You know that woman who arrives at school on time every morning? Not a hair out of place with effortless style and a smile for everyone? She bakes the best cookies, has kids who love to read and never raises her voice. Maybe you are that woman and if you are all I can say is congratulations and stop reading. This article is certainly not for you. This is for us mere mortals who run late, burn toast and even shout from time to time. If you are one of our tribe then by all means read on.
We are the parents in the trenches, the ones trying to read with the kids even if it means stepping over piles of dirty laundry to do it. We are the parents who need some help, need some hacks and know to find both. As I round out my second decade as a mom I wanted to reach out and share some of the things I've learned.
1. Hairspray makes excellent monster repellant. As a repellant, hairspray is extraordinarily versatile; it also repels elephants, aliens and many things that go bump in the night. A little spritz of hairspray in the general direction of a worried little one and we can all get back to bed and enjoy the whopping four hours of sleep we're lucky to get.
2. Wanting is not required. If we had a nickel for every time our kids respond with the perennial favorite, "But I don't want to..." we would all be billionaires. "I don't want to eat, sleep, pick up my toys, wear my seatbelt, wear my pants;" it never ends. I have found a quick response with a big smile and a well delivered, "That's okay, wanting is not required..." sufficiently derails whatever protest is being lodged.
3. Only brush the teeth you want to keep. Any overtired protest or reluctance to brush is easily redirected by giving the power right back to the little one. You don't want to brush your teeth? Fair enough, only brush the ones you want to keep.
4. The second choice is always the right answer. When giving our kids choices like peas or carrots? Apples or oranges? Sneakers or sandals? Whatever you want your little one to pick, simply make it last on the list. This hack actually works with older people too. Kids get excited to choose or aren't really paying super close attention much of the time so the last choice is often the only one they heard.
5. Play with your food. From no thank you helpings when little ones don't want to try new foods, to warning them not to eat something with a twinkle in your eyes, knowing that it becomes irresistible the moment you do, don't be afraid to have a little fun. A sense of humor is a great appetizer and no mealtime should ever be a battlefield.
6. Lanyards are the best field trip accessories. Fill out your child's name and your cell phone number and tuck it into your little one's shirt. May they never need it but in case they do, it's a great thing for the police to be able to call you right away. If you ever do get separated, your little one may struggle to remember your number but now he or she won't have to be afraid.
7. Homework is not just a job; it's a lifestyle. Surrender to the dark side and embrace the madness. Poster paper is your friend and from now on you are always on the look out for science fair topics. Set up a think tank, literally. You need a dedicated place like a dining room table, a box of crayons, sharpened pencils and erasable pens. Grab a ruler, some graph paper and enjoy.
8. Graph paper can save your life. When kids learn to take notes and solve equations neatness matter. Graph paper won't keep your ducks in a row but it will definitely keep your kids on the right track. Math is a lot easier when you line things up right and graph paper can get it done before you get schooled.
9. Rubbing alcohol removes Sharpie from walls and hairspray removes ink from clothes. Save your school clothes and your sanity and fear no ink stains ever again.
10. It's tough to be so loved but I'm sure you'll adjust. When you need to say no to your kids, whether toddler or teen, remind them why. You love them so much you have to say no. It's tough, but necessary and everyone will adjust.
One last hack, reach out and share your hacks too. Most of us need all the help we can get.