Category Archives: messy parenting

{Messy Parenting} The Transition to Three

Going from two to three kids has not been the easiest transition; nor has it been the most difficult.

Emily and Andrew interpret nursing time to be house-trashing time.  It’s also, apparently, prime time for trouble-making – like taking baths in the sink, finding and destroying my make-up, ripping books, coloring in books, emptying out drawers, cracking eggs, etc.  Going out of the house requires an inordinate amount of time directing and redirecting the other two with my voice as my hands are usually full.

The infant part is not hard.

Having Amelia has changed my life.  From the very first heart beat to the final push of labor I worried I would lose her.  I couldn’t imagine my body keeping this baby after it had spontaneously aborted 4 previous pregnancies.  As silly as it sounds, I could not convince my brain that the pregnancy would be okay. I suppose having all those losses convinced me that having another baby was impossible.

Yet, here she is.  My miracle baby.

I get the baby stage.  I get her. Our night time feedings aren’t nearly as depleting as they were with the previous two.  Her colic didn’t break me as it seemed to do with both Emily and Andrew.  Every morning I wake up happy to feed her – even if I’ve been awake all night long.  I snuggle her as she smiles and coos at me.  Her brother and sister attack her with hugs and kisses.  We all watch her in amazement.

I don’t feel guilty about missed tummy time.  (Tummy time with a 2 and 4 year-old is very difficult and slightly dangerous anyway.)  I don’t worry about her growth.  I feel comfortable with nursing.  I feel comfortable having her sleep next to me.

So, yes, having a third has been easy in some ways.

I’m still learning the personalities of her older siblings and often feel stumped as to how to parent them.  Emily is now 4 and astounds me with her intelligence.  Andrew is 2.5 and exhausts me with his toddlerness (my own made up word).

I just know that this transition is not as difficult as I expected it to be.  It wasn’t any harder than going from 0 to 1 child or 1 to 2 children.  I have experience regarding infancy – making the baby stage easier – but I am still inexperienced in so many other ways.

I constantly walk that line between comfortable and uncomfortable, thriving and drowning, experience and inexperience.  I suppose that sums up parenting when other kids are added to the mix. Heck, it sums up parenting in general.

How about you?  How did you feel about transitions in parenting – whether it was from 0 to 1 child, 2 to 3 children, or 9 to 10 children?



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{Messy Parenting} Jealousy

A friend of mine recently posted a parenting article from Huffington Post on Facebook.  I read it, found some of it interesting, and started feeling a bit defensive.  Why?  Jealousy.

In the article, the author talks about how, through her sleeping techniques, her child was sleeping through the night at 6 weeks and continues to do so as a 3 year-old.  Cool, right?

But the whole article sent me into a depressive, sob-myself-silly, spiral.

None of my babies are sleeping through the night.  And I’ve tried every method!  

After thinking about this for a few days, I came to a conclusion.  My jealousy is okay. It’s also okay for parents to celebrate those moments when their parenting techniques yield successful results.

Being in the thick of newborn sweetness, exhaustion, and incessant crying, my emotions change as often as the weather in my current town (which is to say a lot).   I might react more than I’d like, yet I’m learning lessons a lot more quickly.

Sometimes during these really difficult times – when my older kids refuse to go to bed (coming out of their rooms every few minutes) until after 10 pm, when my baby cries until 1 am, when I’m changing 3 sets of diapers, when I’m cleaning up multiple poop messes during the week, when I subsist on chocolate and cheerios, and when Ben is working 14 hour work days – I doubt my parenting abilities.  I wonder why Sally’s kids are fully potty trained, why Dan’s children sleep through the night, why Julie’s kid eats everything put in front of her, and I think that I must have done something wrong.

Until I remember that their kids are not my kids.  Parenting methods are successful when they fully match a child’s personality.  Some kids thrive under attachment parenting, others through so-called detachment parenting, and others through a mix-and-match of all available methods.  When parenting some kids, you end up writing your own book on how to parent just that child.

