I met a lady while travelling in Singapore a few months ago. She had three children, close in age and so we had a bit of a chat - as Mum's love to do. The one thing I remember from this discussion was that she said the hardest time she ever had was when #1 was three years old, and #2 was one year old. She was right. My 'Threenager's' irrational and illogical tantrums, constant need to defy, and obsessive compulsive behaviour, combined with my almost one year old's teething, severe attachment issues, and inability to give me more than 3 hours continual sleep at night, is driving me UP THE WALL! Now I know why so many parents have 'Wine O'Clock' once the kids are in bed.
After a terrible day yesterday, leaving me feeling frazzled and just wanting to sleep, I decided that I can either be the grown up and make changes, or I can have a cry and throw a tanty myself, which wouldn't really help the situation. So, here are a few things I am striving to improve on, and some tips for anyone in the same boat:
1. CHOOSE YOUR BATTLES WISELY. I don't like to cave in when making threats, so will try to come up with more reasonable and child friendly options like, "Eat this last mouthful and we can go build an ONZ (a big block tower)", as opposed to, "IF YOU DON'T EAT THIS LAST MOUTHFUL SO HELP ME GOD I WILL LEAVE YOU ALL AND RUN AWAY!", which doesn't go down too well with a three year old. #2 is my 'strong willed' child as they say, so when he's a bit older, I'll have reassess my threat technique, because he doesn't even bat and eyelid when I try to discipline him now. I just get the "And what are you going to do about me throwing food off my highchair?" glare as he throws some more food off his highchair. Sometimes you have to decide what's more important - sticking to your guns and fighting, or to, as Elsa sings, Let it Go.
2. SLEEP. One night I spent 3 am to 4 am battling to keep #2 in his cot, during five months of so called 'sleep training'. I made the Grouch on Sesame Street look like an angel the next day, and took it out on #1 who was a good boy, and has been sleeping through the night since 14 months. So shoot me if I bring #2 to the bed in the middle of the night because he'll stop wailing and let us sleep for a few hours. Sleep deprivation is a terrible thing, and can lead to all sorts of health and social issues. Until #2 sleeps through the night, I'm getting whatever sleep I can, however I can.
3. WALK AWAY AND ACCEPT HELP. Having the 'I'm an engineer, I can do it all' attitude with #1, I found myself going crazy dealing with everything by myself, and found #1 would feed off my unhealthy state of mind and behaviour. Now I've learned that if constant crying is making me want to throw my pillows across the room, I just walk out and send someone else in. They say kids are something like 8 times worse when Mum is in the room, so often it helps when Mum is out of the room, and taking deep breaths in another room (and maybe drinking wine).
4. HAVE MORE 'ME TIME'. I'm guilty of saying I spend all my time feeding, washing, cleaning up after and getting the kids to sleep/nap - claiming to have no spare time to do anything for myself. At one point in my life I was working full time, studying two final units of my double degree, running the Social Club at work, planning a wedding, catching up with friends, visiting the families for dinner, building a house, painting, cooking and dancing twice a week after work. I'm pretty sure I can spend some time each day to do yoga/gardening/watch Suits/work on GPW (the things that make me happy and relaxed). The happier I am, the happier everything and everyone else in the house is - I can't take care of my family properly when I'm a not in a healthy frame of mind.
5. "DON'T PUT OFF TILL TOMORROW, WHAT YOU CAN DO TODAY". I find that whenever I plan to do something tomorrow, something else happens and I cant, leaving me irritated and complaining about it all day. So now if I have a free moment during child free/nap times, I will wash those dishes, hang those clothes, pick those clothes up off the floor, cook whatever I can, pay those bills, pull out those weeds, send that email, send that WhatsApp message I keep forgetting to send, etc etc. You never know what could happen tomorrow, when you have kids - fevers and illness love to make themselves at home when you really don't have the time.
6. EXERCISE AND HEALTHY EATING. I've started tap dancing one night a week after almost four years. I sleep slightly better (#2 still wakes up several times a night, of course), feel rejuvenated, relaxed and much more patient with the family the next day. Fresh air and sunlight can also make all the difference. After #2's birth I found I have many vitamin deficiencies from not eating properly in the day (claiming to have no time) and from 11 months of breastfeeding. So it's really important to have a balanced diet, eat three proper meals, and for me, to take supplements on a short term basis (if you really need to - consult with your doctor on this point, don't take my word for it!).
7. TRY TO SAY 'NO' LESS, AND STOP YELLING. My hubby and I have a no yelling policy in our house (to me, a raised voice is yelling, ha), however I find myself screaming and saying no all the time to #1. Yelling 'NO' without an explanation as to why sitting on one's brother's head is not very nice, and hurts, doesn't make much sense for kids under 3 years old. Even though we think they behave like teenagers at times, their brains are not developed enough to understand many things which seem logical/common sense to us.
8. KEEP THINGS TIDY. Dealing with crying and tantrums all day can be mentally exhausting. I am trying to do myself a favour and at least have some breathing space walking around in a neat house. I know that things get trashed shortly after I tidy/clean, but it really does make a difference. As much as I hate spending hours on cleaning the house, this is one big change I'm trying to implement on a daily basis, to make things easier for me in the long run.
So, I can either be a crazy, sleep deprived, "NO" machine, or I can have a hilarious discussions, cuddles, kisses, play time with my kids and THOROUGHLY enjoy this precious time which everyone says goes in the blink of an eye. The choice is mine.