While December 21offered us the shortest period of daylight, today seemed to be the longest day ever in the whole world (at least since having children).
There were tears. Time outs. Tantrums.
And that was just me.
Seriously, my whole family was a cranky mess and no one could budge. Maybe it’s that December in Maine this year has been brutal. Maybe it’s the light deprivation and the snow-buried playgrounds. Maybe it’s too much family togetherness—too many sick days and snow days and no-nap days. Too many weeks of the kids’ preschool being closed, and all of us being out of our routine.
Whatever it is, I’m running on empty. My patience has disappeared with the sunshine. If Santa had been watching my parenting, I would be the not-so-proud owner of a coal-stuffed stocking. Winter is the time when we are supposed to slow down and burrow in, like most of nature does. But the kids definitely didn’t get that memo.
It is probably clear by now that I’m no parenting expert—not even close. But I try to remember a few tools I can grasp for to help stave off the winter-with-children blues.
Dance Party. When I am at my wits end, the last thing I usually feel like is busting a move. But I will say that it’s very hard for one to take oneself seriously when prancing around to What Does the Fox Say. The saying, “move a muscle, change a thought,” truly works.
Write a Song. Getting my son to wash his hands after using the bathroom can sometimes be a battle. Similarly to the dance party, it’s hard to be too grouchy if instead, I focus my energy on creating a song about the battle. Not sure that Sani-tize your hands come on! Let’s have a sanitation! will ever catch on, but it shifts my energy and helps me lighten up.
Picture them grown up. At the end of a very long day, when my two-year-old won’t go to sleep and I am just dying to tuck into some trashy TV series on Netflix, I think about what it will be like when she is grown. I wonder how much I would give for one of these little tender moments, her head heavy on my shoulder. Then again, perhaps I will be so busy going to movies and taking naps and doing yoga and sleeping in that I won’t notice what I’m missing. But I just might.
Sniff or drink something. No, not those somethings. When I was quite pregnant with my daughter and my son refused to get into his car seat on a daily basis, I got some aromatherapy oil that was supposed to be relaxing. I huffed that oil so hard and so often that I had little crusty burns on my nostrils. Did it help? Not sure. But just the act of doing something for me made me feel a bit less powerless and gave me something to focus on instead of screeching/swearing/curling up in the fetal position. Making and sipping a cup o’ chamomile tea would work similarly, with slightly less potential for nasal scorching.
Soak. When we have all been stuck in the house too long and can’t leave because of bad weather, sometimes a daytime bubble bath is just what the doctor ordered. Bubbly water seems to be like toddler crack, calming and distracting the kidlets. Meanwhile, I can often sneak in a few pages of a novel while hunched next to the bathtub as they splash. (I’ve also been taking bubble baths in the evenings when my husband is home, and have found them quite therapeutic. However, the first time I tried that, my son promptly raced in, took a seat on the toilet and announced, “I’m going to watch you take a bath!” Not quite as therapeutic.)
Have compassion. A dear friend says she often reminds herself that her kids are a bit like little insane people. They don’t have the impulse control yet that we expect adults to. They don’t have logic. It must be hard to have such little control on one’s environment. But remember to have compassion for yourself, too. It’s hard to corral little insane people all day long. Forgive yourself when you freak out. Let it go; chances are, if you lose your patience/scream/swear/cry, you will remember it much longer than your little ones.
Take a break. This is perhaps the most important tip of all. When you are depleted, take breaks whenever you can. Trade child care with a friend. Go to the gym. Go to the library. Do yoga. Get a massage. Take a bath with the bloody door locked.
Replenish. Rinse. Repeat.
Your entire family will benefit from your self care.
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