Monday, June 28, 2010

Live like a toddler

My childhood pediatrician used to tell my mother, "You girls stop having babies just as you start to get good at it." His words ring true with me once I get past the fact that he referred to grown women as girls (huge pet peeve of mine). It was the 70s, after all. I wonder, though, if we had stopped at two children whether I would feel nearly as competent as I do now in the midst of this three ring circus. Would I always wonder whether we could have handled one or two more? Or would I rest on my laurels and feel certain that two kids were enough?

I always wanted at least three kids. Two kids seemed like it would be boring. Three kids under the age of four is anything but. That fact is never more apparent than when all five of us are crammed in the kids bathroom for bathtime; two splashing in the tub, the baby hanging out on the changing table talking to himself in the mirror and the two of us watching the kids and shuffling mountains of laundry around. I should have been more specific with God about the timing of these children, shouldn't I have?

My husband and I both come from large families; each of us is one of four children. Some in his extended family have had as many as seven children. Having three children is a novelty among our friends, however. Many of them think we must be exhausted (we are). Many can't believe we even attempt outings like going to the lake or the grocery store with all three in tow (we can't either). I've been to the library, the lake, the pool, several parks and the Sam's Club with all three and it hasn't been a disaster. Of course, I've had help from friends, family and a mother's helper who comes twice a week.

Beyond the assistance, though, here's what I think the secret is: don't slow down or stop moving. If you slow down, the full and painful implications of your situation hits you. If you stop moving, you fall asleep (probably for the next 5 years if I'm lucky).

Toddlers seem to know this little secret. And the more toddlers I add to my brood, the more I learn. They move nonstop until you physically incapicitate them in a crib or car seat. It's then they realize that they're tired or that their teeth hurt or that eating more than two bites of oatmeal at breakfast might have been a good idea. And they often move so fast that they have little time to dwell on past indignities such as the snack they were denied or the whack they received from an older sibling.

If I routinely lived like this, I'd probably lose all of my baby weight and be a lot less annoyed by the daily chaos. Actually, I have to live this way just to survive here. Most mornings I hit the ground running. I don't remember the last time I brushed my teeth. I get a shower on Wednesdays and Saturdays (don't ask me why those days seem to work better than the others). When I stop for too long, I fall asleep. When I dwell on the past (and by past I mean whatever tantrum, mess or heinous incident happened two minutes prior), the resentment affects my dealings with the children until I let it go. When I skip activities, errands and invites, I actually become more overwhelmed by the children. Besides, the best thing about outings is the car ride when my kids are physically unable to approach me. I can ignore their wails as long as they can't come near me.

It's really just easier to keep going. And if nothing else works, I follow the advice my husband heard from his mother whenever he wanted to stay home from school or football practice: "Take a shower. You'll feel better."

It must not be that bad around here after all. I get by just fine on two showers a week.

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