With five kids at home, I’ve been asked about how we manage, being so outnumbered.
Honestly, the same way you do when there’s only one child, but with a lot more frequency, possibly some extra creativity, and a lot more fumbling around for the right name.
Then again, I’ve had friends who have one child, who assure me that they’ve found themselves calling their only child by their dog’s, cat’s, cousin’s, husband’s, coworker’s name, so that seems to be a parent issue, not a you-have-too-many-kids-to-keep-them-all-straight issue, which I find highly reassuring.
So, what’s the best, tried and true parenting tips or tricks I’ve found, that would work for folks regardless if they’re expecting baby #1, 2, or more?
1. Never, EVER, try to potty train a child just after they’ve had the stomach flu. TRUST ME ON THIS. Wait a week to be sure that the flu is completely out of their system. TRUST ME, PEOPLE.
2. Duct tape. Get some. Keep some in the house, strategically stashed in different locations around the house. Be it a toddler who’s decided that he needs to live life as a nudist, a doll that’s lost a limb, or the handle on the fridge, you’d be amazed how handy duct tape can be.
3. Locking doors. Bedroom, bathroom, laundry room. Safety reasons, privacy reasons, Mommy and Daddy alone time reasons. Good fences make good neighbours, and a lock on a door can buy Mommy and Daddy that vital thirty seconds that can make the difference between being decent, and Jr discussing things in therapy twenty years later. Plus, I don’t know about anyone else, but I really don’t enjoy being stared at while I pee. Or suddenly have a fully clothed toddler decide to join me in the shower. Call it modesty, call it needing a few moments alone for sanity sake, but dear holy old cheezits, a bathroom lock is a wonderful, wonderful thing. Unless you’re on the wrong side of it.
4. Make sure any door locks are easily overturned by careful application of an easily found tool, such as a butter knife, ball point pen, or BBQ skewer. Cause, sooner or later, you’re going to have to get it open from the outside. All the sweet talking, bribery, threats of grounding until they move out is no guarantee that the door will open. Especially when you discover the child standing quietly behind you, and that it’s the dog who’s actually locked in the bathroom. Which makes the slurping, splashing sounds coming from the toilet a bit easier to handle, but at the same time, you’ve just spent the last ten minutes trying to convince an animal who doesn’t even have thumbs to unlock a door. And no, banging your forehead against the door won’t open it either. Another ‘trust me’ moment.
5. Head ache remedy. Whatever it is you find works for you, be it regular over the counter meds, essential oils, vitamins, cheesecake, chocolate, make sure you have a readily accessible stash, that isn’t behind a locked door.
6. Kids are obsessive creatures. Be it the same book read every night for a year, a song, or a TV show character, they will find something that they simply can. not. live. without. Use this to your advantage for as long as it lasts. Myself, I’m known as the Mom that can recite, “Goodnight, Moon” “The Very Hungry Caterpillar”, “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?” and “Chicka Chicka Boom Boom” in the hair salon, one after the other, while a toddler sits motionless for his hair cut. Hey, after having read each book a billion and three times, it’s permanently stuck in my brain, so at least I can use it to my advantage, and ensure that my normally wiggly, active toddler gets a hair cut without endangering anyone. At the same time, preview everything you possibly can before your toddler discovers it. Best to know if the Wiggles make you want to rip your own ears off before your toddler decides they are the BEST THING EVAH. Bonus points if you indoctrinate them into the music of your choice from the start. My kids, for example, all know and love Billy Joel, Queen, Bon Jovi, a~ha, and other 80s must haves. While other parents are suffering through the 30,000,000th rendition of Wheels on the Bus, we’re rocking out to Living on a Prayer. It’s a good thing.
7. A quiet toddler is an unnatural event. Never assume that all is well because they’re quiet. When you notice the quiet, it’s probably already too late to prevent the cat getting a make over, but you might get there in time to prevent the cat from taking revenge. RUN NOW.
Keep a sense of humour. I know, it sounds trite, and clichéd, by dear God, there are moments where you laugh or you cry, and laughing is the better option. For one, you don’t often get the whole snotty nose thing going on when you have the giggles. Two, kids, especially young kids, are an empathetic bunch. The whole, “Laugh and the world laughs with you” thing really is true when it comes to babies and toddlers. Even the surliest of teenagers find it next to impossible to resist a parent sitting on the floor, giggling hysterically, as long as they’re certain that they’re not the reason for the hilarity.