7.19.2012

Dear Cheltz

Today I'm posting something different. I recently had a friend ask me a mothering question, and after I'd written it, I realized I should post it.

Maybe some of you have the same question, and also, it'd be nice to use that writing time to kill two birds with one stone.

Back to our regularly scheduled program next week.

Question:
May I ask you in all seriousness, how do you manage mothering so many kids? I always feel like I am doing a bad job with my two. I really am asking. Do you have any secret hints or tips?

Mine both want my attention all of the time, and I never seem to have enough time in the day.

Answer:
You're flattering me, plus it's all an illusion :). I was pretty depressed and frustrated (and feeling pregnancy-yuck) today at how I'm too tired to do pretty much anything, and it will be a year until I feel good again. It didn't help that we visited a friend who's doing amazing things with her yard, and I can barely keep on top of the laundry.

I had planned to make frozen pizza for dinner tonight because all I wanted to do was curl into a ball and hide, and when I went down to the freezer, I saw that I'd removed the 4 Costco pizzas (we'd bought on sale) to get the hamburger buns out a few days ago, and forgot to put them back.

They were all moldy.

I sat down on a bucket in the basement and cried for a little bit.

Now after that tale of woe, I will admit that my kids are pretty good at entertaining themselves. I don't know exactly what it is, but I have a few ideas that I'll tell you.

1. I have never made myself responsible for their entertainment. Even as little babies, when they get grouchy, I don't try to find something exciting to keep them quiet. I immediately put them in bed because for me grouchy=tired (never bored).

2. We have a daily routine. When Ruby was a toddler and Herbie was a baby, I sat down and wrote down the things I wanted to do with my kids daily, and when we were going to do it.

I'm not a nazi about it. We don't do it on weekends. We scrap it if something comes up. I change it up every couple of months for the seasons, new kids, variety, etc. Also, they have plenty of free time, it just happens at about the same time everyday.

This helps because my kids know almost every day we're going to get up, eat breakfast, do chores, and then they can play outside! (They are more than happy to get away from me at that point :). We eat lunch and then I read stories, and on and on.

If a kid asks me to read a story (for example), I can just say, "Sure, for story time. Put it on the couch." I think that they feel comfortable in knowing when they get my time, and when they get
to play by themselves, so that they don't feel like either one is in short supply.

3. I try to have them do as much as they can for themselves. I leave snacks I approve of within their reach, have taught everyone 4 and up how to make a sandwich, there's a bench in front of the sink, etc. If they say, "I'm hungry," I can say, "Eat a carrot. Make a sandwich."

Even if I do all those things above, there are a couple of situations, where they are unable to entertain themselves.

1. They don't get enough sleep. I try to get ALL of them (ages 7-1) sleeping 11-12 hrs a night. And I leave them all in bed 12 hours. We used to do 8-8, but now do 7-7 because of school, and never changed back for summer.

They are SO much better at entertaining themselves (and getting along with each other), if they get all their sleep, and we get 4 hours without them every night!

Plus, I have all my children not yet in Kindergarten nap. I nap with them, and my older two have "quiet time," where they read to themselves.

2. They watch TV or play on the iPad or whatever. We actually only let our kids watch a movie once a week, and do other media very rarely. The day they watch the movie? They often have a hard time entertaining themselves afterwards, but because of our other stuff (above), I can say, "You need to be outside right now." or "You need to be reading a book right now." or "GO OUTSIDE!!" if it's a bad day :).

We once tried having our weekly movie before they went to bed, and noticed they had a hard time falling asleep. Weird. They're quiet while doing it, but also riled up and unable to be quiet within themselves afterwards? I don't know what it is.

We have friends who cut their kids movie/tv time down to one show, once a week and were amazed at how well they could entertain themselves (after a couple of hard? days of transition :).

I forgot to write the following to my friend, but there is a number 3 here.

3. Recovering from too much excitement. Life happens, and there are going to be times where you're traveling, or family's visiting, holidays, illness, etc. I find that for a week or so (or more depending on the extent of the excitement) after these things, the kids have a hard time. I try to be patient, concentrate on making sure they get their sleep and wait. Everything will settle back to normal.

If your every day life is too exciting for little kids, it will take a toll on you and them. Consider what you can do to calm it down.

And that's all I have. What about you guys? Do you have some sure-fire tip that I didn't mention?