Sunday, August 9, 2015

The 5% days

I feel like 95% of the time I have a good handle on being a mom to triplets. Then there's the other 5% of the time.  And those are tough times around here.  Don't get me wrong, this job is almost never easy and even during the 95% of the time when I feel like I have things reasonably under control it is only because of monumental effort and a little bit of luck.  This past week has been weighing heavily in the 5% category though and I think it's important to talk about those times too.  My posts, including the one I'm almost done with, are typically pretty positive and documenting all the fun times we are having.  And that's great, because we do have a lot of fun together, most of the time.  But some times and some days aren't fun, we aren't cheery, and we don't look like the perfect family that so many people think we are.  Because, well, we have three toddlers.  And if you have raised a toddler or spent any significant amount of time with a toddler you will surely remember the big volatile emotions, the huge messes, and the incessant need to control their environment that goes along with this age.

These "toddler moments" where they are throwing a fit, demanding to be held or to do something themselves, dumping toys or food all over the floor, or peeing or pooping on the rug are just part of the territory and they come and go throughout the day/week. But those of us raising triplets have three of those little beings at once, who occasionally all have "toddler moments"  at the same time.  And simultaneous "toddler moments" is a recipe for disaster and likely to make me feel like I can't do it or am not a good mom.  And then there are life stressers unrelated to triplets like work/school, money, house stuff, health issues, etc that can throw off your mom mojo too.

this, for example, threw me off my game this week!
This week I was dealing with this persistent tendonitis in right elbow, low back pain, and a killer headache and it is incredible how pain can color your outlook on life.  Everything just seemed that much harder, and sometimes impossible.  And I don't know if it was just that or if the kiddos "toddler moments" were just lining up more often this week, but I had a really hard time and repeatedly felt like I was going to lose my mind.  I think at heart I am not a patient person and have worked very hard at being more patient with the kiddos, but this week I failed and got frustrated much faster and easier. I pushed them through things (like getting dressed) that I would normally wait for them to do themselves. When I get frustrated with the kids I typically roar so that I don't yell and they know exactly what that means and will start roaring too and saying "mommy frustrated."  This week I yelled.  I hate yelling.

So what do you do during those 5% times, that sometimes feel like days or weeks? Run away?!  That's what I wanted to do Wednesday morning!  But since that's not an option (Michelle would hunt me down anyway!), here are some things I try to do to get through the hard times/days/weeks. I don't always remember to do these things in the moment, and I have my own little "mommy meltdowns," which is why some of the ideas are for later.

1) Step away & take a deep breath.  This is HARD!  It is hard to remember in the moment, when there's a toddler spat in the works or when there is a mess in progress it is hard to walk away.  But if you can do it it's often worth the bigger clean up because you get a second to regroup.  Walking away is easier said than done sometimes, when there is one or more toddlers pulling at your pantlegs whining and wanting up.

2) Call in reinforcements.  Don't do what I did early this week and say "it'll be fine" and send your partner off to work.  When there is flexibility, like we are lucky to have, just ask for help.  Thankfully I have an amazing wife who knew that it wouldn't be fine.  Well she knew we'd survive, but she could also see that I was struggling and that it wouldn't be fun for any of us.  So she came home early one day and she stayed a little longer in the morning another day so we would have better odds.  And when she is home she takes on kid duty and I take a break (meaning I wash the dishes from breakfast in peace or start the next load of laundry!)  If your partner can't help, then ask friends or hire the neighbor's kid to come over for an hour so you can shower and paint your toenails or even just do the dishes in peace!  Schedule a playdate somewhere fun.  Getting out of the house on days like those can be hard, but it's usually worth the effort because being somewhere new, at least for our kids, tends to help with their moods and having another adult to vent to and to help out when one of your kids is melting down is so helpful.

3) Try to find some "me time" and take care of yourself.  Get up a little earlier and take a long shower.  Decide that for this nap time you are going to do something for yourself and let the dishes or the laundry wait.  That's what I'm doing right now.  There's laundry to do, vacuuming that's long overdue, dinner needs to be made, and there toys all over the living room.  But just before this nap was a 5% time.  Avery stuck her entire hand in her yogurt, Ellie spilled her entire bowl of yogurt on the floor, & Isaiah pooped & peed on the floor, all within a two minute time period.  So, the laundry will get done after bedtime and we might be punting for dinner, but I needed this time.  And I will be a better mom because of it.

4) Apologize.  Toddlers understand big feelings.  They have them all. the. time.  So when I have my little mommy meltdowns and lose my cool and do not wait patiently, I apologize.  Sometimes that apology has to wait until after I walk away and take a deep breath, and sometimes it has to wait until after nap time when everyone has calmed down.  But I always try to apologize to my kids.  When we have all had a chance to calm down I talk about how I was feeling frustrated or mad (and why) and then I apologize for not staying calm, etc.  And they get it.  They aren't even two yet, but they get it.  I can say "I'm sorry I yelled.  Mommy was feeling frustrated.  Do you know why mommy was feeling so frustrated?" and often one of them will chime in with an answer.  Today Avery said "yogurt" because she'd stuck her hand in it despite me already asking her not to and having just washed her hands.  And if they don't answer then I talk to them about the behaviors that were so frustrating so they can start to make the connection.  And I finish my apology with big hugs.  When I failed to model our family values and the behavior I want from my kids initially, then at least I try to model the apology.

5) Wait for the storm to pass & enjoy the sunshine. This moment, this challenging toddler time, this too shall pass.  And because toddlers are like Jekyll & Hyde, even in the middle of your hardest days they will do things that melt your heart.  Savor those moments.  Take pictures or videos so you can look at their sweet little faces and remind yourself that you do indeed love them with all of your heart the next time you catch them intentionally being little monsters!  This happened in the middle of one of my tough days this week...
totally organic naked triplet hand holding!  Is there anything cuter?
Isaiah wanted to be the first one to Mommy!
ring around the rosey in the nude.  Avery fell down, Isaiah squatted & Ellie
was like "heck no I'm not sitting in the grass with a bare bum!" & took off the other way!

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