That’s okay.

When reading through parenting books, magazines, blog posts, news articles, etc, it’s so easy to think that “if I just did X then Y would happen” and become frustrated when your plans go awry.  Children are as different as the cloud shapes in the sky.  That’s what is so incredibly beautiful and frustrating about parenting, it means finding your own way and can feel lonely at times.

During these moments when everything has seemingly fallen apart and I’m questioning why any person thought I was suited for this job, I have moments when I remember that this gig is as nuanced as I am.  If someone put me in one box, I would feel chafed.  I don’t belong in any personality box, I am me, an individual that exists beyond stereotypes and classifications (except Homo sapien, something that none of us can escape).  Yeah, try to write a book on how to “parent” me.  Good luck.

The same thing is true of children – infants, toddlers, preschoolers and beyond.  Informing yourself is important but pulling your hair out when things aren’t going as the book says it should, is just not worth it.  Shelve that book and try something else.

We, as parents, are too hard on ourselves.  Let’s give ourselves credit today, tomorrow, and forever.

And if you feel depleted, just remember that parenting is messy. Then, join me in my weekly parent validation post (which occurs at any time during the week because my life really is messy right now). I promise, once you give yourself a little credit for things you are proud of, you’ll feel better about moving forward.

(You can find my button here.)


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{Messy Parenting} Bedtime Routine

It seems that as time goes on, the more complicated and frustrating bedtime becomes.  For the past year, we have had to constantly battle with our kids to go to bed and stay there.  Both parties have often ended the night close to tears as communication lines fail and we all admit defeat.

In one of my many late night feeding/holding sessions with Amelia, I had a parenting epiphany: maybe Emily and Andrew need individual time with us.

The past 2.5 years have not been easy.  I have either been pregnant or miscarrying, making parenting quite difficult.  I have not developed a full relationship with the older kids because of all the physical impediments.

With Amelia as our last natural child, I can remedy this.  Easily.  It just requires swallowing some of my pride and selfishness and giving up an hour at night to devote my full attention to them, individually.

Rather than fight the kids for an hour or two, when all they really want is attention and love, I have decided to give that time to them.  Ben and I will take turns lying down with either Emily or Andrew (separately so they have individual time with both parents throughout the week) and let them tell us whatever they want while tickling their backs and singing/listening to lullabies.

I think this experiment is just what our family needs to truly bond.

On a related note, I picked songs I felt fit Emily, Andrew, and Amelia.  The kids love having a song that is specifically theirs and will often ask that we sing “their” song during the day.  And, they know the lyrics to these songs by heart.

Emily’s song: Yellow by Coldplay

Andrew’s song: Darling Boy by John Lennon

Amelia’s song: You’ll Be In My Heart by Phil Collins

Do you have a bedtime routine for your kids?  Do your kids have “their” songs?  Have you ever wanted to cry in a closet because your kids won’t go to bed/sleep?  Share YOUR story.  


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{Messy Parenting} Chores

I have a strange dislike of the word “chores.”  It sounds so malicious, to say “do your chores or you can’t do X!” I feel like running away when it’s described thus.  (I don’t think people who do use that word are malicious, I just connect that word with malice for whatever weird reason.) Like most people, I don’t enjoy cleaning, per se, but I do manage better in a clean, orderly house.

With my kids, rather than assigning chores, I explain to them that if our house is not picked up, the laundry is not folded, and the dishes are not washed, then we can’t play, find clothes, or eat. We work together to put our house in order because we are all equal contributors to the messes.

Sometimes, in the middle of teaching and persuading, I wonder if what I say is making an impact.  My kids help me, sure, but it takes a bit of cajoling to get them going.  At least, it usually does.  But something changed on Tuesday.

