Parents of Little Children (the MORE and the LITTLER the better), This is for US:
Right now, our only parenting goal is SURVIVING.
Just survive. Us. Them. Daily. Survive. Coming into summer, I had all these big ideas and grand visions. We were going to do Field Trip Friday, and Make a Meal Together Monday. There was going to be designated reading hour each day. We would have a schedule…one that was just structured enough to allow for sanity (mine), but loose enough to allow for fun and freedom. There would be “chore hour” and “play outside hour” and “learn something new together hour.” In between all that, we would frolick at the pool all day long, the six year old and three year old happily swimming and floating and playing together for hours, me paddling around contentedly with my sweet little cherub in his canopy float.
About 5 weeks into summer, and my kids screwed up my plan EVERY DAY.
Field Trip Friday SUCKED because it required the baby to skip his naps, and so he cried the majority of the time we were gone. “Chore hour” was LAUGHABLE with a three year old. He had to be micromanaged to ensure he even did anything, which defeated half the purpose, because the PURPOSE was “instead of being bored, go do something productive, and gave me a few minutes alone to ALSO do something productive.” And our leisurely afternoons at the pool? That looked like: me trailing around behind the baby as he crawled the peripheral of the pool, because he HATED his canopy float. Meanwhile, his three year old brother was crying FROM the pool, wanting “mama swim too.” Well, I can’t DO that, son, so I guess I will just hold you WHILE I trail around behind the baby. Are we having fun yet???
Summer wasn’t the only thing I have idealized. For example, there are SO many Christmas traditions I long to enact. I try to get them going, and they always end up…something less than jolly. “Let’s pose by the Christmas tree in our matching jammies, each holding up the special Christmas ornament they picked out.” Fail. “Let’s get hot chocolate, and go do the Trail of Lights. We will stay out until 11 pm, even though your bedtime is 7. It will be so fun!” Cold, tired children who spilled their hot chocolate, have to pee, and want to go to bed. Fail. “Sit patiently and watch each person open their gift one at a time, so we can enjoy and savor and appreciate.” Not happening. Fail.
Family “Vacation.” Don’t even get me started, but it’s rarely what I pictured.
And then there’s all these things I want to teach them. I want to have family devotion time in the morning. I want to do service projects together as a family. Do chore charts, and reading charts and, well, just all KINDS of charts. I love charts. But where we’re at now, my three year old rips the chart off the wall, and my baby ends up eating it.
All of these ideas I want to implement? I don’t think they are so far-fetched. It’s just that it’s not the right time to start. That time is on the horizon, but it’s not here yet.
Sometimes I long for the day when we have a house full of elementary-aged children, where things can actually HAPPEN. Where at the end of the day, I can remember and relay what the heck we DID all day long. But for now, I’ve come to the conclusion that with babies and toddlers in the mix, the main (possibly even the “only”) goal needs to just be “survival.” We need to make sure people get fed, diapered, clothed, and napped. Meals need to be made, a reasonable amount of cleaning needs to occur so that we aren’t all living in filth…but honestly, just a reasonable amount. And that’s it. This isn’t our season for perfection. It’s also probably not our season for traditions, rich and meaningful conversations, or
world travel. Any sort of travel. Short day trips. Probably it’s just a season for a “trip” to the local bounce house.
Are you, like me, finding yourself growing frustrated because on any given day, you want to be able to accomplish SO MUCH MORE than what you actually were able to?
Let it go. Just survive.
Are you finding yourself weary from trying to maintain a perfectly clean and orderly house, while little tornadoes whirl around behind you all day long?
You fed them today. They were clothed today. You’re good. Just survive.
Are you trying too hard to make every day with your kids “fun” and “meaningful”? (other synonyms could include “magical”, “purposeful”, or “memorable”?)
Not right now. Right now, just survive.
The day will come when you can gather around the kitchen table for a meal, and have everyone share their “high/low,” without a temper tantrum interruption from your toddler.
The day will come when, upon arriving home after a family vacation at the beach, you are able to relish the amazing memories that were made, while feeling rested and relaxed. You know…as opposed to being MORE exhausted than you were BEFORE the vacation, as well as sore from head to toe (a result of lugging a wagon saddled with the entire contents of a house, to the beach and back each day. For the 10 minutes you were even able to stay, before the sand started to make your baby cry).
The day will come when you can set off for an entire day of adventuring with your kids, without being constricted by nap schedules and feeding schedules and “what places have a changing table?” But that day isn’t today for you.
Today, you are just focusing on surviving. And that’s ok, and it’s enough.
At least I hope so. Because that is all I’m doing.