No, I’m not joking. And I’m no expert in this area. I am, however, a mom who is frustrated with how complicated raising children has become.
When I had my first child at age 20 I didn’t think twice about breastfeeding him and after he was born he latched on like a champ. A baby Hoover was born. I mostly had hand me down clothes for him although I will admit that I once bought him a pink sleeper because I was really hoping for a girl. I hope he forgives me for that. I didn’t take any pictures. We lived in a 1 bedroom apartment and he just slept with me in bed after I realized it was the only way I was going to get any sleep! I was in college and I needed rest to use my brain. I even took him to school with me until he got too mobile. I didn’t really think twice about sharing our bedroom with him. And when his sister came along 3 years later, she joined us. Darling son was moved to a futon next to my bed and baby girl took his place next to me in bed. We didn’t move to a bigger space for another 2 years and it never bothered me to basically live in 2 rooms. I didn’t worry about much back then. My children got fevers and threw up on me but I rarely took them to the pediatrician. My neighbors used to call an ambulance. That baffled me.
Once we moved to the country in a 3 bedroom tiny ranch we put the kids in one bedroom with a bunk bed and the other room became a toy room full of hand me down toys. I didn’t worry about them getting dirty. I didn’t worry that they didn’t have a particularly varied diet (they now eat all kinds of wonderful things). Mac and cheese again? Sure, why not? I was terrible about remembering to pack extra clothes when we went out for the day or to pack snacks, even when I took them hiking. No one died.
The biggest thing about all of this was that I never really over thought any of this. I didn’t have Facebook or any books about French children eating all their vegetables to compare myself to. Fast forward 12 years to my twins. First I had a huge baby shower thrown by my friends at church and our moms. I went garage sale-ing for months before they are born collecting clothes. I got a co-sleeper because I heard it was safer than having a baby in bed with you. We picked up 2 cribs. We had cloth diapers. We got a swing and a 2 bouncy seats (thank GOD for bouncy seats. don’t bother with the swing). We had a seat that vibrated. We had slings that the babies hated and we barely used. They had developmentally stimulating toys. Double jog stroller. 2 sets of car seats. The baby seats they can spin around in the name of which escapes me just now. And LOTS of other stuff. Some of it was helpful but it was a heck of a lot more stuff than when I had my son. Then, I just had a baby. And thankfully some diapers.
This time I worry. They were/are much cleaner. They have way too many shoes. And a basement FULL of toys. Their closet and dresser is PACKED with clothes. They have a toy box in their room. We sent them to pre-K. I make them eat weird stuff and make dinner a nightly event even though it mostly just tortures us. (parents should just wait until the children are asleep to eat. much less nauseating that way) My husband and I want to make sure they get to travel and see stuff. I want to make sure they are exposed to all kinds of people. And then we worry that they aren’t getting enough “experiences.” Did I mention they are 4? My husband worries that one of the girls isn’t as interested as her sister in learning letters and numbers or listening to books. He always thinks the worst about about her and fears he is failing miserably as a father. Probably we both are. Aren’t we all? I mean, we didn’t go buy a piece of land in Africa so we could claim a kingdom and make our daughters princesses. So we really are utter failures.
Why does it seem so much more stressful and complicated this time around? I thought you were supposed to worry less as you had more children, not more. I thought you were supposed to have more patience. What happened there? I have been truly frustrated with this whole scenario playing out in our house and I have decided to do something about it. I’m selling the children.
Ok, just kidding.
Actually I have found and have been reading some great resources on simplifying with kids. There is a good book called Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne and Lisa M Ross that talks about all the “noise” in our children’s lives and how to quiet it all down by clearing out clutter and chaos while emphasizing routines and patterns. It has given me helpful information about how to rethink what children actually need. Or more like it’s reminded me of what I forgot.
Then there is Clutter Free with Kids by Joshua Becker. His book is more the meat and bones of getting rid of the excess and I like his ideas. I’ve started implementing ideas from both books already. It seems to be helping.
