In the world of parenting, there are multiple agendas a parent must schedule into the overall picture of family life. In my family’s case, there is a husband and a wife, a seven year old, a four year old and a two year old. Each of us has our own desires and needs that we must fit into and around the larger context of our combined life as a single unit. For a mother, this job is especially acute. I like to think that I have used the last seven years of motherhood to learn a thing or two about puting the pieces together. Now that my toddler has to compete with the agendas of four other family members, I must take special efforts to ensure his needs are not completely ignored. It isn’t enough to dress him every day, but also to see his emotional needs as valid and worth making a priority along with the rest of us.
Here are 5 simple rules I have developed to make me happy and to make him a part of the family’s overall agenda picture:
1. I never begin my day without my own cup of coffee and at least 30 minutes of quiet time without children. This sets me off on the right foot and gives me that extra boost of patience I am bound to need at some point during the day.
2. I always give my toddler at least 5 minutes of undivided attention before getting my other two children up and ready for school. Then I can turn on Dora, make lunch, fix breakfasts for everyone and marshal the troops. He responds to my agenda without much complaint after I have paid some attention to him – and him alone.
3. I plan my day around naps in the car if I am going to be out and about. Then I bring a book and sit in the car quietly while he naps. It gives me some time to relax doing an activity I enjoy and he gets the rest he needs. Sometimes I nap too. It’s win-win all around.
4. There is never a time or a place for bringing him where he doesn’t belong. I have tried this. It has failed miserably. If there isn’t a babysitter available or my husband doesn’t get home in time from work, I skip the “thing” I wanted to do and stay home with him. In the long run, I am less stressed out and more peaceful by not trying to pack in more than should be expected from a two year old. It won’t always be this way. I can wait for the book club or whatever class I want to take until it fits in with the overall kid/age breakdown.
5. My own peace is a priority. If things are out of whack on a particular day, I take steps to rebalance the hearts and minds of every member of the family. That can mean I need to ask my husband for a “day off.” It can also mean I give him a “day off.” Other times it means focusing 100% on my kids or one of them in particular. Not every day will be perfect, but I can recognize when things aren’t as they should be and do things to address the gaps. This has been a huge help in my underlying state of consciousness as a mother. When I know what I need and I understand that my toddler has needs too, we can work together to give each of us the attention necessary to fill our lives with more joy.
One wayor the other, never all on the same day and without wasting too much time worrying that I am or he is perfect,we enter into every morning knowing that love is the doctrine of this family. When I’ve messed up, he tells me in his toddler way. I’ve learned to listen. It has made a big difference in all of our lives. I am still learning, but it’s nice to know I have such an adorable teacher.