We see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Jack and I feel like we’ve been marathon-ing since 2008 when I gave birth to Remmy. 17 months later, we welcomed Sophie, and two years after that, Minnie made us a family of five. Next week, Minnie turns two. In a span of five and a half years, we’ve done late nights with newborns, endured baby kidney surgery (Sophie endured, really), learned to manage a host of food allergies, asthma, and eczema, sobbed on the first day of preschool (twice), and have packed so much into five and a half years that Jack and I are sort of standing here, looking at each other, going what just happened?
I remember announcing that I was pregnant with Minnie, and several of my friends said “You realize you’re going to have three kids three and under, right?” YEAH. About that. :)
These days are a little different. Easier in many ways, harder in some ways, but mostly just different. Remmy’s five and a half, Sophie’s four, and Minnie’s two. We’re not doing the diaper thing anymore (insert Lil Jon YEEAAA), nor am I experiencing breastfeeding woes (or joys), and we’re waking up in the middle of the night less and less. (It still happens, but mostly due to allergy/asthma/eczema flareups.)
I guess what I’m saying is, we’ve been in the thick of it, and we’re probably still in the thick of it, but I’m no longer juggling a newborn, toddler, and preschooler, you feel me? It’s different. We’re not there yet, but we’re getting there. :) So now that I feel like a certified seasoned vet (sort-of), I was thinking about what advice I’d give myself two, three, four, five years ago, and what has really proven to be invaluable to me over the past few years. I could probably write a mini novella surrounding this, so for the sake of brevity, I’ll try to keep it to just a few practical things.
1) If they’re crabby, put them in water.
I was at the library with Remmy, pregnant with Sophie, when I saw one of those obnoxiously designed posters on the wall with ideas for hanging out with kids. This line stuck out to me, by far, and I’ve used it dozens of times over the years. There’s something about sitting in warm water that soothes us (it’s why I will never turn down a dip in a hot tub). It might have been ten in the morning or four in the afternoon, but if we were getting desperate, I’d draw a bath, stick a kid (or two) in the tub, and just sit. Maybe I’d play some music or maybe I’d flip through a magazine, and even though I couldn’t (and didn’t) ever leave their side, I could spend thirty minutes with the girls contained, put in some earbuds and chill for a little bit.
The one thing I’ve been able to count on is knowing that my parenting hours end at 7:00pm on the nose. Illness, etc can throw a wrench in my plans, but for the most part – over the past five years or so, the girls are in bed by 7:00pm. I close the door, and the rest of the night is mine. Maybe it’s to work or do laundry or sit on my couch and eat Cheetos, but whatever the case is, I’m not in mom mode (with some exception, of course) between the hours of 7:00pm and 6:45am.
People ask me how we do it, and I sort of stare at them blankly. It’s always been. It always will be. As long as the stars shine down on this earth… okay. Actually, yes, we’ve always made it a thing. Bedtime is at 7:00pm. Did I mention all three girls share a bedroom? They’re not allowed to leave their beds after 7:00pm. If someone has to use the bathroom, she walks herself to the bathroom, then walks herself back to bed. Keys to success:
1) blackout shades (gotta get that room dark, fo sho)
2) white noise (we use this little machine because we bought it before the advent of white noise apps; if you have a spare iPod or iPhone lying around, throw an app on it)
3) this clock (HEAR ME, MY CHILDREN, I’d buy this clock at twice its cost. It has been so helpful to say “Stay in bed until the sun turns orange!” :) The girls know that even if they wake up, they have to chill in their beds until the clock changes colors.)
4) quality hug time/snug time during the day (I like knowing they go to bed feeling loved and that they received enough of what they need from their parents, you know?)
Dedicate your next bag of Cheetos to me, please.
3. Ditch the stroller.
Sort of. Or, for shopping, anyway. I strapped a baby and a toddler in my super fancy double stroller, held the preschooler by the hand, walked around the grocery store, and then realized it was nearly impossible to actually shop for products. I tried hanging reusable bags on the stroller handles, shoving product into the bags, and then emptying it out on a conveyer belt, but a) some stores don’t like that.. I don’t know.. something about looking mad shady while I’m buying cereal, maybe? I think there’s a sign at Whole Foods and b) it’s way easier to toss things into a shopping cart than it is to maneuver some strappy bags.
Solution: Wear your baby. When Minnie was teeny, I’d put her in the Ergo (one of my new baby must-haves), put Sophie in the shopping cart seat, and Remmy would go in the back of the cart or walk next to me. Target’s got some cool monstrosity for seating a couple of children, but every time I see it, it always looks a little gross, SO.. we work it with the regular cart. This way, my kids are contained and I’m totally hands-free. Some moms use slings, but I’ve not found anything I liked more than the Ergo. Ergo, maybe you should try it. (Ha! Pun!)