kids give me to parent the way I want to. “Nope, I cannot go down the slide with you, I’m holding your brother.” It gives me the excuse to bow out of things that I don’t want to do and to encourage my kids to do things on their own when they’ll feeling unsure.

So while having a little crew of kiddos doesn’t make life easier per se, it can be the perfect excuse for doing just as I please.

Making a Big Deal (When is the time?)

 

One of my favorite things to do when I take my kids to the playground is to find a bench and sit on it. They often clamor to be pushed on the swings, but I try to disengage myself as much as I can from their play and allow them the room to climb, fall, figure out pumping their legs (!) and be brave on their own.

Yesterday, while I looked on from my perch, I watched my 17 month old climb the steps on the jungle gym so that she could go down the biggest (and coincidentally slowest) slide. On the way up to the top, she passed two cut outs in the railing that allow kids access to a ladder and a firefighter’s pole. The top one is pretty high up and instinctively, I wanted to warn her away from it. Like most parents, I want my kids to break as few bones as possible in their lives, so why not keep my kiddo from getting up so high?

As I sat there and watched her climb and walk past the cut out safely a handful of times, I wrestled with whether or not to say anything. I finally came to the conclusion that calling her attention to it now was not the right move. She was acting safely and me calling on her to be even “more safe” or more attentive would likely backfire. By making a big deal of this, I was afraid that she would start to climb up and then stand, gleefully close to the edge when she got to the top; forgetting about the slide altogether, just wanting to see the panicked look on my face as she played with fire gravity.

There are plenty of times for us parents to make a big deal out of something. Some safety issues are non-negotiable.

  • Holding hands when crossing the street. Big deal!
  • Running away from a parent in public. Big deal!
  • Teaching our kids not to play with poop. Big deal!

But other situations fall into a gray area.

  • Your kids hearing curse words?
  • Climbing up the slide while somebody else slides down?
  • Trying to use a knife to cut their food?
  • Farting in front of folks?

Sometimes when we make too much of a big deal over something, we don’t allow our kids the freedom to make their own mistakes. Or we call attention to something being right or wrong (or safe or dangerous) when they didn’t know (or need to know) that distinction yet. How do kids learn that curse words are taboo anyhow? Because of how we react to them! Making a big deal out of something can cause unneeded embarrassment, censorship and sometimes a basis for judging others.

I can remember times in elementary school when a kid would say or do something that other kids thought was weird or gross and the “Ews!!!!!” and “Oooohs!!!” that ensued were stifling.  Those big deals shape our behaviors as we grow and learn.

And while I don’t necessarily want my kids to yell “Butt!” in front of company, I don’t want to make a big deal of too many things. That way when something really is a BIG DEAL, they’ll know it for sure.

 

My Bad Behavior

I’ll start with the requisite acknowledgement that it has been a long time since I last posted anything here. Since I have ‘no one’ to apologize to, I have no apologies. I know it’s been a while. As it turns out, taking time away from a task sometimes makes it harder to return to it. Yes?

Since I last wrote, my family and I have moved (again) and I’ve had another kid. So the grand total is one 3 & 1/2 year old, one 17 month old and one 2 month old. Who would have thought that having more kids also might mean having less to say about parenting?

Luckily for me, I *still* am really only teaching life lessons to one kid. We’re working on some rudimentary “try not to be an asshole” lessons with my middle kid, but I don’t have to worry too much yet about what’s sticking and what’s not. With that said, now that the two older kids are interacting more and more as contemporaries and less as baby and child, I’m getting to watch first hand how they both deal with the trials and excitements of having a sibling (and “getting along” with that sibling). And while much of what I witness is sweet and thoughtful, much of it also seems to simply be my shortcomings played out in a bout of “who wants to share less.” Awesome, right?

As the adult with whom they spend most of their time, I am the primary person helping them to build vocabulary and strategies around being kind to others, helping themselves calm down and dealing with disappointments. Those lessons are explicitly taught many times on any given day. The problem that arises is when I’m having trouble being kind, disappointed or calm myself. As many parents know, the things that kids see and experience tend to be much more salient to them than the explanations (I often call mine “lectures”) that we try impart. So as a result of this, I see my poor behavior reflected back to me more often than I’d like.

“No pushing your sister please!” But of course, I have been known to “help” someone along with a little nudge or a pull if they’re having trouble listening to me.

“It’s not ok to try and control someone else’s body!” As though I don’t do it on a semi-regular basis.

“Sharing is a way to show you care about someone!” I say this regularly even as I guard my time, personal space and fooooooood very jealously.

“Please don’t interrupt someone when they’re talking!” Unless it’s me, interrupting anything you’re doing or saying to remind you that you haven’t returned your shoes to their proper resting place.

