In my house, we refer to 8:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. as “the Crazy 8s” because that’s what time the you-know-what really hits the fan.
Monday through Friday, my patience and attempts to minimize the chaos are pushed to the limit. For years my attitude ranged from "Yay, it’s almost mommy time!" to "Oh God, I can't do this again" to “I don’t care what time it is, I need a margarita.”
Whether morning or night, the pattern was always the same: 20, 10 and five minute warnings followed by reminders, followed by stalling and arguing, followed by threats and yelling, followed by everyone frustrated and upset. When I said “time to brush your teeth” what my kids heard was “time to look for spiders, clean your belly button, dress up the cat, poop, examine yourself in the mirror and rearrange your Shopkins.” And it made me CRAZY.
I tried calm reminders. I tried explaining the importance of getting to school and bed on time. I tried the heavy-handed “because I said so” approach. I read all the books: Scream-free Parenting, Raise Your Kids Without Raising Your Voice, Calmer, Happier Parenting… but it all went to hell at 8:00 a.m., right before school, and 8:00 p.m., right before bed.
Unfortunately for me, my kids and my neighbours, I’m a bit of a yeller, and those same books taught me that yelling is not only ineffective but it can also damage the parent-child relationship by eroding mutual trust and respect. Starting or ending the day in a state of upset was hard on all of us. I felt terrible because I lost my cool and failed to act like the calm and responsible adult my kids need me to be. I would vow to do better next time but rarely did, eventually realizing that the only way things would improve was if I changed my approach completely.
So one day I just stopped. I stopped rushing, cajoling, bribing, threatening and reminding. Most importantly, I stopped losing my temper over the prospect of things happening ten or 15 minutes later than I wanted them to. I finally figured out that getting my kids to hurry up meant I needed to slow down. Rushing them out the door or into bed just so I could get on my laptop or pour a glass of wine was kind of shitty parenting, not to mention unfair.
A long time ago I read something about our tendency to treat kids like little robots who must bend to our will. This really resonated with me because I knew immediately that I was failing to see my girls as independent beings with voices and opinions. I was too focused on forcing them into my schedule to consider its impact on them. I knew if I could let go of some control in the morning and at bedtime that we would all be better off.
Do kids need to learn the importance of punctuality? Yes. Do I want them to respect the timelines and wishes of others? Absolutely. But rigid adherence to my schedule is neither the hill I want to die on nor the way to teach them these things. If being ten minutes late for kindergarten or tucking them in 20 minutes late on a school night is the cost of a better relationship I’ll take that deal every day of the week. I’ll find other ways and times to teach them these lessons.
There’s a lot being said these days about how a lack of boundaries and structure are creating a generation that is ill-equipped to deal with rules, conflict and disappointment. But this is not an example of “free range” parenting or giving in to my kids’ demands. I haven’t removed the need for them to respect me and comply, I’m simply going about it a different way – one that creates less stress and helps me be a better parent overall. Once I started modeling the behavior I wanted to see in my kids we all began moving through the Crazy 8s in an entirely different way.
Want to try? Here are some tips:
- If you ask your kids to get their shoes on and no one responds, try getting yourself ready and sitting by the front door. Breaking the pattern of nagging will probably get their attention and they’ll come and find you to see what’s up. When they do, it’s an easy decision to pull on coats and boots because now it seems like their idea.
- Try to give yourself at least a 30-minute buffer when scheduling calls, meetings and appointments so the threat of being late isn’t hanging over your head during an already stressful time. If your “appointment” is with Netflix, take a deep breath and remember you’re paying $11/month for it to be there whenever you need it.
- If your kids don’t wake up hungry and it’s a struggle to get them fed before school try talking to your child’s teacher about allowing him to eat at his desk. Or send something you know he loves for recess (cut up waffles in a thermos or strawberry smoothies work for us).
- Save TV until they’ve eaten, dressed and done their teeth then press play on a pre-recorded favourite show. Nothing gets my kid moving like 20 minutes of her favourite Spongebob episode.
- We moms are great multitaskers, but when I’m trying to change over the laundry, load the dishwasher AND put the garbage out while my kids are getting ready for bed, I’m too busy checking off my own to-do list to help them get things done in a timely and organized way. Resisting the temptation to multitask means you’re focusing on the task at hand.
How are you managing the Crazy 8:00s in your house? Comment below or tweet me @wineandsmarties using #Crazy8s.
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