We woke up from our nap, ready to eat snacks.  I told the kids that before we could eat our snacks, we needed to pick up the living room and their room.  I came out of my bedroom (they had already escaped to the living room) – ready to rally the troops – and found the room already clean with Emily asking for help to put the last cushion on the couch.  I teared up.

Together, we finished picking up the rest of the toys, clothes, and shoes and moved to the kids’ room.  Once there, she helped me put the toys away in the bins, put the clothes in the dressers, and pick up the trash.  Meanwhile, Andrew found lingering toys around the house and brought them into the room to put away.  Within 20 minutes, the rooms were clean and we were ready to eat a snack.

I placed the kids on my lap and thanked them, profusely, for helping me keep our house in order.  I cried, a little, and hugged them plentifully.

It reminded me of something I learned in my undergraduate – kids are willing to help if you give them the opportunity, especially if you gently persuade rather than harshly criticize or direct.

Once we were eating our snacks, Emily looked at me and said, “Are you proud of me for helping?”  I responded, “Emily, I am always proud of you.  I feel so lucky to have you as my daughter.”  You can imagine her excitement as she relayed this story to her dad later, and the tears that traced my cheeks as I listened to her sweet voice, with great pride, telling her dad all that she had cleaned that day.

What about you?  Do you have your kids help?  Do you use chore charts?  Do you have an equal dislike of that word, or am I just odd?

**Just a reminder, the book club has started!  Join in on a fascinating discussion about Women Who Run With the Wolves.


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{Messy Parenting} It's Potty Time!

Over a year ago, Emily potty trained herself.  Then un-potty trained herself.  She now comfortably pees in the toilet but still refuses to poop in it.

Andrew, on the other hand, will poop in the toilet but refuses to pee in it.

So, I have one child who pees and another who poops in the toilet.  Half + half makes a whole, right?

Potty training is difficult.  The tips and tricks that various books, websites, and blogs offer aren’t suited for individuality.  Thus, with the personalities of my kids, I could follow the advice found on Babycenter or in books but I know my kids will stubbornly refuse any rigidity.  In fact, with Emily, the more we push her to poop in the toilet, or follow the steps listed in parenting resources, the more she fights back.  Andrew is the same way.

This lesson has leaked (excuse the pun) into other areas of parenting. I have learned to let Emily and Andrew lead in developmental milestones.  Ultimately, they must decide whether or not to pursue something a “big kid” will do, otherwise tantrums and accidents will ensue.  But isn’t that what I, as a parent, am really fostering?  My kids ability to make their own decisions without pressure from outside sources?

As frustrating as it is to have 2 kids still in diapers half the time, I prefer my happy, worry-free kids to the kids they became when I pressured them to potty train on my schedule and in a specific way.  While this approach may not work for everyone, I am glad that neither Ben nor I feel pressured to potty train our kids by a certain age or in a specific manner. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all feel less pressure when it comes to parenting?


I am out of my writing groove.  I thought I would have more time when I was placed on modified bed rest.  However, like most moms of young children, I have found bed rest to be a hope rather than a reality.  In fact, I think I am more busy on “bed rest” as I attempt to keep the kids happy and entertained while I maintain some order in this house.

Luckily, tapping into Messy Parenting again has helped me post at least once a week.  Care to join me?  Share a parenting experience you are proud of, either on your own blog or in the comments, and we can all support each other in this messy adventure.

As a reminder, the book club discussion for chapter one of Women Who Run With the Wolves starts on Monday!  I am SO excited!


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{Messy Parenting} Are They Worth It?"

“Are they worth it?”  She asked, as we were enjoying our meal of cilantro lime rice and black beans at a local restaurant.

“What?”  I asked, mesmerized by my meal.

“Kids, are they worth it?”

I sat for a minute, thinking.  “Of course!”  And proceeded to finish my meal.


I am washing dishes when I hear the bang.  “Oh no,” I think “what is it now?”

