If you’re like me and you’re in the trenches of raising young children you’ve probably at least thought or said the words, “Help! I’m in survival mode!”
This has been true for my husband and I for the last several years. Our four children are a blessing to us – a gift from God whom we love and cherish with all our hearts – but we still have our share of challenges, trials, and conflict on a daily basis.
Just a couple hours ago, my 1.5 year old took a nice big bite into my 4 year olds cheek. She was screaming with tears running down her face simultaneously with my cranky 3 year old who has a runny nose and fever. Meanwhile, my 6 year old is in the bathroom having a hard time, and well, let’s just say there was a mess to clean up.
While I’m helping him, he randomly tells me that he doesn’t like his name and wants it to be changed. So on and so on. So I make everyone a frozen pizza for lunch and everything is better at least for a little while until my cheek bitten 4-year-old falls and hurts her leg on the scooter. Hence, more tears and more screaming.
And all I can think is, Can I have a nap, please? A vacation? Uninterrupted silence? Chocolate?
Well, I don’t know all the secrets to surviving the little years. I do know they are incredibly HARD. However, I have found a few practices that have helped me navigate through them a little more smoothly, making an actual difference in daily life:
- Share Your Struggles with Those Who Understand. I can’t stress the importance and value in having a trusted friend in your life that you can pour your soul out to. That person who you can be completely honest with and not be judged. That person who has either been there or is walking the same path and will understand your hardships with compassion and genuine concern.
- Get on Your Child’s Level. Get on the floor with them. Engage with what they’re playing with. It requires a focused effort to set the dishes down, ditch your phone, and other work. When I have stopped my world for my child’s, they light up. They climb on me, show me their toys, and plop down in my lap. We have better eye contact and most importantly, we have fun together. Usually, I can get up and get back to work and they are satisfied because they’ve had some Mommy time. I never regret that time we have together either.
- Ask Forgiveness Regularly. When you’ve hurt your child, don’t leave it unchecked. Make it a priority to share where you were wrong and ask forgiveness. I started doing this when my firstborn was 4. I was always surprised how much my son already knew I wasn’t perfect. He could tell me how I hurt him and what he did wrong too. Our conversations go a lot like this: “John, mommy was wrong for yelling at you. Sometimes I have a hard time with my sinful nature. I am sorry for hurting your feelings. Will you forgive me? I love you so much. It really helps mommy when you are obedient the first time. Can you help mommy by doing that next time?”…
- Make Getaways and Date Nights with Your Spouse a Priority. Married couples with young children don’t plan on experiencing isolation, distance, and intense frustration in their relationship. It happens over time when children are put first rather than the marriage, and the relationship is neglected. Even though it is work to plan a getaway, the greatest thing you can do for your children is to devote quality time to your marriage. It communicates to your spouse, You are most important.
- Do Something for Yourself Every Day. In this stage of life, your children have a list of endless needs and demands. It is constant. All day. Every day. And you need “me time.” Do something for yourself that you find pleasure in. I use naptime as my creative outlet to write and do photography. In the mornings sometimes I’ll grab a chai tea or get a babysitter and get my hair done. Before my husband goes to work, I might go for a walk/run. Whatever gives you pleasure and is for you, do it and don’t feel guilty!
- Remember the Legacy You’re Leaving. Imagine your child as a small stone that you’ve clutched tightly inside your hand for a few decades. When the time comes for you to open up your hand and throw your small stone into the river, you begin to see a thousand ripples spreading around it. The impact is great. Whether or not you realize it, you are leaving a legacy through the life of your child. And your investment could reach farther and wider than you ever dreamed.
And hopefully at that point you’ll be able to confidently say, “We survived.”