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Last week, I was struck by a video my former college roommate posted on Facebook. It was her three-year-old daughter doing laundry. I was awestruck. It wouldn’t even occur to me to teach my kids to do chores like laundry at this young age. Here I was thinking I was doing good having just recently instituted “taking care of your plate” which is having my kids scrape their plates into the garbage and either put them into the sink or dishwasher.

I think we tend to look at big families these days (anything over 2 kids) as something of an oddity. We have this fascination with how they function because let’s face it most of us find parenting one or two kids pretty stressful. My friend Stephani is a great mom to 6 little kids. While she admittedly isn’t perfect I think we could all learn these five things from her.

child pouting

1. Just Walk Away From The Tantrums – My daughter pulled a wicked tantrum on me the other day and I spent a lot of energy and frustration trying to come up with the perfect combo of punishment and reasoning to try and stop the crazy storm. I asked my friend how she deals with tantrums times six. She said, “I don’t pay attention to meltdowns unless there is blood, blood curdling screaming or impending injury. I find that what they want most is my attention and that’s not the way to get it so I just walk away.” I often find that all my attempts to stop a tantrum only prolong it so maybe she’s on to something.

2. Teach Them Chores Young – When you have six kids I think you change your mindset from I have to do all these chores myself to the kids are a part of this team and even the young ones can help. I was amazed that Steph had created an instruction sheet for doing laundry simple enough that even children who can’t read yet can figure it out. Her two older boys help with making breakfast and lunch and the younger ones help with loading and running the dishwasher and sweeping the kitchen. I think moms tend to underestimate just how much kids can help around the house. I’ve noticed that my son is always eager to help me cook and my daughter is always asking to help clean. It’s me who often redirects them to chores I think they can handle, but now I’m starting to think that I’ve underestimated their abilities.

3. Color Coding Kids – By the time she had her fourth child, Steph had discovered a trick to keeping kids’ belongings straight. Each child was given a color as “their color” to identify their toothbrushes, water bottles, towels, etc. How many times have you asked your kids, “Who’s cup is in the living room?” At Steph’s house she can tell by the color, which child it belongs to. While she doesn’t color code everything, I think this is a strategy that could help moms of two or more stay organized.

4. Let Go Of The Need To ALWAYS Be On Time – I was telling Steph that I turn into a drill sergeant when it comes time to get my kids in the car, barking orders like “Get your coats on! Shoes! Head to the van!” I’m so worried about being late that I make my kids and myself crazy.  Kids seem to move rapidly, unless you have somewhere you need to be. Steph admitted that she used to be the same way, but eventually learned to go with the flow and accept that sometimes they would just be late. We tell our kids, “don’t worry, it’s not the end of the world.” Maybe we should take our own advice on this one.

5. Big Families Make Big Hearts – We watch shows like 19 Kids and Counting and wonder how Michele Dugger’s uterus has not fallen out of her body or why she doesn’t run down the street screaming and pulling her hair out. I think we tend to look at big families like a species at the zoo, wondering how they function and sometimes feeling sorry for how much work the parents have to undertake just to keep it all together. There’s a polish proverb that says, “Not my circus, not my monkeys.” We will never truly understand another person’s family dynamic whether they have just one child or six.

 

She has encountered some stares, especially when people see her brood headed down the narrow grocery aisle together. She envisions a “wide load” title floating above her head. But she sees many years into the future with a house full of kids and grandkids sitting around a holiday table together. She sees the pride and warmth of a big family surrounding her and I have to admit that when my husband and I decided to have a third I was craving a little bit of this feeling too.

“Big families are awesome!,” Stephani says. “They are a lot of work, but I know I’ll never look back at my decision to have six kids with regret.” Many thanks to her for sharing a snapshot of her life with us.

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Last week, fellow blogger Discount Diva gave out medals to moms with children who throw tantrums. As a mom of two children with epic tantrums I am not looking for a medal, just simple understanding and space to be a parent. Let me take you through a recent experience and break down for you what I, the parent, was thinking and feeling.

The library is one of our favorite places to go. It is rare  my girls have an epic melt down there; maybe a little whining if they are not ready to leave. I usually remind them we can always come back and they’ll move on. So, I was at a complete loss as to why my one daughter went nuclear while we were at the library a few weeks ago. She knew it was time to leave and she was ready to go. We stepped into the bathroom to change her since she had an accident that soaked through her pants. As I tried to take her shoes off so I could change her she started getting whiny. This is where I start taking deep breaths because things could go either way here. She can continue to simply whine or start to completely wail. I changed her and asked her to wash her hands. Something happened from the time the paper towel hit the garbage can to the second she stepped outside the bathroom (I still have no clue what it was). She was on the floor flopping, kicking and SCREAMING. A high pitched, ear shaking scream. The kind that causes mass panic that a child is being abducted. Now here is where experts diverge. One group advises you not to react. Just keep the “demand” on her and expect that she will change her behavior. The other group advises to stop what you are doing and get down on the floor and hold your child. I have both experts arguing inside my head. I have another child in tow and I am carrying several bags packed full of kid gear who do I focus on first? I go from taking deep breaths to survival mode in only a second. It’s fight or flight and I’m looking to flee to the next open door!

