Last night as I was getting into bed I discovered that my toddler (who refuses to wear diapers) had wet the bed. I gently moved her, removed the waterproof bed cover, and went for a new one, only to discover there was not another clean, dry one. In the laundry room I transferred the ones from the washing machine into the dryer, and sleepily passed the time until it was dry. Finally, more than an hour after my first attempt, I went to sleep in a clean, dry bed.
I half woke when my five year climbed into bed with me. I half woke again when she climbed out a couple of hours later. I woke completely when I rolled over to where she had been laying and landed in a puddle of pee she'd left behind. I cursed. I stripped myself and the bed. I put on the other clean cover that I'd taken from the dryer only a few hours ago. I took a quick shower and went back to sleep. I woke maybe an hour later, a little earlier than regular wake up time, when my toddler got restless... and I felt the wet creeping from her pants onto me.
One short night. Three pee messes, (not counting the one the five year old left in her own bed). Pee on me twice. Six hours of broken sleep. I was not a happy camper this morning, and as usually happens, me being off my game somehow means everyone in the house is off their game as well.
Fast forward to mid-afternoon. I feel like I'm losing my mind. I was so tired, I even drank a soda - a caffeinated soda. My husband witnessed this and wondered who I was and what I had done with his wife. It almost helped perk me enough to seem worth it. The kids are behaving like wild beasties. My husband is irritating me by not doing things my way, and not intuitively knowing what he ought to be doing, and how, in order to best help fill the gaps my current foul disposition is leaving. He has now retreated to the garage. The house is even messier than usual. I've been doing urine-soaked laundry all day. There has been more whining and arguing and kids pinching each other than I currently feel capable of handling. I start another load of laundry, sit down at the computer and... am promptly interrupted by screaming from the other room, followed by whining and tattling, "Maaaaaaaaamaaaa..." "She did this." "She did that." Someone's plaything was stolen, someone's arm sports fingernail marks. You know that drill.
"That's it!" I yell. "I can't deal with this anymore. This is driving me crazy!" Not one of my finer moments, I realize even while yelling, "I'm selling you both to the gypsies!"
Pause. This is where it starts to get better. They're staring at me like I've lost my mind. Maybe I have. Maybe I need an attitude check as much as they do.
"Never mind," I say. "I'll go live with the gypsies. You two can stay here and keep screaming and making messes."
Four big eyes look at me.
"There's no real gypsies anymore, Mama... Are there," asks my five year old, brow furrowed.
"Yep. There are. And I'm going to live with them. I'm tired of trying to clean up all these messes by myself while you two scream and argue and make more messes." I am talking now, not yelling.
"Well, you're only allowed to take the clothes you're wearing," I am informed, in a stern tone.
I shrug. "Ok," I say.
"You'll have to wear them all the time, for the rest of your life. You won't have any clean ones to put on ever," she's using the serious voice still, but her brow has relaxed.
"Pssh. I can get new ones. I can make new ones. My new gypsy friends will let me borrow some of theirs until I get others." Somehow the mood is shifting. I think we all feel it.
"What if there's no gypsies your same size? And how will you buy new ones? You're not allowed to take any money. What will you eat." There's no more yelling, whining or toy-snatching going on. Seemingly by magic, where moments ago there was sibling rivalry and a frazzled mama there is now curiosity and imagination .
"There's lots of gypsies my size. I'll borrow some dancing clothes and scarves, and a pretty painted tambourine and a fancy hat. I'll dance and play the tambourine, and people who walk by will put money in the hat for me. I'll use that to buy food and new clothes, or fabric to make new clothes.Maybe I'll get a monkey and train it to dance too." I demonstrate, doing a little dance while shaking my imaginary tambourine.
Suddenly, we're story telling.
"You can take this with you, for when you make your clothes" she says, pointing to my sewing bust.
"No way," I say, "you keep it here. It's too big to carry. My back pack will be full, with my sleeping bag and my food and my first aid kit, and my monkey sitting on top."
As this tale of my life with gypsies unfolds, the toddler occasionally interjects, reiterating what the five year old and I say. In her signature fashion of creative grammar and emphatic speech, states, "you live gypeez!" and "you dance gypeez!" "You take seepin bag!? In yours pack pack!? Me. comin.' wis. you!?"
We go on to talk about how I don't like all the mess and angry noise that's been happening today, how they can stay here and make all the messes they want, and eat nothing but blueberries, granola bars, apple juice and yogurt if that's what they like, and scream and beat on each other if that's what they choose. The story evolves. We all end up living like gypsies, leaving the house to eat all the granola bars itself.
Eventually, we migrate to our living room, where they are inspired to help pick up the clutter in order to make room to create an obstacle course that involves intentional obstacles vs the the ones created in trying to avoid stepping on toys, dirty socks, and abandoned art projects. (It's too cold and windy outside for an outdoor course to be appealing to any of us right now.) They practice their jumping and somersaults while I sit and watch, and rest.
A playful story is so much more fun than screaming, and diffused the situation in a way yelling, ordering, punishing and bribery never would have. I'm not going to lie and say the rest of the day was amazing because of story telling or playful parenting genius. I will say that I think choosing to engage in a playful activity with my children rather than vent my exhaustion and frustration through yelling and punishing them for being kids took the evening in a better, healthier direction. And at least the living room was clean for a few minutes; long enough to set up an obstacle course.
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
- On being a more playful parent — Isil at Smiling like Sunshine shares how the Playful Parenting book impacted her.
- Parenting a toddler through play — Alicia at I Found My Feet lists some examples of how she uses play to parent through everyday tasks and challenges.
