It was plainly obvious that something was not working in my daily rhythm. The afternoons from when my littlest woke from his sleep till he went to bed at night – sometimes far later than he needed – were not pleasant. My littlest was displaying plain naughty characteristics and I was becoming a more cranky Mummy by the minute. Each afternoon was turning into a battle. I would dread it. The older children were missing out on my focused attention and any response I gave was certainly not in a loving tone of voice. The littlest, well, he just got into anything and everything he knew he wasn’t allowed. And my husband would arrive home every day to a very frazzled family and a wife ready to explode.
Not a good way to live. And if this was only an odd day here or there, I’d just let it pass. But it was becoming a daily occurrence. Now, I’ve learnt a thing or two about this parenting lark. Until this point I had been battling a strong-willed 2 year old and ‘locking horns’ with him. And as you wiser Mums out there know, this is a rather unproductive way of approaching a situation such as this. So I got to thinking, the problem wasn’t really his behaviour. Because that was just the outward action, it wasn’t the cause of the problem. What was the cause? What was it that this littlest one of mine needed? Why did he seem so angry at the world? What was going on inside him for this to be the outworking?
I decided to give one day to observing him and giving him lots and lots and lots of focused attention, in an effort to break the cycle of our rather unpleasant afternoons. That’s when I discovered the answer. I was getting distracted each afternoon. Not completing enough in his sleep time and feeling short-changed. Then I would spend the afternoons in a distracted state. Maybe reading some blogs or checking facebook or googling something or…….. but I was feeling unfulfilled myself and was giving my attention to a screen rather than my family. (Humbling moment, I realise the cause is more about me than the little one.)
Now that I realised the my littlest one was really just needing a Mummy to be present and not distracted in the world of www’s and smart phones. What a relief. So I’ve set up a new afternoon rhythm around here. And it’s working wonders. The entire family is more content, less arguments, Mummy is happier which seems to trickle through to the whole family. I tend to greet my husband with a smile instead of a ‘I can’t take this any longer’ type of desperation. Just changing my afternoon to become present with my children for an hour or so has made a massive difference. And we all like it.
And, well, I almost feel a bit embarrassed telling you the simplicity of it all. What do I actually do? Well, I turn off all screens after the children’s rest time. Unless I need to make a phone call or something, well that’s fine, but not to have them around to waste my time and take my attention. And I, wait for it, this is the big, big, big change. I make a deliciously, hot, freshly ground, coffee. Take some embroidery and sit on our back deck. Yup. That’s it. Basically I take an hour out of my ‘feeling bored’ ‘wasting time’ afternoon and do what I would chose to do if I ‘had more time’ (win, win all around). The little one plays happily in the sandpit or back yard with minimal attention from me. But he knows I’m there to help him or watch him or give him attention if he needs it. The older children come and go. Different every day. Sometimes they join in the play outside, sometimes one will sit and chat with me (which I enjoy immensely), sometimes they might pick up a project and stitch alongside me, sometimes they might be busy inside. But everyone is productively enjoying the time.
Needless to say, I’m now LOVING my afternoons instead of dreading them. And our family is a much more content entity as a result of me taking an hour or two each afternoon to enjoy the outdoors with a coffee and embroidery in hand. What a delightful answer to a problem.