As a parent of five little kids, other parents often say to me, “I don’t know how you do it.” First, could someone please tell me the appropriate way to respond to this comment. I know “on psychiatric drugs,” is not the best response so I usually say, ““Ohhh, come on. I do it the same way you do. Kids have a remarkable way of taking up any physical and psychic space available, so we’re all swimming upstream totally exhausted and blessed.” While my closest friends and family have heard a slightly more honest response to this comment, this is verbatim what I say to people. Until now.
What is the point of having a unique, large family, if I cannot share the wisdom borne of my experiences as a parent? And so I will share some of the ways that I “do it”:
I was never a girl scout, but I am a firm believer in the adage “Always be prepared.” The lengths that we go to, to prepare for one day of our life is quite something. During the school/work week we do everything the night before. We make lunches and coffee and our smoothies. I know, this is nothing special. We also pour everyone’s cereal including a smaller bowl which holds “seconds” should anyone require them. If I’m feeling especially panicky about the morning to come, I will place each child’s bowl at the their spot at the table along with a spoon. Back when Z rode in the bike trailer to get to school in the winter, I would hang his snow pants on the back of his chair so that he could put them on before sitting down to breakfast. He didn’t like this. I think he may have cried once. Wife told me it was excessive, but time is everything and there is no time to waste in the morning. Besides this was nothing compared to my mother’s response to me being a slow mover. When I was in kindergarten, in an effort to improve the speed at which I dressed for the outdoors, my mother borrowed a stop watch from the gym teacher and spent a weekend doing snowsuit dressing drills. Now that is excessive!
In addition to the preparation of the children’s breakfasts, we also lay out all of their outdoor clothes (jacket, hat, mitts, scarf) on the living room floor, which we now refer to as the staging area. Z just throws his jacket and stuff on the floor as soon as he comes in the house, in an effort to “help” with the night time set-up. Unfortunately, because I’m crazy, I insist that the children hang up their belongings with their hats etc. in their coat sleeves so that I can have the satisfaction of removing everything from their hooks and laying it out on the floor myself after they go to bed. Inefficiency at its best.
Certain that we were not prepared enough for the morning, I recently made another modification to our night time routine. On the odd occasion, over the past few years, we have put the kids to bed in their “tomorrow clothes”. It was fun and cute and always because something special was going to take place the next morning. It occurred to me that “tomorrow clothes” don’t have to be just for special occasions, they can be the norm. From Sunday to Thursday, our children now go to sleep in their “tomorrow clothes”. Of course there are always the minute details of a plan that need to be worked out. You see our children bathe and get ready for bed before supper. Before you start thinking that eating in our house totally hinges on being prepared for the activity following the meal or that meals are rewards for completing undesirable tasks like bathing and getting ready for bed or school, let me explain the very good reason why bed prep is done before dinner.
Our kids love bath time and get unbelievably excited about all being naked together. It occurred to us that putting the kids to sleep would be easier if they didn’t have to come down from the high of bath time, so we moved it to earlier in the evening. Once we decided to get rid of pajamas, the kids simply put on their “tomorrow clothes” after bath. BUT nobody wants to go to school in “tomorrow clothes” with stains from last night’s dinner, so I decided that the kids would wear their “tomorrow bottoms” and a bathrobe to dinner. We call them dinner jackets.
After supper we go upstairs, brush teeth, put on “tomorrow shirts” and hunker down for bedtime stories. Obviously the Littles want in on this “tomorrow clothes” business but they still wear diapers at night so they need to be changed in the morning anyway. No problem. We put on a diaper with “tomorrow underwear” on top so in the morning F & L can pull down their pants, half way, pull off their diaper and pull up their dry “tomorrow (now today) underwear”! Bam!
And that, my friends, is how it is done! It’s true about all parents swimming upstream, but some of us have a larger school of fish to lead so we need some, outside of the box, strategies. There are more, equally amusing, ways that we “do it”, but I don’t want to overwhelm you. How do YOU “do it”? Let me know in the comments.