- Splashing in Puddles — Abbie at Farmer's Daughter shares how she learned to get dirty and have fun with her little boy.
- Say Please — Cassie at There's a Pickle in My Life explains how they taught their son manners by "play," showing that actions speak louder than words.
- No Nanny Needed — Laura at Our Messy Messy Life wishes parenting through play was her only responsibility during the day.
- I'll Run Away With Gypsies — Nikalee at Spotted Pandemonium maneuvers physical and emotional obstacles while spinning playful tales, jumping through hoops, and inspiring the kids to clean the living room.
- A Promise To My Daughter — Lindsey at An Unschooling Adventure writes a poem for her daughter promising to use play instead of anger when facing difficult situations.
- Parenting Through Play — Not Always Easy But Always Rewarding — Amy at Peace4Parents discusses how play hasn't always come easily to her, the power of appreciative observation, and how her family learns together through play.
- Imagination Plays a Role in Our Parenting — Tree at Mom Grooves shares how parents can use play to set the foundation for communication and understanding.
- A Box of Crayons — Jenn at Monkey Butt Junction talks about how a simple box of crayons has become a wonderful parenting and teaching tool.
- The Essential Art of Play — Ana at Pandamoly shares some of her favorite lessons available for young ones through play.
- The Art of Distraction — Amanda at Let's Take the Metro shares a list of distracting alternatives to harsh punishments in tough parenting situations.
- Grace and Courtesy Games at Home or School — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now has ideas for grace and courtesy games that help you encourage courteous behavior without reprimanding your child.
- I am woman, hear me roar! — Mrs Green from Little Green Blog shares how one simple sound can diffuse an argument in an instant.
- Getting Cooperation Through Play — Amyables at Toddler In Tow talks about respecting the worldview of a preschooler by using play to encourage connection and cooperation.
- Playful Parenting = Extra Energy?? — Momma Jorje didn't think she had the energy for playful parenting. See what she was surprised to learn…
- Dance Party Parenting — Laura from A Pug in the Kitchen learned how to be the parent her children need through play.
- Wrestling Saved My Life — Wrestling is as vital to her son's well-being as babywearing once was, finds Hannah at Wild Parenting.
- Parenting through play — By playing with her children, Tara from MUMmedia is given amazing opportunites to teach, train and equip her children for life.
- Parenting Through Play Starts in Infancy — In a guest post at Natural Parents Network, Issa from LoveLiveGrow shares that though she only has a 3-month-old, playful parenting has already started.
- Play Before Sleep — Adrienne at Mommying My Way writes about how playing and singing with her son before he falls asleep helps calm her frustrations that tend to arise at night.
- Playful Parenting — Or 5 Lessons My Son Has Taught Me About Parenting Through Play — Charise at I Thought I Knew Mama has learned to be a better parent by following her toddler's lead in play.
- Hurry up! Hurry up! I mean it! Quack, quack, quack! — Kellie at Our Mindful Life leads a trail of ducklings
- On the Road: Learning to Play — Seonaid at The Practical Dilettante discovers her inner adult through a summer of playing with her children.
- Preventing Tantrums Through Play — Gaby at Tmuffin explains how she keeps her household happy by not taking things too seriously.
- Carnival of Natural Parenting: Parenting Through Play — Lily, aka Witch Mom, redirects unwanted behavior in a toddler using games and play.
- Exaggerating for effect — Lauren at Hobo Mama has learned how to ham it up.
- Handling Big Emotions with Role Playing — Zoie at TouchstoneZ plays at tempering her parental frustrations while helping her children handle some big emotions
- How To Herd Toddlers by Talking Pictorially — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama demonstrates how talking in pictures is a playful way to engage your young child in transitioning from one activity to the next.
- Getting a Toddler to Go Where You Want…Playfully — Sylvia at MaMammalia describes how a game of hide-and-seek can be used to steer a wandering toddler in the direction of her choosing.
- Playful Parenting: Chores That Do Themselves — Remember chores when you were a kid? If chores were this fun for Chante at My Natural Motherhood Journey, she wouldn't have needed any reminders!
- Clown School Express: Playing away Fears — MudpieMama describes how she helped her boys confront their fears about starting kindergarten by playing with trains.
- Practicing Playful Parenting — Terri at Child of the Nature Isle realizes that playfulness is the best way through the day and seeks more ways to practice it.
- Today, Tomorrow and Every Day — Starr at Taking Time addresses her children in a letter sharing with them how improtant it is that they spend their childhood playing.
- Learning Through Immersion — Luschka at Diary of a First Child shares how she helps her daughter develop naturally without focusing on teaching, but rather by immersing her in their family's way of life and making her an active part of her environment.
- Play Here Now — Jessica at Instead of Institutions learns and relearns and tries to remember the value of play.
- Play: A Wonderful Parenting Tool — Mamapoekie from Authentic Parenting offers a list of examples on how to use play in real-life parenting situations.
- Playful Parenting — a Book Review — Erica at ChildOrganics shares simple yet sage advice from Dr. Cohen on how play can change your child's life.
- Mock Threats: Turning Real Frustration into Playful Parenting — Threatening is not an effective discipline strategy, but Dionna at Code Name: Mama explains how parents can turn their frustration into playful moments by making "mock threats."
- I'm Sick of Yelling — I Want to Play — Alicia at McCrenshaw's Newest Thoughts realizes she needs to change the way she's parenting and is forming a new plan.
- Sing-along, Brush-along Songs — Shana at Tales of Minor Interest shares a few songs to make brushing her three-year-old's teeth more fun.
- Monster Voice — Ever have those frustrating moments with your kid(s) when you just want to scream? Amy at Anktangle shares a silly strategy for getting through those difficult times.