I’m not going to lie. Parenting four kids can be a mad scramble most days. Our house looks like a tornado went through it if we all try to go out together and making sure that baths are done, teeth are brushed and nails are clipped on a regular basis can be a tedious chore.
But as the clouds part and we move out of the baby phase Mike and I are starting to realize that our kids are growing up fast. We’ve had a lot of firsts lately, and many coming up within the near future. While we try to keep on top of everything, we both know we are far from perfect.
School newsletters get missed, appointments are forgotten and we are having breakfast for dinner far too often. But that’s the reality of our life right now.
One thing that we are trying to do more of is parent with intention. One on ones with our older kids are becoming more frequent, and family outings to a restaurant, or to get family photos taken are happening without major meltdowns, (from both our kids and us).
I know that this is our world right now and it’s not always pretty. But if we keep making those connections, creating those memories and parenting with intention, our kids won’t remember the messes left behind and the dishes left in the sink for a couple of days.
Here’s what we have been up to the past week, including outings, family photos, and buying our twins their big girl beds.
Have you started to do anything special with your kids lately, like a special outing? I’d love to hear about it. Please let me know in the comments below.
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As we sat waiting for my niece’s first communion to start, I watched as Beau, our five-year-old, middle child squirmed in her seat. We had opted to have a babysitter watch our twin toddlers that day since this event was during their nap time. It was rare that I was out with Beau and her older brother Holden, without having to fuss over their younger sisters.
I reached over, picked Beau up, and placed her on my lap. She immediately cuddled into me as I softly kissed her forehead, rubbed her back and played with her hair.
We sat like this for a while, uninterrupted. She had my undivided attention, which was something she almost never gets.
Instead of complaining about how long the ceremony was, or racing around and then melting down like she usually would, she sat so still. Her breathing matched mine, and I could feel her lapping up every second of attention and affection.
Although this moment melted my heart, it also made me so sad.
Having four kids is so wonderful in more ways than I can count. But there is a lot of jugging involved. I do my best to spend time with each child and fit in as much one-on-one time as possible. But unfortunately Beau is the forgotten child.
Beau was a surprise. Before Holden turned one, we had been discussing when we might have our second, only to find out a day after Holden’s birthday that the decision was made for us.
My pregnancy with Beau was a blur. I only can recall a few moments, and Mike maybe felt her kick once, because we were so preoccupied with Holden.
The day Beau was born is a vivid memory. One that I will cherish for the rest of my life. It’s not the easy labour, or delivery that has taken up a large space in my heart. It is after Mike left to be with Holden and for what seemed like endless blissful hours without any visitors, I held Beau and just enjoyed my girl.
That day in the church with Beau resting her head on my chest reminded me so much of that first day together in the hospital. I just enjoyed my girl.
Beau was always great at entertaining herself, fiercely independent and ready to go with the flow. From a young age we relied on her tough-as-nails personality and ability to adapt, as we focused on guiding Holden out of the dark.
When Beau was 11-months-old, she had the flu. Although she had been sick multiples times in one day, she didn’t seem too bothered by it. She had a placid look in her eyes, and although I was aware she was ill, I didnt think it was anything urgent. So, we went on as usual.
As the day came to a close, I stopped in my tracks, realizing that Beau hadn’t had a wet diaper all day.
I rushed her to the hospital, and sure enough, Beau was very dehydrated and needed IV fluids. Even as a team of doctors poked Beau for two hours, trying to find a vein, she barely whimpered.
My heart broke for my little girl. I kept thinking, “if only she had complained.” From that day on, whenever I see that placid look in Beau’s eyes, I know to monitor her closely, otherwise she will fly under my radar.
Beau growing up so far is a blur to me. At least up to when our twins were born, when Beau was three-and-a-half. That is when she found her voice, and started to make sure she was heard.
That voice, has many times brought me to my knees. She can drive me crazy, be so stubborn, and is easily the loudest person in our house.
It took her a little while, but she is now carving out her place in the world (and this family) in a big way.
Although she can be trying sometimes, I am grateful that she has become such a force. It’s not easy being the middle child. I know. I was her too.
For a long time, I always compromised, apologized, kept the peace and flew under the radar.
I applaud Beau for insisting the sky is green when we tell her it’s blue. For turning up her volume when we ask her to take it down a notch. And for being the pack leader among all four of our kids.
The days following our lengthly cuddle, I noticed a shift. Beau was still loud, and still leading the pack, but her meltdowns were almost non-existent. Her emotions didn’t always resemble a rollercoaster, and a calm confidence started to emerge.
Since that day, I am remembering the forgotten child. I am not only relying on our occasional one-on-one time together, or our bedtime routine to connect. I am grabbing her as she bounces by, multiple times each day, and sitting her on my lap, as I softly kiss her forehead, rub her back and play with her hair.
