I haven’t written a blog in quite a while. I’ve been sick with the flu. That combined with all that goes with having three kids and running my own business, it has been hard to find the time to write. Well, it’s more than that really. I have sat down to blog a couple of times, and managed a few lame sentences, maybe even a paragraph, but it never led anywhere. When I tried to conjure up some content related to mindfulness, or creativity, or gratitude (what I usually write about) I encountered an impenetrable wall. I see now the problem was that these topics felt forced and inauthentic, because in reality I was feeling snotty and exhausted.
So instead of trying to write something uplifting I decided to write about what is real. I decided to share with you my current worst parenting practice, or what I’m calling survival parenting. I share this mainly in the hope that it will make you feel better about whatever you are doing, or not doing in your own life, be that in parenting or some other area in which our culture demands unhealthy perfectionism.
My 2-year-old daughter, one of the twins, has unfortunately recently taken to waking up painfully early in the morning. In what seems to go against our biological alignment with the seasons, as Melbourne winter approaches and a chill nips at our bedroom window, Aisha has decided to rise sometime before 6am while the sun still sleeps. The worst part is that she insists on waking-up our other two kids at the same time. It is play time as far as she is concerned.
Aisha, I must say, is a force to be reckoned with. You might think, well just put her back to bed. But she has the scream of a lioness, and is as stubborn as a mule. Generally, I love (and relate) to her strong will – she is beautifully independent and fiercely determined. She insists on doing everything herself, which slows down everyday tasks, like eating breakfast, but as a result she learns rapidly. There is no such thing as failure as far as she concerned – just the next step towards mastery.
She is so committed to being in charge of her own life that when it comes time to get dressed, she first takes off her pyjamas and wee-soaked nappy and choses the clothes she wants to wear. This is usually her favourite Metallica t-shirt and ‘flower’ pants (no skirts she insists), or anything that has pockets (for whatever reason, this is very important to her). Then she spends a good 20 minutes in her room trying to put everything on by herself. She will yell and scream and kick at any attempt to help her. Eventually she emerges from her room with her pants on backwards, her t-shirt on inside out and her shoes on the wrong feet with the victorious exclamation – “I did it myself!” And off she goes to kinder.
So with Aisha waking up early, and me feeling sick and exhausted, my husband and I have come up with a new ‘survival’ parenting strategy. Before we go to bed we set the television to the ABC Kids channel (if you’re not an Australian parent, it’s a TV channel exclusively for young children and broadcasts the likes of Play School, Bananas in Pyjamas and Octonauts in an endless loop with no ads). We leave the remote control out of reach of the twins but somewhere our 4-year-old can get to it. When Aisha inevitably wakes up, rouses the other two, and then sets her sights on getting my husband and I out of bed, we subtly suggest to our 4-year-old that he go and turn on the TV. The twins shuffle off behind him down the hallway like caterpillars, still in their sleeping bags, forage in the pantry for some food before sitting down to watch TV, while we get a few more minutes of sleep.
If anyone came to our house at this time they would see three unsupervised children in the lounge room, watching TV and eating biscuits for breakfast while their parents slept in the room next door. Of course we keep an ear out for any ‘unusual’ activity, and eventually we do get up, turn the TV off, feed them a decent breakfast, shower, and get on with the day.
Admittedly this is not something I am particularly proud of, or a strategy that I advocate for in any way. However, I confess this parenting sin because I hope that it will make you feel better about whatever you are doing to make it though your own day. Sometimes life with children is relentless. There are no sick days for parents. And perhaps if we didn’t buy into the perfect-parenting myth and admitted more often when we were struggling, we could all feel a little less guilty.
And on deeper reflection, I suspect that these ‘survival’ strategies are occasionally necessary for me to stay on the wagon, so to speak, and not descend back into my unhealthy Superwoman ways. So today I will wallow in those few extra minutes snuggled under the doona with my eyes closed as I listen to the sounds of Peppa Pig wash over me in the background.
What are your ‘survival’ parenting tactics?