Parenting Small Chillruns

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Henry is in a unique position in our family. He’s the youngest of five boys. He has a younger sister. She is the first girl in this family. He has one little sister and four older brothers.

Henry is younger by more than five years. That’s a lot. As such, Henry’s parents have a sense of how fast time goes, how this little fella won’t be little for long. His parents have a better grasp on the fleeting years of toddlerhood, and how Henry isn’t really even a toddler anymore but a very young boy who is filled with all the charm and impish behavior we love about having boys.

We know this doesn’t last. Oh yes the charm and impishness does, but some of the sweetness (and pain-in-the-behind stuff too) — it doesn’t last forever. We know this know because we have watched four other boys fade out of little boy stage and become the boys who climb onto their bikes and go explore the neighborhood. Every chance they get.

We know it won’t be forever that Henry puts up a fight at bedtime. It won’t be forever that irrational reactions greet us when we say simple phrases like “time for bath” or “let’s eat dinner.” Why the fuss? What’s the big deal? These days, we don’t worry too much about it because all too soon you will be big enough to understand and you’ll act closer to what we’d like to see (i.e. sane and reasonable).

Of course Henry is sane and reasonable — for a four-year-old. And we get that now, that so many of the things we see now are just a part of the deal of growing up.

And yet…and yet

There are plenty of things we have to take care of now. Things that don’t seem like a big deal, compared to what bigger issues there could be, except that ignoring these things could lead to bigger issues.

I have found myself dreading bedtime lately, because putting Henry to bed has become a much greater feat than anything we’ve ever dealt with before. I’ve always been no-nonsense when it comes to bedtime — do the rituals of bath and story and prayers and then, kiss and goodnight. No long drawn-out histrionics.

But with Henry we had been lulled into short-timers mentality. He’d get out of bed a hundred times and we’d use empty threats and think “this won’t last forever” and pretty soon we had a kid who went to bed the same time as us.

Parenting Sanity Saver No. 1: The parents should always have time in the evening without the kids (at least until they are teens and stay up later than you which we don’t have yet but I can see it coming).

I can’t stay calm and at peace if I don’t ever get a break. I love (lovelovelove) this kid, but we need some downtime.

So last night we regrouped and came up with a plan. And it worked! I followed through with making my expectations clear (don’t get out of bed or this is what will happen…”). And my son understood. And we had a victory! He went to bed with very little fanfare and we had some needed downtime.

Another thought I’ve been having, as I prayed through my ennui of late, was that I need to Be Present to my kids. When they are next to me, I need to be aware of what they need.

A few days ago one of the boys came up next to me and it finally occurred to me that what he wanted was a hug. He stood there, right by my side and I after a minute I hugged him and he hugged me back and told me how happy he was to be home.

I almost missed that moment because I was so focused on some silly little task in front of me, unloading the dishwasher or signing a permission slip. I can’t even remember now but I do indeed remember that hug.

And while I realize this is true for all my children it’s especially so for Henry. Be Present — don’t just tolerate his presence but tune in to what he’s saying (and doing!).

This is not making little Johnny the center of my universe, but it’s taking time with him. It’s not about always just keeping track but about making connections. When he is here talking to me, it’s tuning in acutely — it’s better to give him 100 percent of my attention for the time he needs instead of always trying to do five things at once (thus, if my math serves me, giving everything 20 percent, including my boy).

It’s a tricky balance with little children, especially when you have older children. I want to have that balance between not making a big deal out of the little things, but not missing the opportunity to train my child in the way he should go. Sure he’ll eventually learn to stay in bed. But teaching him obedience, right now in this season — that is key.

And, bottom line, I find that when I follow through with setting good healthy boundaries, my child appreciates it. And instead of parenting feeling like an overwhelming task it actually feels fun. 2771″>



  1. Our youngest boy sounds very similar. No naps, holding his hand to fall asleep while our other four kids go to bed without any problems. Our 16 year old often ends up in bed before the 3 year old. Youngest boy also has his own room while our baby girl shares with two other brothers.

    I’ve been trying really hard to be present too by limiting computer and telephone time. It usually works except sometimes I need adult interaction and I realize the three at home don’t really have great manners when I do need “my time”.

  2. I have really enjoyed reading your blog. In fact, I look forward to checking for the latest entry every day. I can relate to a lot of what you are writing about and it seems as though you are speaking straight to me and the season that I am in with my children! Nice to know that I am not alone! Thanks! Love and (((HUGS))) cousin

  3. Ugh, the teenage thing is SO true (as is the rest!).The new nightly ritual in our house is “put little kids to bed, send older kids to bed, remind 16 yr old to shut off all the lights before he goes to bed as we go off to bed.”. As night-owlish as I am, I cannot compete with a teenager on this one! DH and I long for the day when we have our own Master Suite, where we can retire to our own quarters for wine, cheese, reading, and relaxation. Not thinking that’s going to happen anytime soon! 😉

  4. Oh Rachel- I hear you! I too am aware with number 5 that these seasons pass quickly, and I find myself being far more of a pushover with the baby than the older 4. Yet he needs and deserves the guidance and discipline that the other 4 have had. I also identify with ‘being present’. Too often I’m doing 4 things at once and I wonder if my children will remember a very distracted mummy.- mentally and physically trying to multitask bu in the process missing the most important moments of all. Thank you for raising this point. Xx

  5. Oh, Rachel, I totally get this…I think the gift of having a big family is that you do see quickly what IS important and needs to be dealt with, and what will just be outgrown…a “stage”. But it is easy to mistake one for another…and like you said, we have seen it with our own eyes-those little things that don’t seem like such a big deal turning into monsters.
    And the bedtime thing? I have teenagers all the way down to a 3 year old…I am never alone, never ever get time to myself anymore before bed…homework, sports, etc…that is one thing I will always miss, and it has pushed my endurance to the max. One good thing…I am a morning person, my husband is a night owl…I sometimes shut the door, go to bed at 10 or 10:30, and he is up with the kids who are doing homework till 11. I used to complain about having to “put” kids to bed….oh how I wish I could “PUT” a 17 year old to bed..tuck him in, turn out the lights at 8 or 9 and say “I am done for the day”. I miss those days! Motherhood sure requires different things at different stages and none of it as easy…fun sure, but not always easy.
    Love your posts, love your blog, love your book!

  6. Our youngest is 7. The last thing we have to do after telling him good night is to let him ask us a question, or we have to ask him one. I don’t know when this got started. It’s usually, “what’s your favorite (blank)” It’s kinda funny.