Coping Skills

I can’t tell you how many times people hear or see me with my four kids and say “how do you do it?”

It has occurred to me that some people actually can not understand how I do this every day. It seems unfathomable.

Well, over the years I have come up with some coping skills that help me get through the day without wanting to slit my wrists.

1. Lower your expectations. Ideally I would have no expectations, then everything good that happened would be a gift! But unfortunately I don’t live that way. I expect the homework to be done. I expect messes to be cleaned up. I expect people to keep their hands to themselves. Sometimes these things don’t happen, and sometimes they never happen, but I do expect them. I have, however, lowered my expectations greatly from the time before I was a mom. Before I was a mom I would look at other mothers talking on their cell phones while pushing their babies in strollers and judge them for ignoring their kids. When I became a mom I realized that was the only time to talk and I lowered my expectations on the amount of attention my kid needed. Now that I have four kids, I envy the woman who can push one kid and talk on the phone. My stroller time now has nothing to do with me. Usually I’m pushing two kids and running with one while yelling at the other to keep up.

2. Ask yourself is it harmful or hurtful?. When my parents come to visit, they are constantly tut-tuting all the naughty things my kids do. They can’t believe I let them dump all my tupperware every day and clean it up at night without going crazy. But you see, if I let every annoying habit disturb me – the twins throwing food, coming downstairs every night after another long day to see the couch has been turned into a fort, being asked for the millionth time the SAME EXACT QUESTION, I would be in a mental institution right now. Sometimes when I feel the hairs on my back starting to stand up, I stop and think, “is it harmful or hurtful?”. Most things are washable, or replaceable, or clean-up-able. So unless they are climbing somewhere dangerous, trying to plug things into the outlets, or choking someone, I try to let it go. This does not mean I won’t have them clean up a huge nest they’ve built on my bed of every stuffed animal, blanket and pillow they have, but I’ll let them make it and enjoy it before I start yelling for it to be cleaned up.

3. Prioritize. Just this morning we were doing the morning dance, the one where the parents rush around trying to throw jackets on various kids, pack school lunch, and get everyone’s teeth brushed while the kids pull their shoes off, decide they have to find an obscure miniature toy RIGHT NOW or they can’t possible do anything but lay on the floor and scream, and someone decides it’s a good time to poop. You want to avoid the tardy pass? Figure out what needs to be done and do the rest later. Poop? Yes. Bring the overflowing hamper of laundry down to start it? Later.

4.  Just do one more thing. In order to keep this house from turning into shambles, I often think at the end of the day, Nikki, just do one more thing. Sometimes I’ll organize a single drawer, or I’ll mix a batch of muffins up to be put in the oven the next morning, or I’ll lay out the gloves, hats, jackets and shoes. If you do just one more thing a few nights a week, you can be more calm when the next fire comes along. Then you don’t have a fire and a long list of things that might turn into fires out there too.

5. When it gets too overwhelming, make a change. The older boys are fighting over the iPad, the twins are fighting over toys, and your husband just text to say he’s coming home late. When things seem to be going all wrong and all you want to do it just lock yourself in your room and put a pillow over your head, make a change. Often when everyone is snarky I will stand up and announce a dance party, a race to the other end of the house, or a game of hide and seek. Changing it up will change everyone else’s mood too.

6. Find the silver lining. A few months ago the boys pulled every piece of clothing from our closet onto the floor. It’s okay to reprimand them and tell them that is not acceptable behaviour. And cleaning it up was super annoying. Still, I can’t help think how good my closet looks these days. Because of the mess it’s much better organized and I found a bunch of clothes I had been looking for.

People, this is not to say that I’m walking around like Pollyanna, all jolly hockey sticks. I still scream, and yell and fail. But occasionally I remember some of these tricks and it really helps. I hope it helps you too! Great skills, for anyone really – kids or no kids.

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1 thought on “Coping Skills

  1. Oh, I keep thinking about the one that says,”Just do one more thing.” Such good, yet haunting advice. That puts you in such a different mommy league.

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