I had dropped my older daughter for a play date and needed to run some errands.
With my son and toddler in tow, I decided to take on the aisles of SAM’S CLUB. As I was rummaging through the fruit section, I heard laughter among the kids.
What is laughter and kindness between kids while running errands? It’s your favorite song on repeat. You can listen to it for eternity.
I had rarely seen my 8-year-old son genuinely interact with his baby sister. His world has been one of basketball, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, and video games. That’s why I was surprised to see him showing interest in her stories about Rupunzel and Sleeping Beauty rescuing Elsa who was trapped in her castle. He was also more interactive with me, recounting the latest third grade playground debacles.
Let me take a moment to explain what my usual trips to the store are like with three kids; they are tainted with lots of whining, teasing, and taunting. In turn, I’m contorting my face and grinding my teeth, trying not to completely loose it in front of annoyed shoppers. There are moments when I’ve literally had a mini-heart attack because one of the kids has vanished from sight and decided to become an independent shopper, casually exploring the toy section.
In a perfect world, I’d love to leave all the kids at home and glide carefree through the aisles with my upside down non-fat caramel latte in hand, while I leisurely read the nutritional content of grocery items. However, these idyllic outings are reserved for Sundays if (and only if) the Steelers aren’t playing.
But what was different? Why was I less stressed and more interactive with the kids? Then I had a“AH-HA” moment. I realized that venturing out with just one less child had changed the orbit of the planets. My mommy momentum had altered. Not only had it improved my ability to get things done, but it had improved my interaction with the kids, as well as their interaction with one another.
I tried the two-not-three test later that week, this time with my older daughter and son. My husband had come home early from work, so I left my toddler at home.
After picking up the two from school, we needed to make a quick stop at the bookstore. Wow! They had cast aside their competitive tendencies and were actually conversing with one another about school and the fun blue wig the principal was wearing at the pep rally.
My test was a success! Apart from seeing the kids interact so well, I was amazed at how stress-free I felt. I wasn’t trying to break up an argument, but was answering their questions (which, by the way, number in the hundreds on any given day) without a hint of annoyance or frustration.
You’re probably thinking it’s pretty obvious that taking one less child on a mini excursion is easier and less stressful. It’s more than that though. Your attention is divided fewer times and you are a present participant in the child’s discussion, which on that day happened to be about blocks and zombies in Minecraft and the latest school-girl hand clapping songs.
With the daily blitz of homework and after school activities, sometimes you miss out on that really important story or event that mattered to your child. That’s why it is imperative to find time to interact with them without being consumed by the demands of daily life.
I’ve starting using the two-not-three (or one-not-two) tactic on a regular basis. Even if I have the opportunity to sip my latte and stroll the aisles independently, I now choose to take at least one or two of the kids along.
It’s become a “Get to Know Me” event. These days, while I am reading the expiration dates on milk cartons at the grocery store, I get to hear the latest 1st grade gossip.
It’s actually rather fun–I recommend you try it!