Thirty Rules for Child Care

Never walk through a sword battle.

As soon as you are all settled into the big chair giving the baby a bottle, all hell will break loose.

When they beg you to read to them all morning, and then you sit down to do it, they’ll go back and play in the pool.

When it’s all quiet and you think you have a minute to make a phone call, all of a sudden four children will need you DESPERATELY.

Say you take the kids out for a walk on a cold day. The toddler will rip his hat and mittens off and throw them on the ground at least five times. When you finally give up the fight and shove them in your bag, someone will walk by and helpfully inform you that “He looks so COLD!” Just keep walking.

Baseball bats and day care don’t mix.

This job is really, really hard. But if you’re up for the hard work, it’s totally worth it.

Have a routine. I cannot stress this enough. Without a routine they will eat you alive.

Take care of yourself first. A stress management teacher said that the heart is the perfect metaphor for a care provider. It pumps blood back into itself before it sends it out to the rest of the body. If I could remember that every day, I would be a much happier person.

You set the tone. At any time, no matter what the circumstances, you have the power to change that tone.

Be nice to kids, and they will be nice to you. Love kids, and they will love you. Be mean to kids, and you will be sorry.

Every once in a while (and with the right mix of kids), bake something yummy, just for the heck of it.

If it’s in their reach, they’ll touch it. Move it, lock it, hide it if you don’t want it touched. I have baskets in strategic locations (that they can’t reach) where I hide all my kids’ toys. (Yea, that would be Older and Younger Son’s toys, which need to be put away by them, but that’s another story for another day.)

If you’re tired, go to bed early. Don’t worry if you don’t have a plan for tomorrow or there are dirty dishes in the sink. You will all be better off if you are rested, and dirty dishes in the sink are less important than you being at your best.

Have a circle time. Even if you think this is impossible, and you have an infant crawling over the kids who are sitting and one or two who keep getting up to get toys (which are banned from circle time) and others who are trying to grab the book you are reading: it’s worth it. They get so much from this time. And eventually, or maybe one day for only ten minutes, they will all sit still and listen.

When you feel like throttling children, sing a song. I promise you, it works every time.

If you are at the park and there are four or five moms there, each with one or two kids, and you have five, and you all parked in the same area, you will be the one who the park ranger asks to move her car.

Working with kids, more than any other job in the world, forces you to be in the moment. Give in to it. Because one moment may stink, but a great one is coming soon. I swear.

Know that your house and/or possessions will be damaged.

If a child is yelling at you from the livingroom but you’re in the kitchen, ignore them. If they keep it up, reply in a very sweet, sing-song, ’50s mom voice, “I’m in the kitchen!” This works for all other rooms too.

Play music every day, even if it’s at naptime.

Go outside every day, even if it’s the dead of winter and just getting all the coats/hats/boots/mittens/scarves on takes thirty minutes, and then you’re only outside for five. Even if it’s raining and you just go jump in puddles for five minutes. You will all feel better.

Expect to get sick. Occupational hazard.

Have rules and stick with them. If you’re wishy washy on something, just one time, that rule will take a long time to re-establish.

You are the grownup. Get educated on child development and know that when they’re acting crazy, it’s because they’re little kids. Be the grownup and figure out how to handle it without making it worse.

But this doesn’t mean you should let them walk all over you. Be firm, consistent, and strong without bullying. Follow the rules and expect the same of them.

Children will rise to your expectations.

One of my favorite phrases (I’m sure I stole it from someone) is: “My ears don’t hear whining!”

Rainy days stink, there’s just no denying it. If you can stand it, go outside and splash in puddles, it’s mah-valous. If you can’t, you must get them moving as much as possible inside the house without any physical harm or lamps being knocked over (of course that’s happened! Many many times!). I recommend dancing, yoga, jumping jacks, balloon toss, and The Running Game.

There’s just no easy way to clean up mac & cheese. If you wipe with a sponge it leaves a snail trail of processed cheese on the table. If you scrape it with a fork – same thing, but the macs move a little easier. If it’s on the rug, forget it, I let it dry and get it with a broom later. Usually I just end up putting on a rubber glove and picking the darn things up by hand. Ick.

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