There is no end to the screaming. No amount of gentle tones or soothing hugs is getting this kid to move. As we inch slowly to the door she’s screaming, “No! No! No! I don’t want to go out the door! I don’t want to go home! I don’t want to leave this place.” I start preparing my response to the CPS worker who will be greeting me when I get home. I try to muscle her through and tell her this is NOT OK. You NEED to get up and walk to the car NOW! I can feel my temperature rise and my heart beat escalate. Nothing is working and as we make our way out the door she’s screaming, “pick me up! carry me!!”

My mind is now a blurry fuzz of options: 1. I can walk away and leave her there- except we are on a busy corner with heavy traffic. 2. I could attempt to (painfully) carry everyone up the hill. 3. Just flop on the ground myself and start screaming. 4. Remain calm and drag her.  I went with #4 and I keep my focus on just making it to the car. My mind is split between just taking baby steps toward the car and praying the other kid continues to be cooperative. If they both melt down at the same time I have no choice but to just plop down with them for one hell of a cry. Not even a good cry.

That’s when “Super Grandma” jumps in with her two cents. “My grand kids act like that I just step over them.” Oh, ha ha … yes I already thought of leaving my volcanic child here on the corner of a busy street while I walk to my car 10 cars away. I smile, nod, ignore her remark and keep walking. Then I heard the words, “just a bad kid.” I swear I could feel my hair catch fire. If I wasn’t so focused on keeping it all together I would have turned around and verbally blasted this woman.

A child having a tantrum (even in public) is only a small snapshot of their day. We don’t see the bigger picture of their day. What grandma failed to recognize is how hard I was working to keep it together and not flipping out on my kid in public. She also doesn’t know about the many sleepless nights I spend wracking my brain trying to figure out what I am doing wrong as a parent, or how I beat myself up because I’m failing at this parenting gig. Lady, I can assure you this is no cake walk for me. I do not enjoy, or ignore the fact my child can’t control her own emotions yet. It is actually painful for me to watch and feel powerless.

This day it was only one kid melting down. I have experienced tandem tantrums. (That’s where both kids melt down at the SAME TIME in PUBLIC. Usually when we need to get some place on time). I have heard a lot of hurtful remarks, “there’s something wrong with your kid!” “My kids would NEVER act that way.” “You’re kids are hyper.” “Good luck with that one.” “Her behavior is over the top.” “How do you put up with that?” “She’ll NEVER learn to cope with the real world.” These comments have come from teachers, strangers and even friends and family. They are all hurtful and none of them help me resolve the issue. They all feel like an F on my parenting report card. It’s hard to not look at my kids and think, “why can’t you just be like all the other kids?”

I have learned to deflect those comments by reminding myself how beautiful my girls are. The way their smile lights up a room, how they can be absolutely charming and how incredibly smart they are. I try to remind myself that they are still learning to navigate how the world works and their place in it. It is my job to teach them how to cope and how to identify boundaries. In those moments when I am under fire by other parents (and grand parents), it is MY responsibility to role model for my girls how to handle adversity. How I respond to those comments is going to teach my children how to respond to those same personalities when they are adults. Kids aren’t going to have it right the first time around. It takes practice and it takes repetition. My kids may not fit into any one size fits all check box and that’s a good thing. I have been called “persistent” “bossy” and “defiant” too. It is those traits that have made me the most successful in life.

So Super Grandma, go ahead and make your judgments when you see my kid melt down in public. You can assume the worst of me as a parent. But, keep it to yourself. If you really want to help give me a thumbs up, tell me it only lasts a short time and maybe offer to hold my bags while I walk my kids to the car. If you can’t do any of those things then please follow this protocol:  take your right hand out of your pocket, place it over your mouth and keep walking.

To my friends and family, before you quickly judge that mom at the store who is just loosing it on her tantruming child, or you see her trying to wrestle her kid into a car seat while the kid is kicking her in the face, just think she isn’t enjoying this moment. Remember you don’t have the whole picture. This is one small peek into their day and is not an accurate reflection of this persons parenting style. It’s easy to forget that, so I offer up the same protocol listed above.