“Can you please help me carry this bag inside?” But I’ll cooly decline your request for help in a little while because I want you to be able to do things for yourself.

Being kind is a difficult endeavor. Sometimes it can be difficult to be kind to kids and still find room to tell them no or disappoint them by not always doing things for them. In the long run, these can be considered kindnesses, as you help them build their independence and confidence in themselves. But in the present moment, it can feel like the opposite as you look into your child’s teary eyes as they ask for help with something that you expect them to do on their own.

In our modern day privileged parenting environment, kindness is one of the themes that I hear about most. Just think how many times you have said or heard a parent say, “That’s so nice of you!” or “It’s not nice to…” We want to believe that our little (developmentally appropriate) selfish tyrants will grow up to be people who help their neighbors and remember their parents in their dotage. I want to see a glimmer of that hope for the future. But when I hear them saying the same negative things that I say, I start to think that I’m probably dooming them to remain tyrants.

I know that I can’t be perfect…ever. And I have no real desire to be. But I would love it if my kids paid a little more attention when I was on my good behavior than when I was being “bad.” Alas. As my last post said, I (generally) like that I have work on being a slightly kinder, more patient person because of my ‘day job.’ And while I’ve come a long way in the kindness department, it is made clear, sometimes by my kids’ own behaviors, that I have a long way to go.

 

Parenting as a Profession

If I had been alive (and my current age) 60 years ago, I would have been called a housewife. I suppose I could call myself that now, but the new turn of phrase is, of course, stay-at-home parent. When I tell people that this is how I spend my days, there tends to be a cry of “but that’s work!!” from whatever well meaning person I’m speaking with. I don’t think it’s not “work,” but I don’t think it’s the same as having an outside job that you report to everyday. For sure.

But would you believe that even after all of these years of thinking about parenting and actually doing it, I only just figured out why I like the “job” of parenting better than a job that requires a four year degree or a punchcard? There are the fairly obvious answers of a) I like spending time with my kids and being at home during the day or b) This model works best for my family or c) I can make my own schedule to a certain extent or d) I love not getting paid!

There is another reason that I like it though. Very few “professions” that I can think of (at least in our society) allow or focus on one being the best-ish kind of person that they can be. Many professions require a particular skill set, but if you’re looking for a job, rarely in the job description/requirements does it say that working to keep a level head in stressful situations is uber important. You might instead be asked to prepare quarterly reports, develop outreach strategies, write project materials or give presentations. While knowing how to do those things is important in a business or non-profit setting, they don’t necessarily help you out in real life.

Getting better at parenting however is almost always going to translate into benefits that you can apply throughout your life. If you’ve gotten really good at clear boundary setting with your kids, then chances might be better that you’ll be able to set appropriate boundaries with coworkers, family members and friends. When your kids are crying, clamoring or arguing with each other and you manage to stay relatively calm in those fraught situations, you may find yourself more easily accessing your reserves of calm when you get a flat tire on the highway or are late for an appointment.

It’s not that knowing how to make a spreadsheet isn’t important. It can be. But the “job goals” that I have for myself are teaching my kids how to be more kind than not, more calm than not and the best way that I can do that is to continue to work towards kindness and calmness myself. I’m doing the “job” that I like doing. No question. And I really appreciate that it’s teaching me some applicable skills for life along the way.

I Suck When My Kids Are Sick

Both of my kids are afflicted with seriously runny noses and pretty gross coughs right now. They’re not even in school and yet, it’s as if their bodies knew that school elsewhere was beginning. Time to start exchanging germs!

This is day 3 of their torment and mine. Much of the time life is ok and they are feeling pretty good, but as soon as the scale tips toward a little too tired, they turn into puddles of snot. My older daughter especially is bouncing back as well as a bowling ball currently. Any small twist, turn or setback is causing an uproarious amount of tears. She needs an entire reset at this point in the day. And let me tell you, I am not handling this well.

If the tone of this post isn’t already clear, I am currently pretty frustrated with my older kiddo. It’s becoming clear to me that maybe my expectations for her, at least while she’s sick, are a little too high. She forgets to say please and thank you. Much more of her talking comes out as a whine. I have to ask her to repeat herself ad infinitum because I can’t understand her through her tears. And I continue to think that she should be able to control herself more. What?!

Just get your feelings under control kiddo! It was hardly a bump at all, why so many tears? It seems that you’re yelling “No!” at me a little too often for my liking!

