By Nell Alt
We welcomed three kids in under four years, and then a fourth two and a half years later and for most of that time I was clicking through my mental list of who needs what right now and where is so-and-so okay they’ve already gone to the bathroom but is she cutting something up in the other room?
The average day in those early years looked like: husband gone at 6am, one child crying that he was gone by the time he got up, another crying that someone (me) got to see him, a third ripping off his diaper, and a fourth nursing in the sling while pinching my collarbone skin. By afternoons, I had texted my husband approximately 47 times about his arrival time that evening, Face-timed with my sister and her kids, and asked my mom to watch someone so I could go to the bathroom. I probably read a few blogs and dreamed about a dinner on wooden plates with copper napkin rings or a flat lay of something involving lavender stalks.
But in all that mess, and now looking back at it with our youngest being two and a half and oldest being nine years old, I can safely say that time does pass and things do shift, and everything has a season. Cue all the platitudes #now.
1) Invest in audio stories and teach the oldest to use a cheap CD player.
We swear by Jim Weiss (links to our favs in this post), and picking up a cheap CD player means your kiddo isn’t messing with your nice electronic devices, she can learn to skip, turn in the volume, and unplug to relocate on her own without interrupting you while you put the baby down.
2) Snacks at a reachable height.
Pouches, granola bars (not the kind with huge nuts that will choke someone while you’re humming and rocking with a sound machine full blast and babe in arms), fruit leathers, fig bars, whatever they can reach, open, and eat safely unattended. Stock up on these for when you need to go to the bathroom, put the baby down, or take a shower. EAT AWAY, KIDS!
3) You have two laps.
I tell my kids even now that I have “two laps” because people fight over me and my laps. AKA, you have two thigh bones they can perch their bums on with an arm encircling each. With four kids, I wish I had four laps, but most of the time “two” laps will suffice. New babies can make my older kids impassioned with overwhelming sibling love and jealousy at the exact same time. Reinforcing that I’m still mama for them seems to alleviate some of it. That and bribes.
4) Bribes are legitimate parenting techniques.
Anyone who says they aren’t hasn’t had children yet. I bribe like this: “In two minutes I’ll be done with changing a diaper but people who help me by getting wipes or that spare diaper upstairs might get a treat!” Or “If you help your little brother with his coloring while I’m nursing, I probably have something really special for you!” Treats include chocolate chips from the freezer or frozen yogurt pops or even a new tiny pack of crayons that I may have impulse bought in bulk. New baseball packs will do the trick around here, too. Incentivized parenting is effective parenting!
All in all, yes, this difficult season will pass and yes, your kids will survive a new sibling, but go easy on yourself and your expectations of both you and the older kids so that the season passes a little more easily.
Nell is a recovering lawyer turned at-home mom who works part-time for a women’s ministry. She lives in Minnesota and blogs about parenting and little life musings over at www.wholeparentingfamily.com.