Monday, November 25, 2013

How I've learned to be a better mother

My oldest is about to turn 6, so let me start by saying, I am no "veteran mother", and my experience is not of any caliber to qualify me as anything close to an "expert".

But as a mother of almost 4, my experiences have changed my view on motherhood.  Not in some squishy mushy way, that's fit for a Hallmark card, I mean it's changed how I view what being a good mom is.  I've gone through a lot of the "hard" stuff, and come out on the other side able to say "this worked better than that", but those sorts of things differ with every kid.  The things I've experienced and learned that can apply to EVERY kid and EVERY mom is what I wanted to share.  These are things that even my husband hasn't caught on to yet!

1.  LOWER YOUR EXPECTATIONS!
I can't stress this enough.  When you have kids, especially more than 1, things just never go according to plan.  Ever.  And if they do, it's called a miracle, not a standard!  When you have kids, you quickly learn that any task that took you 15 minutes as a single person now takes you about an hour.  But what happens in that hour, that's what seems to stress moms and dads out so much, because it's not what they expect.  So lower your expectations!  Do not expect to be in and out of anywhere.  Ever.  You will never have the luxury of "just running in real quick" when you have your kids with you.  Inevitably one of your kids will knock something over, spill something, hurt themselves, strike up a 20 minute long conversation about unicorns with the lonely old lady in isle 6, pee, poop, and barf all over something or other.  Plan for this.  When you carve out a time in your schedule to do something, plan for extra time, but also plan to be inconvenienced, annoyed and bothered every 30 seconds.

When I'm driving somewhere I actually plan out exactly what I'm going to do to get my kids to a point they're familiar with.  A place that meets their expectations.  This means, when I go to the store, I know getting them all out of the car and into the cart is always crazy.  Traversing a parking lot full of blind elderly people (as is always the way when you shop before noon), with a 4 and 5 year old that refuse to hold hands, a 19 month old that absolutely MUST walk on his own, and exactly zero children that have functioning ears, it is a feat getting into the store.  So I plan, and I explain to them: "when I stop the car, you can unbuckle, but do not open the door and do not get out.  I will open Hammy's door and we will all get out together.  When we get out, A and E, you MUST hold hands the ENTIRE time or we will go back to the car and leave.  I don't want to hear ANY fighting."

So that gets us inside.  Then we find a cart and I have to convince Hammy that sitting in a shopping cart is not really akin to getting any limbs ripped off, so screaming like that isn't necessary.  Yes people stare, but there is nothing you can do about it.  Heck, if someone says something to you, invite them to try and reason with your 19 month old, at least it will be humorous to hear why they know you can do it, you're just being lazy, but they can't.  When they're all in and ready, take a deep breath.  Then start over.  Manage the kids' expectations.  Explain anything you can so they know what to expect.  Remember to expect anything and everything to go wrong.  Go into your bubble and ignore everything else.  All you're trying to do is buy food to eat, not impress a panel of judges.  If the only way to keep the screaming at bay is to rip open a bag of fishies and let the kids go to town, so be it.  Anyone who complains, just take the bag of fishies away, let the blood curdling screams commence, and ask the whiner if they'd rather hear that the whole trip or just let your kids eat in peace.  Remember, the only people who are going to think badly of you either a) haven't been there, or b) forget what it's like.  I've had elderly people come up to me and say "I raised 4 kids and none of them ever dared to scream in the store!"  Um... yeah right, lady.  I'll believe that when your perfect, cherubic kiddos fly out of your bum.  Every single mother that has been where you are understands.  So lower your expectations, and if you come out on top, woo-hoo!  Buy yourself a Starbucks because you deserve it and you're awesome.

The moral of the story is, stop expecting your kids to be perfect.  They wont be.  And the more kids you throw into the mix, the less likely things are to go your way.  Expect chaos.  Then you'll be happy when it turns out to be a minor thing, like 14 trips to the bathroom and a bag of snacks all over the floor.

2.  Be happy with boring.
This one I didn't learn until I was on my 3rd kid.  Until your kids are old enough to grasp rules and learn that repeating something 40,000 times is NOT fun, everything your kid loves is going to most likely bore the heck out of you.  Taking toys out of a bin and putting them back in exactly one million times.  Coloring every picture in the coloring book the exact same shade of pink.  Playing Jedi, but only if you swing your lightsaber THIS way, not THAT way, and don't say anything except what they tell you to say, and you can't ever win.  And don't for a second think they'll do any of this on their own.  Oh no, you have to be actively involved somehow, or it's just not fun.

This morning I spent 15 minutes playing "change spots" with my 19 month old's sippy and my water bottle.  He decided the funnest game in the world was putting his sippy in the same spot my water bottle was, then switching them back again.  Over.  And over.  And over again.  All i could think of was how I NEVER would have been this patient with my first kid, and that at that very second, I was just thrilled my baby wasn't screaming.

Just relax.  Be bored to tears.  Think of your shopping list or your chore list, and work one thing you want to do in between what they want to do.  It will teach them patience and understanding that your time is not 100% theirs.  I usually do one game with my kids, one chore (they also do their own chores), then one game, then another chore, etc.  It works out pretty well.  At this age their chores are small, though, like putting all the shoes on the shelf, so it's not like they get overwhelmed.  Also, I find, if your chore is lengthy, eventually they get tired of waiting for you and figure out how to play on their own.  This is a very important thing for them to learn!

What have you learned about being a mother that has made your life easier?

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