As a full-time working mom of three small children, I am no stranger to chaos. Getting kids up and out of the door before traffic becomes slow as molasses, fitting in all I need to do for work and the occasional errand during those hours while kids are elsewhere, preparing dinner with or without their “help,” and the hectic nature of bedtime – every moment of my day is full of chaos. Finding the calm in the storm is a daily struggle.
Summertime was a particular challenge. In addition to the usual round up of daily activities, I tried hard to squeeze in moments of summertime fun. Lake days, beach days, movies in the park, vacation bible school, lazy rainy day movie marathons, you know, summer.
And it was HARD.
Summer is supposed to be about relaxing, having fun, going with the flow, and calm. For this working mom, trying to make summer feel like summer is an added stressor to an already packed schedule. Nothing is really easy; everything must be planned ahead of time. We have to have an itinerary. That just doesn’t feel like summer to me.
But it’s not about me.
It’s for my kids – ages 6, 4, and 3 … and it’s the only summer they know. They don’t know the lazy, unscheduled days of my youth. They loved knowing most weeks were different with new activities. We did two VBS programs (I discovered two is my upper limit). We had a staycation with days spent at various beaches on Lake Murray. We had a great Saturday or two spent driving around Columbia, visiting yard sales and parks. We spent time with friends we don’t see much of during the school year. We went to the Big Mo Drive-in Theatre.
It was a great summer. Full of fun. Full of laughter. Full of chaos.
As we started a new school year, balancing activities, introducing homework, and trying to squeeze in some unstructured time to just be, I’ve come to a startling realization.
Quiet doesn’t suit my family. It’s not what we are about.
So as much as I’ve fought the chaos in the past, I’ve learned now to embrace it. And yet, we still need balance. We need to find quiet moments, to bring us down to earth and help us find that peace in the middle of the storm.
How Our Family Finds Calm in the Midst of Chaos
We’ve found quiet moments in the car, surrounded by thunderstorms, as I teach them how to count the beats between spotting lightning and hearing thunder.
We’ve found moments of peace out in the dark, watching for fireflies. Sometimes we count stars and look for constellations. Most of all, I just try to get all three to be quiet at once. If this can be achieved, sometimes we are lucky enough to pick out the different sounds of nature.
We’ve found a nightly ritual that helps us reconnect. I rock each of them in turns, to the tune of whatever song they’re currently obsessed with. We started with “Rock-a-bye Baby” but now we’ve moved on to a new favorite, “My underpants are falling down” sung to the tune of “London Bridge is falling down.” It’s actually not all that peaceful, but the giggles are worth it. Sometimes we skip the song and I just spend a minute or two, as I tuck them in, making sure that they’ve told me what I need to know about each of them today.
We’ve found opportunities for dates. We are fortunate to have both sets of grandparents local. This means whenever I find that one of the kids just isn’t connecting with us as well – acting out, withdrawing, or I sense a change in their personality – I can usually schedule some time with just that child. Sometimes it’s an evening or afternoon running errands. Other times we plan around a birthday party or other child specific event that their siblings don’t need to attend. This longer stretch of time, with just one child to focus on is a great opportunity to reconnect and for us to continue to develop a parent-child bond I hope will serve us well as they grow up and spread their wings.
These small minutes of peace are so intrinsic to our ability to maintain the pace that the hours of chaos demands. They are tiny spots of perfection in our days that help me weather the storm that is life with three small children.