I also LOVE LOVE LOVE this post from Living Well Spending Less. I hope and pray I can one day be so brave as this. LWSL is also a great place to get ideas on saving money, paying off debt and making life more sane with children.
This is what I/we have done/embraced thus far:
1. We have decided against any extracurricular organized activities for the time being. Although they love pretending to be ballerinas my husband and I aren’t ready for the time and money commitment of sending them to ballet lessons every week. Or piano. Or violin. Etc. They have a large backyard and playset for exercise and school is plenty of organized activity for the day when you are 4. If their interest continues, we will reconsider.
2. I got rid of the toy box in their room. They have a few animals on their beds that rotate through and a crate with books. I also left a basket with dress up clothes.
3. I eliminated toys in the living room. All toys were relocated to the basement (well, except for the blue bin of Playmobil toys that has resurfaced…).
4. We are slowly eliminating noisy, plastic, visually offensive, broken or duplicate toys. I have sent several garbage bagfuls to the Thrifty Shopper thus far.
5. We sold the train table and trains. They weren’t being used and its nice having more space in the basement.
6. There is a bedtime “routine” although I still think it takes too long. Daddy and I have different styles of doing bedtime but I am making more of an effort to do a quick tuck in and say prayers. Daddy usually does bedtime. But at least it’s a routine they can pretty much count on.
7. I am making a concerted effort to let them know the “plan” for the day and the next morning so they know what to expect. One of the girls has a very hard time with transitions and this seems to help.
8. All new toys will be non-plastic to the furthest extent possible and preferably consumable, like paper, crayons, paints, and such. Or wearable like their new non-Disney princess dresses and silk wands (alright, the little black dragon figurine is sort of plastic but you’d think I gave the child a puppy she is so excited about this thing).
9. We are emphasizing only a couple of rules. #1-you must obey mom and dad, as well as all authority figures. #2-no lying. #3-maintain a good attitude even if you are disciplined. Whining out a request will result in being ignored or sent to your room. #4-pick up your own stuff.
10. I put their shoes in a basket in their closet and only left a couple of pairs by the back door to make getting out of the house easier. They used to have ALL of their shoes at the back door. Or more like, in an arc radiating out from the back door and across the room.
11. They have a coat rack on their level so they can put their own jackets on.
12. I have organized two drawers full of art supplies that they may use at will. They are supposed to put their (wonderful Waldorf-y beeswax) crayons back in their tins/boxes when they are finished.
13. Our fall school wardrobe will consist of stretch pants, tunics and tee’s, black shoes or sneakers and a few dresses. That way they are comfortable and can mostly dress themselves. Most clothes should mix and match well (if I had my way I’d dress them in black every day but my husband thinks they look like Johnny Cash when I do that :/ ).
14. We put a white bin in the fridge on the bottom shelf filled with things like yogurt tubes, cheese sticks, etc., that they can grab for a snack. All things in the bin are mom-approved. But no snacks before dinner. Hungry children actually eat dinner.
15. I gave up fighting my daughters need to play with rocks. I bought a wood tray, filled it with tumbled stones, some corks, a couple of palm crosses from Palm Sunday, a couple of candles and set it on the table as a centerpiece. This way I get a small piece of “decor” and she gets to play with her rocks without bringing in more dirt. She doesn’t have to ask to play with this (obviously she isn’t allowed to light the candles or play with them when they are lit).
This isn’t an all-inclusive list of what we have done and not all of these are specifically recommended but the ideas behind them are inspired by the resources above. This is only the beginning of the journey. We still have at least 14 years of them living under our roof!
My next project is cleaning out sheol, aka, the basement and re-organizing what ever makes the cut. I will take before and after pics when I get to THAT project. Even though the “before” will be cringe-worthy. Yikes!
So go ahead, take the plunge. My kids have responded well to this so far and haven’t noticed most of the stuff I’ve gotten rid of. I bet yours won’t either. Or, if you are really brave, get rid of it ALL and come back and let me know. Maybe I will do it too (bwahahahaha!) 😉
Have a great day!