I have encountered advice almost daily about pausing before reacting in exasperating moments with children. There was a point in my life as a parent when my automatic reaction was no longer to be charmed or filled with wonder at the things a child said, but overwhelmed by the sheer volume and quantity of the things coming out of four different little mouths. I could feel myself making the choice to be annoyed, all the time. I slowly shifted toward viewing everyone as getting in the way of my goals, which usually involved getting through four loads of laundry or a bunch of dishes in the sink, or a whole host of other, legitimate tasks. While I could still appreciate them as cute, clever, amusing, and all of that, I wasn’t enjoying them anymore. Luckily, my slow-to-learn mind eventually caught on that this was a losing proposition, as (a) they were never going to stop doing what they do such that I would no longer be bombarded with “input,” (b) I was never going to stop having a long to-do list, and (c) my consistently negative reactions were making everyone miserable.
Luckily, this has been a relatively short-lived part of our lives together, but I do so regret now how I got lost in that wrong mindset. Since I had my little epiphany, I have made a very simple and deliberate decision in (at least 80 percent of) all instances to react with kindness, to listen, to “be with,” and to laugh with my sweet babies. They have noticed the difference. Today we made cookies together, and baking with all four is very easily seen as a project to avoid at all costs, but with the new mindset, it’s just a thing we’re doing together. The goals and expectations are left behind and only the simple pleasure of being together remains. I used to know that, and I’m so happy to have found my way back again.