I rarely share how hard it is to have twins because I don’t want anyone to think I am looking for sympathy. Motherhood is just hard no matter the cards you are dealt. With twins, most people assume one twin is “easy going” and the other is “difficult.” I am blessed with two formidable little ones even Hercules would bow to.

Dear Moms Of A Screaming, Kicking, Crying, Throwing Something Child,

This medal for mental endurance during EPIC tantrums is for you. You rock! You may think to yourself “Oh MY GOD, how am I ever going to survive this nightmare?” I understand how hard it is not to lose it. I don’t even pretend that I don’t lose it from time to time. It’s so hard to deal with a child who is not in the right frame of mind to even hear your voice, let alone respond to threats of punishment, or attempts to figure out what will make the chaos stop.

After WAY too many of my son’s tantrums lately I finally figured out one universal truth – there is NOTHING to do, but wait it out. It’s like the girl at the party crying in her beer. All attempts to make her feel better are lost. You just say to her “alright time to go to bed and sleep it off.”

Sugar High Crash

My five-year-old son’s tantrums are caused by one thing – he’s overly tired. Sure last night’s Desert Fest 2014 at our neighbor’s house at our weekly “booty call” complete with ice cream, donuts and cookies played a hand in the nightmare of a tantrum produced when we got home, but he was TIRED. First he kicked off his fit when he wanted a glass of water and daddy told him he could have water when we got home (I think it’s less than 60 seconds by car door to door).

Exhausted Jayden
Being overly tired means Jayden either passes
out,
or kicks off an EPIC tantrum.

Then he wound himself up into a good cry, followed by pounding his fists on the floor, and after refusing to get ready for bed he just lay on the floor. When I told him he could just sleep in the hallway and let him lie there he started banging on my bedroom door as I was attempting to get the baby to sleep. Then I could feel the anger in me rising like bile in my throat. I always know that feeling when my face gets hot and I start to bite my lip hard. These are the moments I pray, “Lord, please don’t let me beat my child.” Of course I mean a spanking so feel free to put the phone down. No need to call CPS.

My Right Eye For Some Holy Water

During a particularly bad tantrum that lasted well over an hour last week I looked at my son and thought, “Who the hell are you?” “I so don’t like you right now.” It’s ok to admit it mamas. It doesn’t mean you don’t love your kid. It means your patience is well beyond spent. It means you are at an utter and total loss as to how to stop it and get your sweet, lovable kid back. If I had some holy water I may have been tempted to throw it on him to see if I could exercise whatever demon was possessing his little body.

A Padded Room For One Please

After my anger passed, I went into “survival denial.” This is when in order not to become “The Hulk” I have to remove myself from the presence of my tantruming boy. If that’s not physically possible, I have to go into a separate room in my mind. Call it meditation, call it what you want.  My goal is to survive it. I’ve tried calming, I’ve trying ignoring and eventually I know that I can do just one thing – survive it. If that means locking myself away in a little happy quiet room in my mind well then that’s exactly what I have to do.

Waiting Out The Tornado

The really crazy thing about a tantrum is that it is gone almost as inexplicably as it began. One minute there are tears and stomping and screaming and the next the tears are dry and that sweet voice comes back to ask you a random question or say, “I love you Mama.” It’s taken living through many of these tantrums to find the inner strength to endure the storm to get to that moment in the tornado where it suddenly dissipates and the sun comes out and life is once again beautiful.

So this is my prayer for you mamas out there – I pray for the strength to endure. Endure till the storm lifts, for surely it cannot last forever, no matter how long and agonizing it feels. Your rainbow is coming. Your “I love you” is right around the next tear drop so just hold on.

Push Through

I’ve said before that parenting is a marathon and not a sprint. A tantrum is therefore that moment where your calf seizes up and you feel like you can’t go on. You know there is a finish line somewhere, but it seems too impossible to continue through the pain. I hope these words help ease the knot of guilt a little bit.

Let The Guilt Go

I often tell my children post-tantrum or episode of misbehaving, “mommy may not like your actions, but I love you no matter what.” This is unconditional love -the “I love you through good times and bad.” It’s hard in that moment when The Hulk turns back into Bruce Banner and the storm has cleared and the wave of guilt rushes in. The guilt of “did I really just scream or act crazy or hate my kid in that moment.” It’s ok mama, let it go. Let it go as quickly as your child’s tantrum ends. No need to hang onto it. Massage out your calf and keep running the good race. And just in case you don’t feel like the world’s best mama the next time your child is writhing on the ground, completely immersed in a tantrum this medal is for you. The medal of Supreme Endurance. You have certainly earned it.

 

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