A Couple of Tips. Free Ones.

Something I’ve tried to make a habit of doing: journaling.
Somthing I’ve tried to make a habit of not doing: re-reading old journals.

But every once in a while, I get curious.  Last night, in a moment of resting-my-back induced boredom, I picked up the little red book from my first year of classroom teaching.  I had forgotten that in an effort to be a role model in my classroom, I had a habit of joining my students in journaling many days of the week.  Naturally, this particular little red book is chalk full of complaints self reflection about teaching.

Something else I had forgotten: in one of my evaluations that year, my principal told me to “be more open-minded in the classroom,” and to take my job “a little less seriously.”

That’s funny to me.

Now.

I’m not sure this was entirely good advice for a classroom teacher in a public high school but it is great advice for parenting pre-schoolers.  I can’t even count the number of conversations I’ve had or overheard from guilt ridden mothers who constantly feel like they simply aren’t doing enough.  Comparative parenting would tell any woman with a four-year-old or below that if she’s not on the floor with her kids or doing craft projects at least three days a week, somehow she’s probably not taking her job seriously enough.

It’s a good thing I don’t parent by comparison.

Cute jeans and lower back pain are not conducive to floor time for Mommy.  Sorry girls.  You’ll have to join me at the kitchen sink, on a chair, if you really want to spend the majority of the day in my immediate proximity.

But speaking of comparative parenting, in light of holiday spending, I’m dishing out exactly two free tips that have made my mothering life both cheaper and and better, and I discovered both this year.  (Moms, feel free to comparative parent standing next to me.  It will only make you feel better about yourself as a mother and a human.)  For any mother who has worried that she could be doing more or working harder, I say this: why, when you really don’t need to?

  1. Ice packs.  Forget about parenting for just a minute.  I knew back when I was a mere babysitter that when a kid gets hurt, a band-aid stops the crying.  And I’m not using a metaphor here.  I’m talking literal band-aids.  Both of my children went on a streak of self-mutilation just after I purchased two boxes of Disney princess band-aids, and then fought over who would get Cinderella.  When I refused to dole them out in the absence of actual blood, my own mother looked at me one day and said something along the lines of, “Oh just let them have a band-aid.  You know, it’s a pretty cheap little way to get them to stop crying.”  Despite my obvious problem with that parental concept alone, the kicker for me here was not the spoiled-brat cry-baby factor I would inevitably be enabling.  It really was the price of the band-aids.  But even I have my limits on just how often I can say with a straight face, “Stop crying!  You are fine!” to my two year old who is obviously hurt, just not bleeding.  So it turns out, ice packs work much like the band-aid in the emotional department, and they are reusable.  Hah.  Take that, unconditional love.
  2. Paint with Water.  I can’t claim that I came up with this one on my own.  Aside from the fact that I remember these things from my childhood, it was the mother of four boys (two of them twins) under the age of seven who reminded me of their existence.  *Sidenote: she’s another great one to stand next to for those competitively patient mothers who need to feel better about a moment of weakness in the car this morning.  Subsequently, this is also why she and I are friends.*  It turns out, paint with water can still be found at the dollar store.  Not only are they cheap, but they are virtually mess-free, and as long as I put Eliott and Carter in their art aprons first, they believe they are being permitted to actually paint at the kitchen table.  Truly, the creators of this activity were genius on so many levels.
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