So we’ve been doing this three-kid thing for about six months now. And let me tell you what has become one of my main goals in the day: minimize the drama, man. For reals, though. The drama around here can get pretty deep. or steep. or something.
Now I’m actually all about walking through feelings with my kids. I try to make time for that in our day so that we learn how to communicate well and they feel like we are a safe place to express themselves. But here are some “feelings” we’ve been feeling lately.
Me: Ok, go brush your teeth.
Child who shall not be named, bursting into tears: IT HURTS MY FEELINGS WHEN YOU TELL ME THAT!
Child A: I’m pretending to be a super hero!
Child B: I WANTED TO BE A SUPER HERO!
Child A: OK! YOU CAN! DON’T YELL AT ME!
Child B: MOM! I’M BEING LEFT OUT AND THAT HURTS MY FEELINGS!
If you hadn’t noticed, we use a lot of caps around here. One day, out of partial craziness, I made up a song that says, “If you want to cry, poke yourself in the eye. But don’t make a mountain out of a molehill.” They think it’s hilarious until I sing it to them, at which point it makes them cry. And sometimes one kid will recommend that I sing it to the other kid during a meltdown…which often makes it worse.
In any case, being up to the ceiling in drama, I’ve been trying to think of ways to bring it down. While some tears are legitimate, some of them are over things that aren’t really…well, Things. So I’ve been trying this lately, “Oh, babe, that’s not actually a Thing.” Like when I say it’s time to get shoes on to leave the house, and they start to fight me, I say in a totally pleasant voice, “oh, that’s not really a Thing. We aren’t actually going to fuss about that.” And I move on. And you know? Maybe it’s because they’re so surprised (or maybe it’s because I use The Force), but they move on too.
I’m not really recommending that you try this (but if you do and it works for your kid, let me know!), but I’m more writing about it because I think it’s hilarious that it works. Of course, if there’s a real issue, then we definitely take the time to work it through. But I’ve decided that those non issues are no longer Things.
For example, I’ve stopped asking my kids to clean up and help me set the table. They kept turning that into a Thing, and I was tired of fighting. So instead, it’s not a Thing anymore. I just call them to me and start a conversation, and in the course of the conversation, I hand them dinner plates and forks and cups, or piles of laundry and toys, casually directing where they are to go. And the times they’ve stopped talking long enough to fight with me, I simply tell them, “Oh this isn’t really a Thing. Take this to the table while you tell me more about Mario.” The art of distraction. Like a Ninja.
They’ve been fighting a lot lately too, and partially I think it’s just because they don’t know what to play next. Obviously there are fights I have to mediate. But doggone it, the fights born of boredom or plain old pettiness aren’t worth it, and learning all the sides doesn’t really help anything because they just want to be dramatic. So when that happens, it’s just not a Thing anymore. I’ll tell them, “Guys, we don’t treat each other that way in our family. We just don’t. It’s not ok to fight, and this isn’t going to be a Thing anymore. Don’t do it again.” And sometimes, like a miracle, it works. Sometimes it works just long enough for me to leave the room. But sometimes it really does work.
And eating. OH. MY. GOSH. One of my children has started crying, “I don’t like this! I never like this!” before I even have a chance to put it on the table. The list of vegetables I could use could be counted on one hand. I started missing them. Dreaming of them. Longing for them. So, it’s no longer a Thing around here. I cook with every vegetable that sounds good to me. Take that, tiny people! And when the whining starts about what they see on the table, I tell them, “Oh, we aren’t going to make this a Thing. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to eat it.” I do have a stipulation here, though, which is I only cook one dinner, and yes, peanut butter sandwiches count as cooking. Oh, and dinner time is family time, not whiny, go away and play time. So they gotta sit with me while I thoroughly enjoy my food. Now, I know this may sound harsh, but I’ll tell you how it’s worked for us: they eat dinner every night. With me. With minimal whining. Sometimes there is a pile of unliked vegetables on a napkin next to their plate (but not ON their plate. Because that is sacrilegious). But they eat, and actually hardly any one complains anymore because they know my answer: Oh, this isn’t going to be a Thing. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to eat it.
Trust me when I say I’m not flippant about my kids’ feelings. But I realized that I’ve been feeding some drama through my responses, and often these are the dramas that don’t need to be Things anyway. And honestly, through saying this to my kids, I’ve realized some of my own Things that I have had to give up. Like the pouty attitude I get when Elena doesn’t nap as long as I’d like. Instead of getting grumpy and mulling over how much I couldn’t get done, I have to put my grown up pants on. This just isn’t a Thing, Kim. Or how unbearably long it takes us to get through a store. Sometimes I just want to sob all my feelings to the cashier because we’ve been there for three hours and I stood through a long line with three crying kids and I just realized I forgot the celery that my kids will pick out of their soup tonight. But I have been telling myself, “This doesn’t have to be a Thing, Kim.” Because it doesn’t. There are enough Things in life that are inevitable that I don’t need to make anymore for myself. And there are enough Things that my kids have to learn and grow through that I don’t have to allow unimportant stuff to become more Things.
I’ve been working to pare down our lives to what’s important and not. Fighting isn’t. Drama isn’t. Showing patience and boundaries is. So even if I refuse to take up some of the Things that my kids want to cry over, placing that boundary around us for next time is good for them. And good for my sanity. Because my sanity….well, that should be a Thing.