Read an Excerpt
Survival tips for parents of preschoolers
By Becky Freeman
Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2003 Becky Freeman
All right reserved.
Here's a typical day in the life of a stay-at-home parent of a preschooler:
6:43 A.M. She's awakened with the gentle tap-tap-tapping of a small sticky hand on her sleep-laden eyelids. Gingerly, she opens one eye. Though the scene is a little fuzzy (jelly in the eyelashes doesn't help), she can make out one preschooler in sleeper pajamas holding a jar of grape jelly to his chest with his left hand, patting her tenderly with the other dimpled, jelly-coated right hand.
She smiles weakly as this child asks her to help him find the peanut butter.
7:56 A.M. Having inhaled a cup of coffee, she is now standing at the mirror, bearing only a vague resemblance to her former before-kids self, removing grape jelly pats from various and sundry parts of her body.
Preschooler is wailing in the time-out chair, where he's been banished for throwing a rabidlike fit when his peanut butter and jelly toast was cut diagonally instead of up and down. She estimates the remainder of his three-minute time-out, wondering if it's safe to risk taking the world's fastest speed-bath-alone. She sighs wistfully for those halcyon days when drawing a hot bubble bath signaled anticipated time alone, not an invitation to a hot-tub party for little people.
11:07 A.M. She opens cupboards and drawers and dumps out the toy box while looking, in vain, for a pound of hamburger she was sure was thawing on the kitchen counter. When she checks on the preschooler playing in the sandbox outside, she's just in time to see him holding the pound of hamburger by one end, giggling as the kitty happily gorges herself on the unexpected treat.
1:14 P.M. She reads Pat the Bunny six times, until finally, blessedly, the little fellow falls asleep. Tiptoeing out of the room, she glances back at the child's long lashes, his little round tummy rising and falling with each breath, and dashes back to kiss his soft cheek. Then she tosses the mental coin: Does she take a nap or clean the house that looks as if it's falling down around her ears? She yawns and sinks down beside the resting child, curling her body around his, sucked into the undertow of sleep.
3:22 P.M. On a walk to the park she answers seventy-six questions, all beginning with "Why," "What," or "How." She is a walking encyclopedia of preschooler knowledge: why some worms wear sweaters, why fingers have two elbows, what baby robins eat. Forget Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? If they only had a game show called Who Wants to Be a Mommy? she'd win-and big. Keeping a preschooler informed-with age-appropriate answers-takes more stamina and more scientific knowledge than any existing game show, and it requires gargantuan nerves of steel.
5:00 P.M. She makes a stab at a slapdash job of housekeeping and opens a can of SpaghettiOs for dinner (since little Prince Charming made sure Kitty enjoyed tonight's originally planned entree). She hears an ear-shattering clatter-an all-too-familiar noise she's come to dread. The offspring has managed to pull the toy box into the kitchen and dump the contents on the tile floor-again. She wonders how he gets the strength to haul a huge toy box from room to room, but goes weak-kneed and limp when required to pick up one plastic Duplo block.
6:53 P.M. Dad comes through the door and surveys the daily damage that a three-foot child can wreak upon a two-thousand-square-foot house. He looks hopefully toward the kitchen stove, frowns, and asks, "So tell me, what did you do all day?"
9:47 P.M. The little one is finally asleep after a thirty-minute wild romp in the bathtub (splashing enough water on the floor to float a battleship), ten more readings of Pat the Bunny, six choruses of "I want a drink of water," and four of "I need to go potty." She stumbles to her own room, notices a hopeful look on her husband's face and silently turns the small decorative pillow face up, so that the "Definitely Not To-night" embroidered message can say it all. He pouts. She reminds him that the "What did you do all day?" question didn't exactly get her love motor in gear.
10:14 P.M. She falls asleep while trying to remember the calm, collected, organized woman she was before stretch marks, spit-up, and tantrums rocked her world. Her husband lies in the dark, fondly remembering when "teddies" meant sexy lingerie instead of stuffed fuzzy bears.
