Ways to enjoy day to day life with three children, ages newborn, two, and four.
One of the biggest concerns I have about increasing the size of our family is staying safe and sane while out by myself with all three children. This seems to be a common concern among other mommies of two going on three (or more).
Here are some ways to keep cool and leave with your children knowing you love them, instead of them wondering who the heck the screaming banshee is and where on Earth their real mommy went.
- Cut ‘no’ out as much as possible, this doesn’t mean saying ‘yes’ to everything. If you need to say no for some reason, let your children know what the reason is. They’ll be more likely to listen. Also realize that moving beside them and getting down to their level will have a much better result than yelling from across the room/house. Personally I use ‘nope’ if a request is made that I can’t say ‘yes’ to. I also use ‘Stop!’ when I perceive danger. ‘No’ is reserved for cases where nope didn’t work, and I’ve explained why I’m responding the way I am.
- Give lots of cuddles.
- Spend at least fifteen consecutive minutes each day with each child, following that child’s lead, even if you don’t like the game. For instance, our one DD loves to play the ‘poop’ game. She’ll come over and whisper “I have a secret” after she has my undivided attention she yells “POOP!” and runs away giggling while I act upset or concerned that there’s poop on the floor. Not my idea of a great way to spend fifteen minutes, but she loves it.
- When your children talk to you, even if you’re in the middle of making dinner, get down on their level and look them in the eyes. Give them your attention. Show them the respect you want them to show you.
- When upset listen to why they’re upset. Don’t try to ‘fix’ their emotions and make them happy. Let them be angry, sad, disappointed etc. If they need/want you to, label their emotions. Let them know you love them, even as they stomp around. You can love your child even if you don’t like the way they behave – make sure you keep those separated. For instance Ella used to hit her sister (a lot) when angry. She’d scream, jump and try to maim. I hated it. But I still loved her. I’d say “I see you stomping, your face is red and I hear you screaming. You sound so angry. It can be scary to be so angry. I love you so much. I need to keep both you and your sister safe. It isn’t okay to hit her. But it is okay to hit the box.
These are just a few of the ways to make things more peaceful at home, but they go along ways to improving relationships and setting a positive foundation for going out.
At a Doctor Appointment
- Time the appointment so you’re unlikely to have tired, hungry children. You’ll all feel much better for it. If it’s unavoidable cut everyone some slack and realize they have no control when their basic needs are not met.
- Explain before entering the office what is going to happen. Also let them know what you expect from them. “When we go inside I’m going to the desk to check in, then we’ll play with toys while we wait for my name to be called. When my name is called we’ll put the toys away” (If you know this will be an issue, don’t put the toys away, stop on the way out or just leave them) Continue telling them what to expect. And as each step is done, remind them of the next step.
- Arrive with enough time to play with toys or read books before your appointment. Give them a chance to expend some energy and give them undivided attention.
- Have snacks, toys, books etc in your bag.
- Make a game of it. When you go in for your appointment play ‘I spy” – or if your children are a little older maybe try a scavenger hunt (ask permission first) for items that are visible. Make sure your children know that nothing will be inside drawers or cupboards – explain that there could be sharp or dangerous items in the drawers and since you’ll be busy you won’t be able to keep them safe.
- Explain everything the doctor is doing, if you don’t know, ask your doctor. If you include them in the appointment, they’ll be less likely to explore other areas.
- Small children don’t understand that interrupting is impolite, they don’t understand the concept that one person deserves more respect than another, they also believe the world revolves around them (basically anyhow). Realize this. When your children try talking to you, let them have your attention. As they get older they’ll have a greater ability to wait to ask questions until after the appointment. When making your appointment you can always let the receptionist know that you’ll have all your children with you, so please allow more time.
- Make sure they are not tired, hungry etc before going out.
- Shop during quiet hours so there’ll be fewer people and fewer distraction.
- Ask your children for help. This can help reinforce colours, shapes, foods, and help learn numbers and letters. Most importantly they’ll feel useful and be less likely to try exploring on their own.
- We pick up a ‘treat’ half way through the store (usually crackers or rice cakes). I let them choose the item from the shelf and we open it right there. As long as you pay for it, there is not a problem. If you don’t feel comfortable doing this feel free talking to a manager. We did and the response we got is that as long as it’s paid for they don’t care.
- If our girls are getting particularly wound up we let them run. Because we shop during quieter hours there are usually many empty aisles. I let them run to the end and come back. Before they run I tell them as long as they stop when I say stop and come back when I tell them to, then they can run. Another option is ‘red light, green light’ It keeps them occupied and having fun, but also keeps them close.
At the Bank
- Whenever possible I use the drive through. If I can’t, I use a teller rather than a machine. If I need to run after a child I don’t want to worry about a stolen card.
- In line we talk about the different areas of the bank. We also talk about why we’re at the bank. I let them know what we’re doing and what the next step in the process will be.
- We play ‘Simon Says’ while I’m at the teller. When the girls were younger I always said ‘Simon Says’ before each command. Now I change it up a bit. (This also works great in public bathrooms – i.e. to keep hand on themselves and not touching anything int he bathroom).
These are the three big places I’m likely to go on my own. These are also the places I’m not likely to have a buggy of any type with me. For most other outings I’d hopefully have either DH or a buggy to help out. But the principles would be the same. Relax and have fun. Try to keep things as stress free as possible and allow extra time. Oh I also want to point out that we use a carrier for baby. Baby is either on my chest or back giving me free hands for the bigger girls. As baby gets older we may use a stroller, we may not. Either way, as baby gets older so will the other children allowing for a relatively smooth transition.
For the time being I will not take three to the mall by myself. It’s my own comfort level. As they get older and I’m more comfortable with their ability to stay beside me, and their ability to know what ‘stranger danger’ is, then I’d be more likely to go on my own.
Books I recommend for further reading include (in no particular order):