An only child can occupy every waking and sleeping moment of their desperate parents’ lives. As your family grows, each additional child compounds the challenges exponentially.
With one kid the parents can double team the little crumb snatcher. Two kids requires man-to-man coverage. Three or more kids and you’re playing a zone defense just to preserve some semblance of order.
Besides being outnumbered, parents with multiple children face the dilemma of tailoring their approach to each child at different stages of life and development. The necessity of adjusting on the fly to meet each of their needs can make you dizzy.
One minute you’re helping the oldest with algebra, the next the middle one is struggling with basic flash cards, then suddenly the toddler runs into your leg and says “I have a present for you!” (a poopy diaper).
With 3 kids at home ranging from 2 to 13 years old, I know a little about how you feel. The Procter house is sometimes in a state of chaos, but here are some tips we try to keep in mind to maintain our sanity while meeting our kids where they’re at.
- Be present. Simply being physically and mentally present is huge. As important as work is (you gotta feed those munchkins, right?) and as wonderful as technology is, there’s a time and place for everything. When you get home from work, drop your laptop bag and phone in the closet/office. Try not to touch them again until after the kids are asleep.
- Don’t overthink it. Kids are more simple than adults because they don’t have our problems or responsibilities. While they can dig deep into the meaning of life or ask tough questions, often they just want to play, read, or watch TV with you.
- Say “yes” as often as possible. This isn’t about spoiling them rotten with stuff, but with your time and attention. Whenever they ask to go somewhere or do something with you (that’s in the time/money budget) say “yes”. If your default is “no” they will eventually stop asking and you’ll wonder why your kids ignore you.
- Play on their terms. Take a genuine interest in their interests and ask insightful questions. If you hate Minecraft (with the passion of a thousand suns like I do), but your son loves it, pay close attention when he geeks out. If their activity isn’t conducive to co-op play (like if your son is engrossed in a computer game or the toddler is happily chugging away with trains by herself) just be near them and attentive to if they want you involved.
Parenthood is tough. Distractions run rampant. We complicate the obvious. Learning to say “yes” to our kids is a continual process. And it’s difficult to follow the rules of someone you procreated.
We fail at these often, but kids are forgiving and each day is a fresh opportunity. And eventually they do go to sleep.