When we don’t got it

Dave and I tag-team a lot. When insanity goes down over here, you’ll often hear, “got it!” Either one of us knows we have the patience to handle the scenario, or we know the other one doesn’t so we step in with a slightly larger reserve.

When you have four kids this close in age, people make to assumptions: we’re crazy (this part is true), and we know what we’re doing. The truth is, all parents whatever their circumstances are experts in their own kids. That in no way implies we know what we’re doing. Ever. People see our kids show empathy, they see us have some discipline tools in our back pocket that we can deploy at the pool or a church, they see us distract and create responsibility opportunities for the kids at all ages. All of that is real, and comes from practice.

What they don’t see is the moments when we “don’t got it”. When one temper tantrum flows into another, when we get distracted parenting one kid and another kid does something crazy, when neither parent is up to a new challenge thrown down by one of the kids in a moment of defiance. Nothing makes me feel so low as failing to rise to the occasion. This summer, we renewed a bedtime war with Tess. Everything seems to go swimmingly, until it doesn’t and she is maniacally running down the hallway giggling her head off and all I want to do is sit on the stair with my head in my hands. She’s right on track for a five-year-old!

It doesn’t help to know that parents are fighting this good fight all over the world, or that she is far from unique in this situation. I do what I do, namely reading everything I can get my hands on and trying to find smarter ways to parent and outsmart our bright and independent little kids. But research takes place after failure. I used to try to research everything ahead of time, but then you have all of this information that you never need to use and you forgot to research the one thing that does come up. There’s no point!

After another night of giggles, chasing, crying and exhaustion for both of us, I woke up at five to do some intense reading. Dave and I discussed our options before we even got out of bed, and were better equipped to fight the good fight. More importantly, I have been reminded that no routine is forever when you’re dealing with kids. I will be more grateful on the nights when it works, and more flexible on the nights when it doesn’t. And if I look really tired at work, and I’m grumpy when you expect me to be happy, feel free to remind me that success is not a one time thing.

Tonight, we had it down pat! Caela showed up and took the Littles for a walk in the neighborhood, while Dave and Remy cooked dinner and Tess and I had a “date” on the back patio with sparkly water, also known as Lacroix. The kids got a bath after school, and settle down as soon as we talked them in after dinner. We had smiles and snuggles, hugs and giggles, and one of those blissful evenings that makes being a parent one of the most wonderful roles in the whole world. Our “don’t got it” will happen again for sure, but nights like tonight give us the gas to brave our way through it.

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