I’ve been at this parenting thing for almost three years now–long enough to learn that serving a graham cracker broken in two is a surefire way to ruin 45 minutes of my afternoon but not quite long enough to figure out how to convince two kids to sleep through the night on a consistent basis. As it is, though, I feel like I’ve figured out some pretty key things which I would like to chronicle here (mostly, so that in ten years I can look back and think, “It was so cute how much I thought I knew back then.”).First and foremost, I know that finding a functional cart for two toddlers in a store is not as easy as it should be (and letting one kid walk is no longer an appropriate option. Just ask the lady who told me the whole store could hear Lily screaming.) Some stores think the best cart design is to place tiny people on seats which a.) face one another and b.) put one child so close to the edge that one swift kick from the sibling across the way could send you right off the side. Yes, of course my kids are buckled in, but the other problem with these carts is that a.) half of their buckles don’t work and b.) the other half of the straps are so twisted that you can barely tighten them. These are deeply layered problems, you see.
In a similar vein (and, often, situation), I know how to master the art of the well-timed snack. My friend, Breanna, described it perfectly to me recently: It’s a math problem. The ratio of snack to time children need to be occupied is an important balance to iron out. For instance, I know that two and a half handfuls of cheerios mixed with a spoonful of raisins will give me about 25 minutes of uninterrupted shopping time once the bag hits their hands. A single graham cracker? Forget it. I might as well just stay home.When I do decide to stay home, I know (and am surprised by how frequently I have to remind myself of this) that toddlers are affected by boredom and that sometimes this is a problem of my own making. I went to visit my parents a few weeks ago and about two days into the trip was wondering why Lily was having so many more meltdowns than usual. That’s when I realized that I had shaken up her entire routine and basically given her a free play option for two days straight. Special thanks to my sister for swooping in with her clothespins, cotton balls, and hand-made fine motor activities. She really saved the day and reminded me that a little stimulation and focus can go a long way.
And with that, I am reminded that every day brings a new challenge. I like being good at things. I suppose we all do, really. In parenting, however, I was never given the novelty of choosing to do only the things I feel well-versed in. You have to do the hard things and you have to make the decisions whether or not it all comes naturally. There is no other option. On top of this, toddlers are tricky and will convince you that you’ve mastered them one single day before they flip the game board on you.
But God. This short phrase from the book of Ephesians has been changing the trajectory of my bad days–helping me put the pieces back on the game board each time it flips. Because despite my shortcomings and my flawed nature and my tendency to lose my cool when Lily won’t, for the love, wear clothes that match, God is rich in mercy and makes me alive by His grace. But God. It’s the turning point. The reminder that this thing can’t be done on my own accord if I want to do it right. It’s my new mantra for each day (which certainly beats the Daniel Tiger jingles that get stuck in my head).So that’s what I know now. So much, I know. Tune in next time to hear about how I’ve figured out a way to keep two toddlers in the bathroom so I can shower (warning: bribery involved) and why minivans are the greatest invention since, well, cars. Oh, and, if anyone out there is an expert on getting two toddlers to play nicely with one another for longer than three minutes, please teach me your ways. I’m all ears.