I walked around my home trying to pull together outfits for all four of my kids, so that my husband, Mike could take them out, to give me a much needed break. The screams from bored toddlers and cries from my 5-year-old, who was already in a funk, but her big brother decided to go poke the bear, echoed through our house.
I was done. I could feel my chest tighten and hot tears started streaming down my cheeks.
As I tried to compose myself while quickly wiping away my tears, I couldn’t hide my sniffles as I walked down the stairs. Mike overhead this telltale sound and said, “what’s wrong?” “Everything.” I replied as the sobs started to exit my body. “I feel like I am failing. If I am being really honest, I am not enjoying motherhood lately.” Instinctively, he thought he was supposed to ramp up the discipline. He stormed around the house trying to create order, but really, he was only adding an extra level of tension.
Our kids started to mirror our tension and fights broke out in front of us.
I turned to Mike and said, “the balance is off right now. I know it’s me. I know that my lack of joy and level of impatience is creating a toxic environment that everyone is feeding off of. We need to problem solve this in a real way.” I could see understanding wash across his face.
Before he walked out the door, he looked back at me, as a fresh tears started to appear on my face. “I am failing as a mom,” I sobbed. “No you aren’t. In fact it’s the opposite. You care so much. We will fix this, like we always do.”
While Mike and the kids were out, it dawned on me. I was waiting for spontaneous moments of joy with my kids to come to me. Why was I not initiating activities and outings that I would also find enjoyable and fun?
Once they arrived home, I packed up our 5-year-old, Beau, and the two of us went out to get her hair cut, have a little one-on-one time, and chat about each of us listening to each other better.
Then later that day, we all sat down, as a family and enjoyed colouring together. I love being creative, so this was bliss for me.
By the time we packed up the art supplies, not only were the kids’ emotional buckets filled, but so was mine. Something that in the past, I wasn’t doing enough of.
Of course, the craziness resumed, and fights still break out, but just having those moments of joy with my kids, makes all of motherhood a lot more enjoyable.
Watch our day as it unfolded, starting with my mini meltdown…
When you become a parent, your love really does multiply each time you have another baby. But no matter how much we try, our time does not multiply along with each new addition. Although you obsess less with each kid, because you just don’t have the time to, it is tricky when it comes to making sure everyone is getting enough attention.
I am finding that quality time spent with each of my four kids has to be much more deliberate, especially as they get older. Reality is, I don’t have time to play with my children very often. I am almost always cleaning, preparing meals, changing diapers, bathing and pretty much keeping our family afloat. My husband, Mike, works long hours and every day we do the best job we can as parents.
I try to take opportunities to connect with each child and make sure they know they are special, like making a big deal with lots of hugs and kisses when I first see them in the morning. We also split the kids up as often as possible when running errands.
But, one of the most deliberate things we do is take our kids on special dates. Together, Mike and I think about what each child is interested in, and plan special outings tailored to each of them.
This past weekend, I took our oldest daughter, Beau, to the ballet to see The Nutcracker. She is our little ballerina, and I have been wanting to take her to see The Nutcracker for a very long time. I bought her a fancy dress, and braided her hair exactly as she had asked.She was mesmerized for the first half of the ballet, but as intermission was coming to a close, she started to melt down. Aside from being tired, she knew that her brother, Holden was at home making a ginger bread house with Mike, and she became fixated on the idea of wanting to do that too.
I was okay with cutting our outing short. She is only four, and that is a long time for her to sit. But as I guided her out of the theatre, she threw a full-on temper-tantrum. Which, unfortunately, is not too unusual for Beau. She began pulling me and screaming. Her face was read and she was sobbing so hard she could barely get a word out. I could see parents glancing over at us with looks on their faces like “oh man, have I been there before.”
I was able to keep myself calm, but my chest tightened as I heard the familiar sound indicating that intermission was over. I finally got her outside and into our car.
I at there quietly for a minute . Beau was still sobbing and I was trying to decided if I should lecture her, or I use this moment to listen and connect so that we could understand each other. I told Beau that we weren’t in a rush, and I was ready to listen and talk when she was.
Finally Beau calmed down enough that she was able to tell me that she wanted both, to stay for the rest and go home and make ginger bread houses. I hugged her and let her know that I thought she sat really well for the play and that I would read her the nutcracker at bedtime so we can find out how it ended.
I embraced the unexpected moment in my car, with just the two of us. It gave me a chance to tell her what a great sister she was being to her siblings, and that I think she is doing an incredible job in school. I was also able to explain that when she throws these temper tantrums, I have a very hard time understanding what it is she really wants. She really listened, and since then we have been listening to each other more.
Although our special date took an unexpected turn, I will look back at that memory with happiness. Even the part in the car afterwards.It can be easy for our kids to feel lost in the shuffle.
But Mike and I will continue to make sure that each child feels special and feels like they are being heard.