It takes a village

This weekend my 5 year old niece spent the weekend with us, we had her from Friday night to Sunday afternoon. I quickly realized I would not be able to just distantly supervise the play between her and my son. It felt like every 5 minutes they were on the verge of tears over something. My son wanted a toy she was playing with that he had been ignoring, she wanted my son to play a game he had no interest in and vice versa. I would pull them apart, try to distract one into playing something else, they would play nice for 5 minutes and then back to a little kid fight. I just about had it by Sunday morning.

I lost my cool in a total Karina way. There was no more coaxing to play nice or fun distractions, I was prying toys from both of them if they wouldn’t share, putting my son in a timeout when he even looked like he was gonna hit and had lost my nurturing tone in my voice when I spoke.

I felt like I spent most of the weekend just saying “no” and “stop that” “share” “wait your turn” and my favorite giving a fun option or a dreaded option even if neither were what the child wanted originally.

And then there would be 5 minutes of serendipitous play, mostly anytime we would spend outside because everyone could run in separate directions.

But spending the entirety of the weekend  outside is impossible. We did have to eat and my son had to nap at some point.

I don’t know how parents of multiple children do it.

I always imagined I would be the type of parent that you would see calmly taking control of a situation and their children listened. The children felt respected, no onlookers felt uncomfortable by the tone the parent used to speak to their children, and the parent didn’t seem stressed like he/she was losing her grip.

I didn’t think that to be able to obtain that level of peace would require a lot of planning before hand. For one, unstructured activity time is a mess between that kind of age gap. Especially because despite their age difference both are equally high energy. You need to think of games, you have to be a participant in the play, you need to switch it up constantly to avoid boredom. And most importantly you need to have more energy not just to keep up but to keep it together when eventually things will come apart at the edges. Because nothing goes as planned. Ever.

I’m not sure where Shonda Rhimes got that children only want you to play for a few minutes before they lose interest. Not the case with these.

I asked a friend how she did it. I admire the way she mothers because she is the epitome of nurturing. In her tone, her actions and her beliefs. It’s not an act it’s at the core of who she is. She has two children about 3 years apart. She gave me things I had already been doing, but what I should have asked her is how she keeps her cool.

I’m willing to take your thoughts. But I’ve come to my own conclusion. To be that type of parent you have to have a positive outlook on life. You can’t allow cynicism or stress bring you down. You have to find ways to recharge your own batteries. You have to get more than 4 hours of sleep.

Which wasn’t the case this weekend. I’m a strong believer that you have to understand your tendencies to change outcomes. Like if I know if I don’t prep my lunch the day before, I will inevitably eat very unhealthy , or if I set up multiple alarms I’ll always just wake up on the last one. So to keep my cool I now know  that I need to get a decent amount of sleep, I need to have activities ready, and I need to fill my soul with things that lift me up, like God, salsa (music not the food), and a healthy dose of stimulating brain activities.

I don’t understand why stay at home parents get so much slack for not having a “real” job. Parenting is a real job. It’s one of the only jobs you have to be  ON 24/7. And not like celebrity “on” where you have to look your best, but you have to always know what to say, how to act and make decisions with limited resources and time.

Somehow in life we were taught that you have to hustle to the point of exhaustion. Stay up late, eat crap food, don’t go to the doctor, skip exercise. But that’s not sustainable as a parent. You can’t afford to get sick, you can’t afford to fall ill. Especially when you’re a single parent, my health has to be a top priority because if I’m down there’s no one to take the reins. So I have to find ways to take care of myself, which feels inherently selfish because for so long I was taught to put everything and everyone before myself.

 

That’s why your village is so important. It’s just as much about what your child can learn from everyone in the village, as it is about leaning on someone when you’re tearing apart at the seams.

Parenting isn’t meant to be done in a silo. Whether you’re a single mom, or stay at home parent . Parenting is a communal effort. So choose your village wisely.
Photo via Visual Hunt

 

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