My patience drips out of me as fast as their noses run. I just want my older daughter to be her usual, pretty composed self. Why is it so hard to remember that she’s only 2 (though getting close to 3 really) and sick to boot? I suppose as with any episode in parenting, it’s easy to imagine that this is the new normal. It’s easy to think that all of the hard work reminding kids to be courteous and helping them build resilience has been completely brushed aside and manners and fortitude are GONE FOREVER! This is what life is like now- not enough lap for too many kids and tears for days. Sigh.

Hopefully a little processing, reflection and some apologies will help me to remember that sickness passes and my kid is still who she generally is.

The question is, who am I in this? And who will I be the next time they’re sick? Maybe they just need to get sick a little more often so that I can have some more practice at this kind of patience? What a thing to wish.

I will say that I do wish that didn’t suck quite so much just when they need me a little more.

Celebrating my 5-year Blogiversary

I only just realized that this month marks 5 years since I began telling the internet my thoughts on kids and parenting (also, the internet tells me that blogiversary is a real word?!). When I started, I was nervous about putting forth my opinions (let’s face it, I still am). After all, I only became a parent myself halfway through this experience. Who was I to be giving advice? Who am I still?

After reflecting very little on this question, a couple of things are clear to me.

#1 I don’t know much

I’ve known some kids and families in my time and I’ve done some things that “worked” and plenty that didn’t. I’m not great at changing my approaches, but I’m a little bit open to it. It’s tricky to set oneself up as an “expert” in such a subjective arena. But luckily, I am not an expert. I mostly know the things that work for me & if I think that I’ve stumbled across a short cut, I’m happy to share. But really, I don’t know much.

#2 I almost always want to make life easier for myself

So, I don’t know much and I’m relatively lazy. Generally, the less I can do, the better. I make one pot dinners. I sit on the couch through almost all of nap time. I put my feet up at every opportunity. With that said, my main goals in parenting are not to raise assholes & not to stress myself out. That’s pretty much it. I can put on a grandiose show when I’m working through strategies on calming down or bragging about how well my kid listens, but the real reason that I’m interested in calming down or making my kid listen to me is so that my life will be easier. Parenting is easier when you have a kid who generally does what you ask of them. It’s easier when you have ways of managing your daily stress. It’s easier when your kid knows how to entertain themselves (to an extent). It’s easier when they know how to wipe their own rear end (still working on this one). Sometimes there is hard work that’s done at the beginning, but this is simply so that everything else will be easier going forward.

#3 I try not to give *advice* in real life

Unless someone specifically asks for advice, I try to hold my tongue. And sometimes, I’m even a bit coy when asked outright what my thoughts are on a parenting conundrum. Since parenting is so subjective, what works for one family might not work for another. As an outsider, finding a strategy or outlook that most closely matches a parent’s personality and the needs and temperaments of their kids is a super difficult task. What some people are comfortable with, others would never consider doing. And if a suggested response to a kid’s behavior feels wrong to a parent, they will never do it. It doesn’t matter how good a suggestion is or how “smart” I am for thinking it up, if it doesn’t suit the family in question, then it’s bad advice. The best solutions almost always come from the parents themselves. They might benefit from a little reframing, but only if they feel ownership over a strategy will it work for them. For realz.

I don’t know if I’ll make it another 5 years- or if blogging will be sooooo antiquated by then (is it already???), but we shall see if I learn anything more in the years to come.

 

My clipart game is on point. High five!

Proving My Love

I love my kids. And I love my husband. I’d like to go on the record. I love them very much. Sorry everybody else who is not lucky enough to be counted as a Kermobinson. You’re missing out.

I’m not too good at telling the world about my love though. Even when writing this little blog, I do try to keep my family at arm’s length (while still mining their lives for subject matter). I don’t share too many pictures or daily vignettes. And believe me, I AM NOT KNOCKING THOSE WHO DO! Promise! I like being able to share in others’ happiness and do not begrudge folks theirs because I feel it too!

All of the clichés are true for me too…well, many of them anyhow. I identify more with stories of parents in hardship and in joy. It’s easier for me to empathize with folks who also love their kids. And I do want to share some of that love with the world. But I think (and rightly so?) that my love for my family is a given. I hope that it’s clear to people who meet me that I think my kids are some of the greatest in the world. Maybe I should work to make it clearer in real life since I don’t show it too much on the internet.

I know that I do sometimes roll my eyes at my kids (and my husband) and downplay their cuteness and all around awesomeness when others pay them compliments. Maybe I will start agreeing with folks instead of awkwardly shrugging.

I’ll have a little practice here so that when all that remains of this world is the internet…there will be a record of my affection for my family.

They are the lights of my life.

My heart is often full with love for them.

They can be annoying, but I can feel my love for them many times in a day.

I’m glad that we get to share a life together.

So there it is. Just for posterity.