I try to avoid going to the store with all four kids, but sometimes I have to. Maybe we’re out of diapers and I can’t wait until hubby comes home so he can watch the kids. It’s a big production to get myself and four kids ready to leave the house for an entire morning, because it takes all morning to go to just one store! At ages 5, 3, 2, and 1 they can’t get ready by themselves, so a minimum of a half hour before leaving I start the process of potty trips, diaper changes, finding socks & shoes, stocking the diaper bag and checking clothing and hair. Keeping them all corralled around me while picking up the essential item at the store is the hard part, but it’s getting better. They know to stay close. But the fun part is when people look at me and say, “Wow! Four kids! How do you do it all?” My short answer is…
I don’t do it all.
Something usually has to give.
Every day something has to give.
I suppose that if one looks at the pins on my Pinterest boards, or the posts in Facebook, or how we look and behave in public, one might assume that we really have a LOT going on, and a LOT going well. But no one sees the temper tantrums that my 2 year old throws 3-4 times a day. No one sees my frustrations when my son will read his words for daddy or grandpa or grandma or the dog, but not for me. No one sees a fairly clean house I managed to maintain all day long and then at 4:00 all of the toys are spread around the entire house along with all of the blankets and pillows from every bed. No one sees the days when we really do nothing, when my husband and I are just too tired to leave the house…the kids stay in their jammies and no hair is combed and no toys are picked up all day long.
If there is a method to my madness, I would say that it’s keeping my PRIORITIES straight. We will be in church whenever the doors are open, and we will serve in every way we can within our church. We will dress and act our best in church as well. And if one of the kids is sick, the whole family does NOT stay home. That’s a priority that we teach our kids: Each of us has a relationship to God that must come first before anything else no matter what anyone else is doing, and that begins with church attendance.
We do not necessarily have a regular Bible time at home or prayer time…but we do it often! At dinner time we pray for one of the missionaries that is posted on our refrigerator. Many nights, we read a portion of “The Bible in Pictures for Little Eyes” before bedtime along with some Bible songs and a memory verse. And whenever we have opportunities, we will teach a lesson from Biblical concepts. It’s been a challenge to me to remember my memory verses so that I can teach the kids from the Word, and not just from my own earthly wisdom. We are orienting the kids to think of their behavior as being a matter of obedience to God and submitting to His will, not just mommy and daddy’s will. I think probably as the kids grow into their elementary years, we will be able to be more structured with the spiritual disciplines. For now, though, this arrangement is working well.
Nutrition and health are a priority. I do try to give my kids protein, and a veggie or fruit at each meal. Breakfast might be the exception. But kids are active and we don’t have any real major health issues to deal with, so I figure if we mess up in this area every now and then…they’ll survive. :o) I guess I do keep a mental note of how much good food vs. junk food the kids are eating, because that really does affect their mood and overall temper. My husband and I do put our foot down and make them eat foods that they think they won’t like. Some may say we are too mean, but hey…our kids eat better than a lot of kids because they are learning how to try new foods without gagging. That’s a learned skill. It doesn’t just happen.
Manners are another priority. This is something that is taught throughout the day, every day. They are learning that the world does not revolve around them when they are not allowed to interrupt. Another rule is, “don’t boss the grown-ups.” We wait for each other at the dinner table, and we sit nicely until we ask to be excused. There are the obvious manners that kids all learn: don’t take toys, don’t hit, don’t yell, don’t throw a fit, play nice, help your siblings, etc. It doesn’t take any special lesson to teach this. But it does take consistency and an extra minute to explain and make the child behave properly.
Cleanliness is a priority. So, we do take baths and wash the clothes and clean the house. However, even though I like an immaculate house (really I do!) I know that if I place a clean home above my other priorities, then things are out of whack. So, I figure, at the very least the bathrooms and kitchen must be clean. That’s a sanitary issue. Kids must be bathed, but sometimes you will find my kids with dirty faces and hands. I like to go around the house and pick up at the end of the day, but if I’m too tired…I don’t. When we have company, I will clean the rest of the house that day. We have company often enough that it pretty much takes care of all the rest of the cleaning without my having to set a regular cleaning schedule for everything to be cleaned.
Other than those things, I just take each thing as it comes. A child needs a diaper change? I do that next. Someone wet the bed? I wash the bedding that day. A drink is spilled? I clean that next. A little girl wants a flower in her hair? I make her pretty next. Kids are hungry? I will help them wait until the next meal. A baby is crying? I give love and naps next. It’s bed time and a child’s bed sheets are still in the dryer? I make the bed next. And so it goes through my day. I do have a certain schedule that I try to keep, (naps, school time, bed time, meal times) and keeping that schedule surely does help me get everything done. But the schedule is not king. Keeping the priorities is the priority.
So how do I do it all? I don’t.
I just do the next thing.