I walk into the living room greeted by glasses of spilled milk and water mixed in with half the container of garlic salt that Andrew had swiped from the kitchen.  Emily is sitting amidst a pile of clothes, pillows, and sheets playing dress-up but  the culprit is nowhere to be seen.  I hear the water running in the bathroom.  I walk over and find him completely naked in a sink full of warm, soapy bubbles.  The now empty soap container is floating in the water and while soapy water spills from the sink onto the floor.  I pick him out, call for Emily, and lock us in my room where I proceed to cry for a good hour as they play around me.


“But why?  I hear the stories you tell, it sounds like way too much work for a thankless, endless job.

“You’re right.  It is a lot of work.”


I am in the bathroom after my third miscarriage, tears pouring down my face.  Emily walks in and grabs my hand.  “Mommy, why are you crying?”

“I’m sad.  I lost another baby.”

“Mommy, you can have a baby!”  She reaches up and grabs me; I hold her tight.  Andrew soon toddles in with a grin on his face.  I bring them both on the counter and accept their wet kisses.

Later that afternoon, they snuggle with me in my bed and tell me all sorts of stories from their day.  They alternate between stroking my face tenderly and tickling my belly.  My heart is full of love.


“Honestly, describing how it’s both hard, exhausting work and an absolute joy is difficult.  Yes, I’ve stayed up for 48 hours straight when one of my kids was sick.  Yes, they’ve made some pretty horrific messes that left me in tears.  Yes, they refuse to go to bed until after 10 pm and only if they are in my room.”

“But, there are also a million moments that sound impossibly fake – like how Andrew says “are you going to sleep with me?”  at night and melts my heart, or how Emily converses with her brother while they are playing, or those first few nights after they were both born when I had them to myself in the hospital room and started our new, beautiful mommy-baby relationship.”

“The hard parts of parenting pale in comparison to the joy I feel when I hold one my kids after a tough day, or snuggle with them when we wake in the morning.”

“Is it hard?  The hardest effing thing I’ve ever done.”

“Is it worth it?  Heck yes.  My life is busier and more full since adding Emily and Andrew to the family.”

“Hmmm” my friend said.  “Thank you.”


What do you think, are they worth it?  How would you answer this question?


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{Messy Parenting} TV Time

I suppose I could call TV one of my triggers.  If I hear too much noise, my anxiety increases and I begin to lose my patience little by little.  I can only watch television if it’s educational (i.e. stuff on National Geographic and PBS), calm (i.e. nature shows), or funny (i.e.The Office).  And, I can only watch in short spurts.

With Emily and Andrew at the age where television is the best tool to keep them occupied while I clean or navigate the bed rest thing, it would be easy to allow it to suck up our whole day.  Except that I would turn into a grumpy, impatient mom in an instant.  So, I’ve made rules for them and for me.

The kids can either watch one Disney movie (that I have already watched with them and feel comfortable with) or a few shows on PBS.  I adore PBS because it doesn’t have commercials and it teaches the kids so many things – math, science, spelling, reading, etc.  All together, the total viewing time may not exceed two hours a day.  I, also, do not turn on any adult-themed shows when they are awake primarily because, you know, they are adult-themed.

There are a gazillion shows aimed at kids on TV, so I have a limited few that I let the kids watch (because they don’t bug me).  These include, Super Why, The Cat in the Hat, Dinosaur Train, Sesame Street, Word World and Word Girl.

I realize my strict viewing rules seem unnecessary and even ridiculous to some people, yet it works for me and my kids.  They seem happier and more eager to play with toys and read books when the television is not on.  I am also happier when the house is filled with playful noises rather than TV noises.

And that’s how television works at our house.  Do you have any rules? Favorite shows?  Favorite movies?  Share!

(Please don’t take this as an attack on you if your kids watch different shows, more than two hours, or whatever.  This works for me and I would never, ever judge you if something else works for you.  Remember, this is messy parenting – there are no right or wrong parenting methods.  Except beating, but I think we can all agree on that.)


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