Q&A: Getting Stuff Done with Kids Underfoot?
Q&A: My 2 practical questions are:
I have a 2.5 yr old and 11 mo old twins….all boys….all active. The twins swarm my 2.5 yr old and it makes him angry, so he shoves / etc. We discipline him for this, but I have a hard time blaming his reaction when they are coming at him from both sides. I have no idea how to keep all of them near to me AND keep them separated or how to train them to get along.
Secondly, how do you get things done while also paying attention to your kids and bringing them along with you? If I let my twins near me, they are literally crawling all over my body. My two year old immediately starts competing for attention when they do this because he feels left out. For instance, do you have any resources about blanket training? What age do you start? Is there an age that is too late to start?
A: You said: “I like the idea of keeping them closer, but also need to die to my desire to do chores and my ‘own thing’ un-encumbered by littles latched at my knees.” And I just wanted to say– me too. So when you’re praying that for you, pray it for me too. Cause that is hard for us all.
I think we all are easily given over to the idea of getting things done, and much less apt to be honed in on the work at the heart-level, with day-in, day-out presence. The checklist and things done shows up so easily… we can see what we’ve done, and others can too, and we feel achievement in that. (And pretty much all of us in this modern world have been reared with a heart seeking after achievement.) So we run to that which is measurable, and that which is less measurable (the incremental change of little hearts) can easily be pushed to the side.
So. Practically… first, for the 2.5 year old, I would try to set up some sort of space where he can play on his own from time to time (things like pattern blocks on the dining table) where they can’t mess up what he’s doing. Cause, yeah, that is frustrating, to feel like you can’t do anything, build anything, etc, without being swarmed. LOL. Poor little guy.
At the same time, I would try to build in some times of “wrestling” on the floor– you with all of them. Things like– tell the two year old that his goal is to try to, for example, make your legs go flat. All the while, you’re able to kiss, snuggle, twist, tickle, grab and growl, etc., with the twins. If he gets your legs flat to the ground, he wins. Boys love this kind of play… Or, take turns lifting them up on your shins and bouncing them. Getting him to, at times, learn how to gently wrestle with and love on them, so that they aren’t always seen as little pests, but he can (on his two-year-old level) see how to have fun with them, how to be gentle, etc. It’s not going to be perfect. He’s two. But he can start to have a good time with them at intervals in the day, without it constantly being that they’re messing up his fun.
And on the second question, in your case, I would definitely try blanket training, or using two pack and plays, and letting the 2 year old help you in the kitchen, for example, help make lunch, help put dishes away, etc. He is old enough to stand in front of the dryer while you hand him laundry to throw in. Yes, it will take longer. For a year or two. But he will eventually start being able to truly be a help to you. The only way that happens is for him to learn to help you at times when it isn’t actually a help to you. As one of our friends said, with a smile on his face after our 2 & 4 year old “helped” him with dishes, “Thank you boys SO MUCH for doing dishes with me… with your help, it only took TWICE as long.”
For blanket training, 11 months old is actually a really great time to start. It will be slow going at first (for a week or two) while they “get it”– which means you won’t be able to get as much done during those times. But it will pay off if you are diligent and consistent, because it will go from just 5-10 minutes of independent play to being able to do 30-45 minute stretches happily on the blanket, engrossed in their own toys/books/etc. The alternative (if that isn’t appealing) would be to use two pack and plays, or two sealed-off areas (gates?) that are visible to you, where they can safely play on their own. (Here’s a pretty thorough “how to”/”why” post about blanket time… that’s a good start for you to have a picture of what it is I mean when I use that term.)
Also, honestly, when they are little, I used nap times to try to tackle any “must do” items that I couldn’t get done with them awake.
Sometimes parenting/training really will take up most of your time, especially in the early years, but then, the pay off is that it produces peace and joy in your home later on.
Keep at it.
And don’t feel too much guilt about wanting to “get them settled with toys so you can get others things done.” That’s OK too. I bet Mary did that to Jesus, and I think every mom does. That’s just normal.
It’s not that every minute of every day has to be with them attached at the hip. But it’s that you’re purposeful as you go about your day, training as you go, bringing them along to help and learn to be contributors to your home, etc., smiling at them, spending time together laughing and learning, teaching them what a cup of flour means, etc.
Sometimes it will also mean setting them down with toys to play so you can get things done. There’s no harm in that. Hang in there.
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