I was going through some bins the other day and came across this letter I wrote to my husband when my boys were ages 6 and 3. And as I read it, it came back to me how hard it was to manage everything - working, taking care of the kids, keeping the house clean.
My boys are now older, but moms of young kids? I haven't forgotten.
This letter is for you.
In a way, I understand. Right now as I look around at the chaos in our house - the toys, the laundry to be folded, the dirty dishes sitting on the kitchen table, the dust and footprints all over our wood floors - I’m frozen to the spot and have no idea where to begin. So I get why you feel the house is not as clean as it you’d like it to be, although my assessment is a bit more lenient. If I were to walk in off the street to view the destruction and chaos, I would judge it as mussy. Not quite a cesspool of filth, but not neat as a pin either.
It’s really not for lack of trying on my part. Every day I wake up with the notion that the house will be cleaned first thing in the morning and will stay that way throughout the day. But then little things crop up throughout the day that tend to set me back. Take today, for instance.
While doing work on the computer (actual work that brings in money and not just surfing the net and playing games like the kids think I do) I left those two kids to their own devices. And from the sounds coming from the other room, they were having a good time - no yelling, fighting, or crying. I could even hear words like "build," "fort," and "snacks" along with the laughter, so I figured I should leave well enough alone.
When I was done my non-playing-non-surfing-the-net work, I went upstairs to fold laundry. I should have known that something was wrong when the boys, upon hearing my footsteps, quickly ran to shut their bedroom doors and appeared in the living room with joker-esque smiles plastered on their faces, but I was so happy I was getting work done and was able to cross things off my to-do list it didn’t occur to me that something was amiss.
Or to notice all the couch cushions were missing. In hindsight, I recognize my error, and it will never happen again. Ever.
So I sat down and started to fold laundry which was actually quite enjoyable because Ellen was on, and the kids were playing, and the day seemed to be starting out as almost promising.
Today I was even attempting a record of having to fold the clothes only once. I’m not sure you know this, but folded laundry is the equivalent to piles of leaves, and if you leave it for even thirty seconds because you need to do something unimportant (like say, pee), you’ll come back to find children leaping about and tossing the neatly folded piles like frenzied leprechauns.
I try to involve the kids in keeping the house clean, even though that typically makes more work for me, but if I don’t teach them, how are they going to learn, right? So while I’m folding, I ask if they’ve picked up their dirty clothes from their bedroom floors and put them in the hamper. Each of them responds with a yes, which startles me because normally they respond with a no accompanied by moaning and heavy foot stomping at the prospect of having to lift and carry their socks to the laundry room, and so I ask if they’re absolutely sure there are no dirty clothes on their floors because I’m going to go to their rooms and check, and if the clothes are there, there’s going to be big trouble. But they are adamant and so I leave the folded laundry piles to go take a look-see.
And you know what? They weren’t lying. There was not one piece of clothing on the floor since they used every piece they owned to create the largest fort I have ever seen. On a good note, it did help me locate the missing couch cushions. Unfortunately, it wasn’t until I got to the very last cushion (covered with crackers, cheese, and a few squished grapes already starting to turn raisin-ish), I realized the very reason they built this fort was so they could “eat 'nacks, mummy.”
I may be getting a bit off track here, but felt I should explain the small piece missing from your younger son’s wall. You know how we used to have a hook there so we could roll up the blind cord and keep it out of reach since blind cords are a strangling hazard? Apparently he was attempting to pull open his blind, and it was a great attempt. How was he to know he should remove the string from the hook before pulling? I say kudos to him for even being able to reach that sucker – we may have a high jumper on our hands. Admittedly, he had a great time swinging from the string until the hook was ripped from the wall and he landed on his bed. Fixing the wall and putting up a new hook is now on my list of things to-do.
Anyhoo… after cleaning the couch cushions and putting them back on the couch, I realized I should actually feed our kids something so they would stop trying to “''nack” in a fort. I step over all of the now-unfolded laundry and go to the kitchen where I proceed to cut up a cantalope to go along with the mac and cheese I’m going to give them for lunch. And it’s a good thing I decided to feed them something healthy like cantaloupe, because it’s at the exact moment I open the green bin I learn where the fruit flies that have invaded our home have been coming from. So even though I now have to empty the green bin and wash it, I’m able to strike something off my to-do list.
The abbreviated version of the rest of my day is that we then went to the boys’ school to fill out anaphylaxis forms, which went well until the Vice Principal told the boys they could each take home a toy from his toy box. The toy decision resulted in one fight, two sets of tears, and eight flailing limbs which made taking them to the movie store difficult, but I promised them a movie, and the movie store gives away free lollipops, so it had to get better right? But no, because the movie store stopped giving away free lollipops.
For the record, that Vice Principal is now on my shit list.
Finally, we’re home and even through the house is still a disaster, I need to make them dinner, because low sugar levels are not conducive to a peaceful house.