That's a basic agenda for a parent who's home all day. The parent who works part-time or full-time has to come up with pants with no orange-juice stains, a briefcase without oatmeal dumped inside, and time to do three loads of laundry between the preschooler's bedtime and her own. The working parent puts in long hours of dealing with work pressures and people and comes home longing for a haven of rest and refreshment-only to find that Junior still has plenty of energy and wants to use it all playing with Mom or Dad. The challenges of parenting are intense-and unrelenting.
Even though you and your spouse both love your child more than life itself, do you ever wonder if you actually have the strength to raise him without losing your mind (or your marriage)?
If this mom's scenario seemed awfully familiar, no doubt it's because your own days are riddled with the unexpected from the moment you wake up until you drop into bed at night. Whatever plans you make are subject to change completely, depending on the moods and mishaps your preschooler brings to the mix. That combination of reasoned, intentional planning and rolling-with-whatever-comes is hard to achieve with grace-and with your temper under control.
I have a sincere empathy for men and women in this stage of parenting. These preschool years-before a child moves on to more independent pastimes and an ability to go fifteen minutes without Mom's or Dad's attention-are especially tough. When I'm asked in interviews which stage of parenting I consider the most difficult, I don't hesitate to name the preschool years. Though teenagers bring their own set of challenges, the most physically and mentally demanding and exhausting stage of parenting is the time when your children are preschoolers. There are so few "breathers" for the parent of a preschooler, whose neediness is non-stop. For a few years, you can't let your guard down ("It's too quiet. What are they up to now?"), can't go take a nap anytime you want (and you want one all the time), can't take your eyes off them ("Where did they go?"), can't go to the bathroom alone (Knock, knock, knock. "Mommy, can I come in? What are you doing, Mommy?" Knock, knock, knock).
In researching the most prevalent problems parents of preschoolers face, I found that exhaustion and burnout top the list. Feelings of isolation (for both stay-at-home parents and working parents who are too busy for their friends) and aching spiritual needs run a close second.
Parents of preschoolers are looking for information, asking almost as many questions as their little ones:
* How can I get some rest and stay healthy?
* How early is too early to potty train?
* How can I get her to eat?
* What do I do when he throws a tantrum?
* I get so much advice, but which child-rearing technique really is best?
* How do I keep my child occupied without resorting to too much TV?
* If I'm home all day with the kids, how can I keep my brain from atrophying?
* What will make bedtime easier for the whole family?
* How can I teach my child about God?
In these pages, we'll touch on all of these areas and more.
If we put a childless, well-dressed CEO of a major corporation into a home with two or three preschoolers (ah, toss in a baby, too, just for fun) and evaluated the CEO at the end of the week, I guarantee that he would no longer be the same person-physically or mentally. In fact, my guess is that the CEO would be on his knees, begging to be allowed to go back to work.
Parents don't have an easy out, and deep down they don't really want one. This God-given child is theirs to love and discipline-to shape for a healthy, productive grown-up life. After all, Proverbs 22:6 tells us, "Teach your children to choose the right path, and when they are older, they will remain upon it." Because they love their children, parents hang in there. I personally feel that any mom or dad who is still standing and smiling at the end of a typical week home alone with small children deserves a medal of honor.
Want to earn that medal of honor? This book holds some of the keys of help and humor to get you to the end of each day.
Excerpted from Survival tips for parents of preschoolers by Becky Freeman Copyright © 2003 by Becky Freeman
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Table of Contents
|1||A Day in the Life||1|
|2||Life Support: Nap Time for Mom and Dad||9|
|3||Life Support: 911 for Parents||17|
|4||Life Support: Staying Healthy||23|
|5||Life Support: Living Simply||29|
|6||Healthy Habit: Escaping through Books and Music||39|
|7||Healthy Habit: Keep Your Sense of Humor||47|
|8||Healthy Habit: Life of the Spirit||51|
|9||Problem Solving: What's Going on in That Little Brain?||57|
|10||Problem Solving: Potty Training||63|
|11||Problem Solving: Finicky Eaters||67|
|12||Problem Solving: The Dilemma of the Biter||71|
|13||Problem Solving: Encouraging Creativity||77|
|14||Problem Solving: Discipline with Grace||85|
|15||Problem Solving: Better Bedtimes||95|
|16||Problem Solving: Teaching Your Child about God||99|
|17||Famous Last Words||105|