Life’s weird. The trials and tribulations of raising kids are even weirder. I subscribe to the “whatever works for you” philosophy; after all, parenting is a marathon – not a sprint. It’s impossible to do it well, all of the time – and there’ll be days when you feel like you’ve done nothing well at all.
But, sometimes, meeting the oddness you encounter with an equally quirky response is a way to stay sane. Parenting, in case you don’t have kids, is 99% trying not to lose your mind. There is nothing in this life more stressful, more glorious or more bittersweet as bringing up children.
So, rather than fight the bizarre nature of parenting, it can be helpful to embrace it sometimes and just let the strangeness play out.
1A get-along shirt
Your kids are fighting because your son called your daughter a “bird” and made a squawking noise. She screamed back “SHUT UP!” You want to scream: “Are you kidding me? Are you really fighting about this? You’re such jerks. I need a glass of wine.”
What you can do instead: Pull out your handy-dandy “get-along” shirt. This is an enormous T-shirt (perhaps an XXXL) with a large hole cut at the neck. Shove both of them in it and make them stay inside until they can get along. You can write something smart-alecky on the front for flair, but that’s optional.
2Monster repellent spray
Your kid is becoming increasingly phobic of shadows and strange noises, and her vivid imagination is conjuring up some pretty wild stuff. She’s simply not capable of separating the real from the imaginary and is becoming a real pain in the rear.
You want to tell her she’s being silly, and to go to bed because you’re tired and haven’t had dinner yet. To say this whole new fear of monsters is becoming very disruptive for everyone and you want her to GO TO SLEEP.
Monster repellent is a more patient and fun way to put the situation to rest (no pun intended). Fill a spray bottle with water and decorate the outside so that it’s monster repellent – you know, like bug spray. Leave it by her bedside and tell her she can use it at will – it’s guaranteed to keep the nasties away. Then sneak off and watch some Netflix.
3Kill ‘em with kindness
This isn’t an original idea – most parents have probably used it at some point. It’s not okay in every situation, as kids do need limits, but it can be useful when you simply don’t feel like going to war with an angry seven-year-old.
Kid: “You’re not a nice mommy. You ruin everything.”
You: “You’re a lovely boy and you make everything more fun.”
Kid: “You never do what I want. You don’t care about me.”
You: “I do what you want sometimes. I care about you always.”
Kid: “I want this toy and you are mean if you don’t get it for me.”
You: “I do not want to buy that toy and I have all of the money. Someday, you will have money and be able to buy whatever you want. Won’t that be fun?”
No two words are more irritating to a parent sometimes than “I’m bored.” It’s like our kids think of us as a 24-hour entertainment, permanently on call. I’d also like it to be noted that I would LOVE to be bored, just once, now I’m a grown-up.
Instead of shouting at them to find something to do, create a list of choices they can choose from:
- Walk the dog. They can always use more exercise (kids and pets).
- Clean something. There’s always something that needs it.
- Organize something – tidy out a drawer or cupboard.
- Read a book on a topic you know nothing about, then write a report for mom and dad.
- Write an essay about the meaning of boredom.
- Write a poem and try to make it not rhyme.
- Make mom or dad a snack. We could always use one.
- Hand-write a letter – not email – to a grandparent or other relative.
- Teach the dog some new tricks.
- Practice drawing.
- Learn ten words in a new language.
- Find something to do before mom finds you a chore that needs dealing with (not an email!) to grandma/grandpa/great aunt Bertha/an elderly family member.
5Close the kitchen
At my house, the kitchen closes at 8pm. No exceptions. I am not a short order cook. I serve three meals a day and one snack – eat them or don’t.
Kids who refuse to eat their dinner might be hungry for an evening but they’ll learn quickly to chow down at meal times. Plus, once the dishes are done and the kitchen is tidy, you rightfully don’t want them rummaging around in there.
Lights-out for my kids mean they need to be bleeding or there must be a fire before they come to disturb my husband or me. Once they’re in bed, they’re allowed out to use the bathroom and that’s it.
Mom and dad deserve to be able to say: “I am off work now,” even though we’re clearly never really done. You and I both know there’s no such thing as taking a break from parenting but, as far as my kids are concerned, they’re not my problem after I turn out their lights.
7Luck of the draw
Kids and compromise go together like oil and water. I used to try and referee and mediate and make things “fair”. Now, I tell my kids that life is unfair and that I do not have time to be the middleman in their arguments. If they can’t figure it out on their own, we flip a coin.
While it may seem a lot lazier than working through the conflict with them, it teaches your kids an important lesson about the nature of life. That, as I said above, it’s not fair.
If they both want the blue popsicle, for instance, and there is only one, I flip a coin and then bestow upon them one of my favorite nuggets of motherly wisdom: “You get what you get and you don’t throw a fit.
When I say ‘threats’ I mean it in the least terrifying sense of the word. Subtle threats are little reminders to shape up or ship out. Rather than losing your crap at the grocery store, you can signal to your child with simple non-verbal cues (like a firm squeeze on their shoulder or tap to your own nose) that they’re out of line.
You could call them “warnings” but whatever word you use, the bottom line is that a stern stare or nonverbal reminder can work much more effectively than a shout.
Parenting is like a circus and you are the ringleader. Don’t try and be “normal” or expect that people will understand every choice you make. Give that idea up now. Instead, do whatever works and be confident that you’re doing your best. Because, after all, you are.