It was after dinner that the S’mores accident happened.
Funnily enough, I was running my S’mores burn under cold water when you called to tell me you’d be late. As an aside, when I call you back and ask you to pick up wine, your response shouldn’t be “why,” it should be “how much.”
And yes, I know our front porch is beginning to resemble something found in a deserted trailer park, but there’s a reason for it all. The bucket is filled with crayfish they wanted to keep as pets, and although the snails are allowed in the house, I draw the line at crayfish. The plastic bags are filled with acorns, and the boys like me to draw faces on them (the acorns not the boys) and create acorn families, which explains the markers strewn about as well. And the book? Every once in awhile, I like to read. But who are we kidding? That book has been sitting there for two months, and I'm still on page nine.
Remember that day you were home a few weeks ago and one of the boys’ little friends showed up at the front door wearing nothing but underwear and a bike helmet (safety first!), and I walked him home to get clothes and then he wanted to eat lunch at our house, but then his brother and sister also wanted to join, so they all came over and were running through the house and playing in the backyard, and then one of them decided to strip down so he could be Captain Underpants! and then somehow those clothes got thrown in the wading pool, so I put them on the chair to dry and got the child dressed in new clothes?
It’s not just like that when you’re home; it’s like that every day. Which is why there are always footprints on our wood floors.
So you see? It’s not that I’m not trying to keep it all together, neat and tidy and muss-free.
I’m just trying harder to keep it all from falling apart.
Your loving wife
Listen, I get it. I'm the parent of two boys. It was much easier to ensure they were active when they were younger because they had no choice. But as we all know, kids get older and aren't always into doing what we want them to do because there are computer games, Cookie Clicker, text messages and WILL YOU GET OFF THE SOFA BEFORE YOU BECOME A PART OF IT?
So before you get to the screaming stage, here are some easy ideas to make getting active fun so your kids - who are currently connected to the couch and technology - become connected with activities.
I hate to break it to you but you cannot be all “Get up off the couch and go play” as you look up momentarily from your phone while you like food photos and sunsets on Instagram.
If you want your kids to be up and moving, you need to be up and moving too. And if your kids ask you to play with them, the answer is always...
Being active doesn’t mean you have to sign your kids up for a sport. Make it family time by hiking, take them on an adventure walk, play at the park, have an impromptu game of soccer or toss a Frisbee around. The only limit is your imagination.
Helpful Hint: Whenever you go on an outing that lasts longer than two hours make sure you always have two things on hand:
2. A snack you and your kids will actually eat and is easily portable. This is important because for years I would bring stuff I liked and then my boys wouldn't eat it and we'd have to end our excursion early because they were hungry. Now I know that my older son (who has a nut allergy) likes to have fruit, crackers, and cheese - the kid can't get cheese into his body fast enough. My younger son loves (and I mean he spends his own money to buy these) CLIF Kid Zbars which makes my life easier because I can just grab them and go (bonus points that the bars are organic and lower in sugar than other kids' snacks currently on the market).
This is not just a "get your kid active" hack, this is probably one of the best pieces of parenting advice you'll ever get. When you let your child choose what you will do, not only are they going to choose something they WANT to do but you are sending him/her the message that what they want to do and the activities they want to try are important to you.
Bonus: If you have more than one child it will also teach them how to take turns.
Teach your kids the games we used to play when we were kids.
I've been racing with my kids for over eight years. I started out pushing them in strollers in family-friendly races, then I took it to the next level by doing walk/run races - and now both of my kids run in timed races. Not only is it a great way to bond as a family, your kids will walk away with a medal and a feeling of accomplishment. Plus, they'll be super proud when they kick your butt. Which brings me to...
This is the reaction my sons have when I tell them they have to come on a run with me.
This is a reaction when I challenge them to a race.
Sometimes getting your kids to be active simply comes down to how you phrase it.
Not up for a running race? See who can bounce a basketball the longest, who can jump the furthest, who can do a wall squat the longest, or toss a frisbee the furthest. Who can get their kite up in the air first, who can make it across the monkey bars without falling...see how it works?
Then turn it into a game to see who can get the most steps in a day.
Fill the jar with different activities and each child chooses one that you all do for a minimum of 30 minutes.
Kids still not motivated? Invest in a calendar that you can hang in an area where everyone is guaranteed to see it and then put an X through every day your kids were active. If you have more than one child, use a colour coded system. Then see who can cross of the most days.
It doesn’t have to be Tuesdays but I like alliteration. Just make one day a week completely tech free. But plan carefully and make sure it doesn’t fall on the same night as your favourite T.V. show.
Let them invite their friends along whenever you do something active. Whether it’s going for a walk/bike ride or you’re going out to spend the day at the beach. From this point on your family motto should be:
Finally, always remember...most of us aren't raising elite athletes.