Recently I got a very nice compliment from one of the dads in my program. He was dropping off his daughters, Miss S and the twins Miss C and Miss D. As the father of three young girls I expect his life is pretty chaotic, so the hubbub of my house shouldn’t surprise him.
At the moment he walked in I was on the floor with the twins hugging me hello. I also had Tornado sort of hanging on one arm/laying in my lap so I was buried under three kids. Miss S was standing close by telling me (loudly) about her new shoes, Older was playing a video game (loudly), Younger was yelling (loudly) for the second breakfast he’d been badgering me for for the last 15 minutes, and I was laughing at the twins both trying to hug me at the same time.
The dad started to laugh and said, “I wish I had a camera.” I asked why and he said, “You’re just in a…a whirlwind of activity.”
I told him, “I’m glad you said ‘whirlwind’ because I say that ALL THE TIME!” So it’s actually true, and I’m not crazy.
But seriously, I’ve learned that when you are surrounded by this whirlwind of kids, you are the anchor. You have to hold it together so they don’t all start freaking out. If you are calm and relaxed, so are they.
This means staying calm under ALL circumstances. It is a LEARNED skill. Sometimes it comes naturally, sometimes it takes a lot of deep breaths (in fact, that was a runner-up for the name of this very blog).
I heard a similar comment this summer from my newest day care dad. He had come to meet me for the first time and we were just heading outside on a hot summer day. When the family walked into the yard we had the usual amount of chaos happening. A sprinkler was on and children were running through it, screaming their heads off. Tornado was walking around with an apple from the apple tree, dropping it in the dirt, picking it up and eating it, with me being able to clean it off about half of the time.
Older, Younger, and Mr. O were careening back and forth across the whole length of the yard (through all the other activities and children) playing Indiana Jones. This is an awesome game they invented with one of those huge yoga balls – they push it up to the top of the tallest slide and let it rip, with at least one of them (but sometimes two) running in front of it screaming. Like the big rock!
Four girls were getting their bathing suits on so they were all in various stages of being dressed, and I was putting sunblock on them when one got it in her eye. She was wailing so I was chasing her around with a wet towel. At that moment, one of the others pulled the plug on the pool and let the water we’d been filling it with for 15 minutes go pouring out. The other two started fighting over the hose, which was also now spilling into the grass and spraying people in the face.
The dad was watching all this and in my head I was thinking, I will never see these people again. They will run screaming and probably call the authorities on me. But I just kept up with the chit chat, answering their questions about my program while walking around putting out the fires. The dad finally looked at me and said, “I don’t know how you’re staying so calm. I’d be yelling at them all by now.”
Phew! I was amazed that out of this chaos, he somehow was impressed at my skills. And they came back! I guess they figured I work well under pressure, at least.
So we’re back to my point – yelling and freaking out don’t work. Trust me, I’ve tried. But that was a long time ago and I realized that when I start blowing my stack, so do the kids. They follow my lead. So if I laugh, they laugh. If I’m crabby, so are they. And my firm, “I mean business now!” voice works a hundred times better than suddenly SCREAMING!!! Which I may really want to do, but I know that the moment I do that I’ve lost them.
So thanks, dads, for recognizing that it takes some effort to look calm and composed in the midst of the chaos. It definitely didn’t come naturally for me, but I’m pretty damn glad I got the chance to learn how to do it. I’m sure it will come in handy when my sons become teenagers.