My wife and I always knew that we wanted a big family. Even before I proposed, on more than one occasion, we would discuss just how big did we wanted it. Once engaged, we settled on three to five kids, with four or five preferred. We also wanted to have our children two to three years apart, an optimal range in our opinion.
Well that meant a lot of things, primarily that we were going to have to sacrifice some things like sleep, sanity, personal time etc. It also meant that as parents we would have to instill in our kids a spirit of independence and autonomy. Because you simply can’t have five kids that are stage five Klingons…
As a parent, teaching independence to a child can be tough, especially if your threshold for tantrums is low. Alas, such was the case with me. I found the constant screaming of the newborns unbearable, and no it did not help that there were two. At times I would literally have to step out of the house just to regain my sanity. I finally understand why they use baby crying for psychological torture, except this was my life… Screaming. All. The. Time.
Eventually, because they always had a battle buddy, our girls would play by themselves (in baby proofed areas) for an hour or more before crying for attention. This afforded wifey and I the opportunity to do things around the house during the day! But it also presented a new problem, as the kids often decided that they were done being alone right as Jacque and I were in the middle of finishing something. Whether it was laundry, dishes, or fixing dinner a child’s timing is often the epitome of Murphy’s Law.
What I discovered in those moments was that there were essentially four ways that the situation could play out. The first one involved giving the kids a treat. Something I strongly disagree with for two reasons. The first being the fact that the treat is often a food item and we are against using food as a coping or reward mechanism. After years of weight and body image issues, we wanted to give our girls a better base for the future. The second is that kids are smart, much smarter than we give them credit for, and they will learn to exploit inconvenient situation to their advantage much like a bookie exploits a gambling addict.
The second option would involve reasoning with the child. But I quickly learned that it is literally easier to reason with someone that is belligerent to the point of incoherency than a baby that wants your attention. (Speaking from experience here – as a father and a bouncer).
With options one and two out of the picture the next one is rolling the dice with your kid self-soothing themselves long enough for you to finish whatever it is you’re in the middle of. The third option of just ignoring the child and praying that they do not begin to channel their inner screaming banshee and lash out is a risky one. Let’s just say I wouldn’t bet on those odds in Vegas. Overturning their box of toys, spilling their food or drink all over the floor, or attempting to scale the baby gate were just some of the ways L and R got our attention one way or another…
I quickly learned that unless I wanted my kids to form poor coping skills, exhaust myself trying to reason with them, or deal with the banshee rebellion, I should just stop what I am doing and pay attention to my child. A novel idea, I know!
Now I’m not talking about making your kid the center of attention and catering to their every whim, but let’s be real here. Those opting out for option three will often find it takes more time to ignore a child and deal with the repercussions than stopping what you are doing and embracing your child’s need for attention. Coming from a background of children’s needs being superseded by demands of survival I could tell that nothing I was engaged in was as important as my children. Dinner can be late, dishes can be washed later, and laundry done another day but embracing your child in the exact moment of their need will impact them forever.