I asked on my Facebook page what people wanted me to blog about and somebody mentioned the stressors of new parenthood and coping strategies. Coping? You funny! I am sure that those other mothers, the ones with standards and ideals and skills laughed at what I considered coping as they compared their serene little cherubs to my shrieking monkeys. . . but yes, I guess I did cope in my own way. These aren't the tips you will find in most parenting blogs or Martha Stewart magazines but they worked for me. We are all still alive on the planet, after all.
1.) Sleeping: I do not want to start a debate here (remember, this is what worked FOR ME) but I would not have made it past 6 weeks of parenthood without pulling my baby in bed to nurse. The first night home from the hospital with her I sat up in a freezing bedroom with a nasty cold and a throbbing caesarean incision and thought if I had to do this every night I would surely die. Once I figured out the lying down and nursing thing it all fell into place. Sure my kids had cribs and sometimes they actually slept in them, but for the most part, my nursing babies nursed and slept right next to me and so we all got much needed sleep.
The older kids would still wander in on occasion to join the party with the baby so, after our hand-me-down queen size mattress died (see Fit For a Queen?), Matt and I put two twin mattress together to form what seemed to be about an acre of sleeping space. It was not uncommon to wake up to several kids asleep between us, piled up like puppies. Some may cluck their tongues and shake their heads but, hey, it worked.
2.) Walking: I get incredibly stir crazy. Thankfully, we had the privilege of living in walkable neighborhoods for the first 15 years of parenthood. Almost every single day I would toss however many babies I had in the stroller and go. One baby, easy. Two babies, no problem. Double strollers rock! Three kiddos? Sure, why not. You just lay down the back seat of the double stroller and you can fit two back there. Four? Yep, I did that, too. You lay down BOTH seats and just line 'em up. Yes, by the time my youngest was born, my oldest was 6 and others shuddered and thought she should be required to walk. Are you nuts? I needed exercise! Endorphins! (Besides, when she walked, she made turtles look like Olympic sprinters.) If the daily walk met with resistance from the peanut gallery, I would bribe them all with the tantalizing treat of a "Little Round Thingy,"—more commonly known as a York Peppermint Patty—from the local convenience store. There came a point when the combined weight of the four children plus the uber-sturdy stroller was more than I weighed myself but, man! I was in good shape.
3.) Libraries and books: And books and books and books. We read constantly. Not a lot else got done but we read—and lost—more library books that you can imagine. A few books even got baths. Maybe I should say we read and lost and BOUGHT more library books than you can imagine.
4.) Appliance boxes: There is nothing to compare to the appliance box for absolute fascination and joy for hours and days. Whenever I would see an appliance delivery truck in the neighborhood I would leave the kids to whatever mischief they were up to, chase down the delivery man, and drag home the Toy of the Century. Throw in some markers and a steak knife or two for sawing and you have danger and adventure all in one. This house, school, train, car, hospital, zoo. . . or whatever they turned it into, was good for several days until it was so beaten down and flattened there was no vertical function left at all. At that point the slab of cardboard went into secondary toy mode (told you it was the Toy of the Century) as a slide. We had a two-story house and there is nothing like sledding down a flight of old, hardwood stairs on a cardboard toboggan. (Unless it is sledding down stairs inside a sleeping bag or a pillow case. Those work, too!)
5.) Goals: Or maybe I should say GOAL. I only had one. Getting through each day. I know there is an awful lot out there about training up your children and teaching them important things and such but I have to admit that, FOR ME, rightly or wrongly, getting through each day (and some days seemed to last FOREVER) was a challenge in and of itself. Any special meals other than pancakes or spaghetti or cereal over and over and over again, any enriching activities, any educational opportunities, and any teachable moments were just icing on the day-in-and-day-out cake.
I know that doesn't sound like much. I know I maybe should have aspired for something more. But I was in WAY over my head. God was merciful to me. He still is.