Do One Thing
One thing at a time.
What my wise and wonderful first-cousin-once-removed Kathy told me. We had asked her, a daycare owner, what on earth we would do if three babies cried simultaneously. “Fix one kid’s problem; then move on to the next one. Don’t try to fix all of them at once.”
Which is sage and awesome advice, and really hard to implement.
Especially when everyone around you (three-year-olds, students, colleagues, whomever) is freakingoutfreakingoutFREAKINGOUT.
It’s when I try to multi-task that I freakoutfreakoutFREAKOUT too. If I’m trying to juggle in my head
1) don’t forget water bottles in the diaper bag and put that by the front door,
2) get everyone’s shoes and sweatshirts on,
3) gather keys-wallet-sunglasses,
4) get own jacket and shoes on, and
5) herd everyone toward the door so we’re not late for the Tiny Tots concert at Benaroya Hall,
then I do lose it when the girls have taken off and hidden the socks I previously put on them (so I have to hunt down new socks, as all clean laundry is scattered on three floors of my house), and all three are running around maniacally instead of, I don’t know, waiting patiently by the door until I say “Go.” I don’t even really remember my reaction, but I remember the response from my children: “Mama, why are you kind of yelling?”
If I’m trying to
1) keep the kids together,
2) maneuver the shopping cart toward an open cash register,
3) keep the kids and cart out of everyone else’s way in a main thoroughfare of the store,
4) get the kids to listen to me as they run a Chinese fire drill around the cart, and
5) kick myself for not getting the Target shopping cart that straps everyone in,
then I do lose it and snap, “STOP!” and wheel the cart sans kids toward a cash register, three now-crying children behind me. Thankfully, the woman in front of me was sympathetic when I said, “Yes, I AM that mom in Target with the melting-down kids,” and responded, “It’s happened to all of us.”
Do one thing. So simple. So not instinctual for me. I have lived most of my adult life–and, sure, my high school and college one too–trying to do it all. All the Things. All the Things Well and Efficiently.
So tonight, near the end of my Mommy weekend because Daddy is traveling for five days, I remembered to Do One Thing when Jamie got upset at his sweet potatoes (the boy was tired out of his mind), and shrieked at the offensive root, and then Theresa yelled at him to stop yelling and gestured a “bop” in his direction, which made him scream louder and thus made her scream louder and cry real tears.
I turned T’s chair around, which did make her cry harder, but I needed a buffer zone so I could calm J down and then deal with her emotional injury about being forcibly excused from the table. We discussed the unkindness of long-distance bopping. We brainstormed alternatives to screaming when someone else is upset.
One kid at a time. Put out one fire at a time, even at the expense of a different fire.
Which is hard, because mornings usually involve my trying to get breakfast picked up and kids dressed and myself ready and get something to eat while I am interrupted every 5.2 minutes by a poopy diaper, conflict management, requests for more [x], refusal to wear [x], etc.
This weekend involved lots of deep breaths, lots of eye rolling where kids couldn’t see me, and lots of lip-biting. I felt kind of proud of being with my kids almost totally on my own (excluding babysitting during Mass and my cousin Ellen coming for a couple of hours this evening), even though many, many parents–including those with three or more children–are in such trenches 24/7/365. Both my grandmothers had four children and probably never thought, “Wow, I took care of my kids all by myself for 48 hours; go me!”
But I’m going to Own the Good anyway. We had an adventure to Benaroya Hall and the Central Library yesterday morning and Target yesterday afternoon in which they got to ride an escalator…twice. And I mostly was able to Do One Thing and Breathe and Respond with Love and all the other parenting strategies I aim for.
This experience reminds me that every non-ideal choice I make is an opportunity to learn and make a different, better choice next time. It reminds me that I get to show my kids daily how to make amends, request do-overs, choose more lovingly and kindly in each moment. I am still learning what mindfulness is really about.