Sunday, October 18, 2015

"How do you dooo it?"

In my previous blog, I discussed how I found myself in this situation with 7 children.  I refer you back to October 14th, "OMG! Where did all of these children come from?"  for the details.  

Once people get through their myriad of “why-did-you-do-this” questions, they get to the crux of the matter: HOW do you do it?

The Internet is chock full of advice about raising children.  Some of it is worthwhile, some of it … not-so-much.  For example, I found an article in an Australian publication entitled: “The Key to a happy family? Having FOUR or more children: Parents of larger broods are happier and more satisfied with their lives.” Psychologists conducted a 5-year study and they found the secret:
The Answer

Really, TV is the answer? Who sponsored this study? And what “programmes” are they watching?? Who controls the remote in those households? Inquiring minds want to know. But I will concede that maybe they are onto something at the END of the blurb: no secrets.

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Universe
Besides, everyone already knows that the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything (including a happy family I presume) is 42.
My flip answer is: Prozac, caffeine, Costco, the crockpot, and wine. I have 2 of each in case one fails—crockpot and Costco included.

OK, OK, there is more to it than that!  So here’s what I’ve come up with.  The following advice applies to day-to-day functioning as well as life skills:


A good idea
  • Put the yogurt/grapes/cheese in the same place in the refrigerator every time (on a low shelf) so the toddlers can find it and feed themselves.

  • Alphabetize the spices so the teenager/tween can find the cumin quickly when you yell across the kitchen.

  • Assign a laundry day to each child – for example, Robbie is Tuesday, Elizabeth is Thursday.  If they miss it, too bad for them. They can negotiate with the other household members to sneak in a load. (And make them do their own laundry, too!!)
  • Keep a family calendar online and on-fridge.  In theory, the oldest 5 of my children have access on their smartphones to my fantabulous, color-coded iCloud calendar.  I freely admit, however, that I have doubts about how often they actually look at it…hence the on-fridge calendar. My kids are really good at deciphering my scrawl now – another life skill that will serve them well.  

  • Repeat this mantra to your teenager who is learning how to drive:

 The Rules
Be Predictable, Be Polite. Be Predictable, Be Polite. Be Predictable, Be Polite. Be Predictable, Be Polite. Be Predictable, Be Polite. Be Predictable, Be Polite. Be Predictable, Be Polite. Be Predictable, Be Polite. Be Predictable, Be Polite. Be Predictable, Be Polite. Be Predictable, Be Polite.

The mechanics of driving a vehicle aren’t difficult, but these two concepts tend to be a bit elusive.

  •     Maintain a strict “NO SURPRISES” policy. In my house, the consequence is always lighter if the kid tells me before the teacher/authorities. This applies to getting in trouble at school for pushing his/her BFF, getting a bad grade on his/her report card, getting caught sneaking off campus, getting drunk as a skunk in the dorm, etc.  If they have some idea of how I am going to react, they are less scared to tell me (so far).


  • Start with the low-hanging fruit: Throw out yesterday’s newspaper, even if you didn’t read it.  Sorry, life is short.

    Move on. You have my permission.
  • Granny said: “Never go empty handed.” I make a pile of stuff at the bottom of the stairs for someone (anyone!) to carry the next time they go upstairs.  Even little hands can carry little things.

      Similarly, when we get out of the car each one of us takes ALL of our stuff out (backpacks, water bottles, trash, tennis rackets, shoes, etc).  It’s not at all unusual to see a kid waddling away from the car trying to balance a whole lotta stuff.

  • Granny said: “Don’t put it down when you can put it away.” Just do it.  It takes 3 seconds longer.  And if everything has a place (and is predictable), it’s that much easier. Shazam!
  • If you aren’t going to wear those shoes/that piece of clothing for whatever reason (too small, so ugly, whatever, I don’t care anymore) put it in the donate box -- right this minute! Do not put it back in the closet under any circumstance. Predictably, the “donate box” is in the hall closet.
    Too often

  •  Deal with that unpleasant issue as soon as it comes up – do not put it "back in the closet" or on the nearest "flat surface."  For example, if you need to tell your ex-whatever that you are now dating the daycare lady, do it immediately!  Do not weave it into your next discussion of scheduling (dance classes/goat show schedules/doctor’s appointments new love interest).  “No Surprises” applies here, too.
  • De-clutter your relationships of unresolved, unaddressed grievances.  Just deal with it.  Right now! Keep moving forward; do not stop until you get through ALL of it.  


  • The key point here is that YOU HAVE YOUR OWN LIFE. Capisce? Should I repeat it?
    I know that we are all trying to be super moms and “out mom” the next person in carpool. 
    There are some fantastic books out there on the topic, including one of my favs: Perfect Madness, by Judith Warner.
    Basically, the idea is that (many) stay-at-home-moms re-direct our pent-up professional energy into micro-managing our children’s lives.

    I’ve been there, and believe you me, I was gonna
    win that “Best-Mom-at-the-Parents-Association” competition.  Fortunately for my kids, I got burned out.  When I finally woke up from that strange cult of “Super Moms,” I realized that I had forgone my own interests (and life) so that I could over-program my kids.

    That silliness stopped right away and I am happy to report that we are all better off for it.
  •      Model a happy adult existence. The kids see me go on dates, go to film festivals, throw parties, go on vacations (without them!!). They see me excited about work projects that come together at the last minute.  They see me complain about clients who don’t pay their bills.

    They see me struggle with relationship issues, and survive.

    They listen in on conversations I have with David at the dinner table—conversations that do not involve anything about elementary, middle, or high school.
      They see me relax and do nothing. All that just at the dinner table!
     Dinner Table

  • Imagine, hypothetically of course, that you had a miserable, angry, unhappy single mother who hated her job and returned home every night to cook and clean, only to wake up the next morning to do it all over again.
      I ask you, what teenager in this universe would want to survive to adulthood if that was their model of what was coming their way?
    Just sayin’. Kids watch what you do ALL THE TIME.  Make it look good.

Of course, it’s a two-way street. The kids teach me things about life all the time.  
Band Aid
For example, as my relationship with Bubba was plummeting into oblivion, I was hemming and hawing about hitting the “eject” button.  

One day I was driving somewhere with my two teenage girls who had front row seats to the whole fiasco and who knew I was torn about calling it quits.  We got to talking about it, and we were discussing the pros and cons of “ripping off the band aid.”

Bella, in her 16-year-old wisdom, said, “Mom, it’s a soggy band aid that’s falling off on its own; let it go.”  Yep.  And I did. Thank you, Bella.
I think the children are catching on.

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