GUEST BLOG POST: Finding Magic in the Mayhem by Bernadette Noll, author, Look At Us Now

Bernadette Noll photoI don’t think I need to tell you that parenting can be hectic. Whether you have one child or five, whether you are a single mom or happily coupled, whether you have toddlers or teens, on many days the mess of parenting seems to far outweigh the calm. So how can we find joy and contentment in the everyday? Not instead of hectic-ness but in the face of it?

When my kids were little I had a short list of things I could do to ground myself when things were getting wonky. Stand by the kitchen sink and slowly drink a glass of water, walk the perimeter of the yard, lay face down on the living room floor in an elongated child’s pose, or, perhaps my favorite, play a game of don’t-touch-me which involved me running away from my kids shouting “DON’T TOUCH ME!” while they ran in feverish circles trying to get a piece of me. It was a game sure, but it allowed me to shout what I was really feeling and allowed them to run and chase me with feverish fervor. A win-win! And in the end, we would end up in a pile-on, all of us laughing hysterically and finding connection in the crazy. Even in the wildest of parenting times, with a little creative thinking there are ways to capture the good even when all hell is breaking loose!

When my oldest was born, I started a journal for her. As years went on, I kept a journal for each of my kids. With each added child the writings became way more random but my older sister wisely advised me not to feel guilty, just do what I could. There were no rules. As years went on, I longed for a family journal instead – one that would have a bit about each of them as individuals and about us as a family. I wished too that I had let them make entries in their own books instead of having it be all me. Luckily, my youngest’s book reaped the benefits of that wisdom.

Keeping a family journal helped me see the magic in the mayhem and also to see the good in each of my kids; without guilt or judgement and with laughter and appreciation. Of course these entries were often made late at night when all were sound asleep. And what child doesn’t seem angelic when curled up in a deep sleep!

I encourage families everywhere to pause for a minute and take a glimpse at family life through a lens of fun and understanding that where we are now changes constantly. And if you’re having trouble getting to truly seeing the good, here are five simple ways to find the fun in the frenzy…

  • List 10 appreciations. Sometimes the very things that drive us crazy about our kids can also make us laugh in appreciation after the fact. Appreciations helps us re-frame the experience in a way that feels like something to celebrate! For example, got a kid that refuses to brush his teeth? How about appreciating that child’s stick-to-it-tive-ness! Once your kids are old enough to speak, try a family round of appreciations and keep an ongoing list. It’s amazing how once you start looking for the good, you will see more good all around.
  • Schedule less. Sometimes the mayhem comes from having too much on our plates. Check out your family’s to-do list or your own. Is there anything on there that can be eliminated or postponed? When we are more spacious with our time, often we can handle things more smoothly – the adults and the children too!
  • Change it up. Is dinner time always a battleground? Have a picnic in the backyard. Eat UNDER the table. Lay a blanket on the living room floor. Break the routine and add some fun.
  • Choose a page from Look At Us Now to chronicle the crazy. Pause and write down what’s happening right now or interview each member to find out their current favorite thing. Turn the craziness into a tool for connecting.
  • Stretch your imagination. Do your kids want to eat ice cream for dinner? Meet their request with a giant imagination. Something like, “what if we could eat ice cream for dinner? What if all we ate from now on was ice cream? What if we filled the tub with ice cream and just sat in there and ate until it was ALL gone??” You’re not actually giving them ice cream but it’s better than a boring no and at least their desire is acknowledged. Then poll each family member and write down their wildest desire. Sometimes our desires are satisfied simply by being heard.

I don’t have a magic wand by any stretch of the imagination, but I do know after  56 child years of parenting, (that’s all my kids ages added up) that when I laugh more and appreciate more and recognize that where we are right now is only right now, parenting does seem a little bit easier.

bernadettebookBERNADETTE NOLL is the author of LOOK AT US NOW: A Creative Family Journal and Slow Family Living, as well as the cofounder of Her writing has been featured in Mothering, Parents, and other publications. She lives in Austin, TX, with her four children.


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