Have you ever felt stuck in a parenting rut? Every so often in my role as stay at home mum, I need an injection of fun. I need to shake off my bad self. Find a bit of a groove again.
We woke up grumpy yesterday. Not just on the wrong side of the bed, but the wrong side of the stratosphere. Ramona was snapping at me, I couldn’t appease her. I was getting impatient, Juno was clinging to my knees like moss on a log.
I plonked on the sofa and looked at the clock. 8.05 A.M. EIGHT OH FIVE AM?!? Give me strength.
“Shiver my timbers, children o mine. We are grumpy. Can you think of anything we can do to shake these blues away?” Without even a moment’s pause Ramona said “Have a bath, put my pyjamas on and bake chocolate biscuits.”
So, that is what we did. (Well, we tried to make biscuits but we got all maverick, slopping in some milk, and then it turned into a cake which meant we then made butter icing and shook sprinkles all over and then we sat down and ate the whole thing ourselves. It was decadent and perfect.)
And that good mood has lasted us a solid 24 hours.
It was however, the first time Ramona has been able to identify and articulate her own fug remedy. And I’m definitely crap at soothing myself out of a mood. It made me want to make a list of all the potential mood lifters for families who encounter that stuck in a rut syndrome. (A list! Yes, a list will solve everything!)
It goes without saying, that the first steps for cranky kids and cross parents is validation. Everyone needs to know it is okay to be angry, grumpy, sad or to have rubbish days. Children need to hear that their big feelings are accepted and that there is room for their bad selves. That is unconditional parenting.
But when bad moods are due to disconnection, or getting in a cycle of bad communication, or simply feeling stuck in a rut as a parent, there are some things that we can do in order to get through it, to reconnect, to laugh our socks off and feel at peace again.
So, with the help of marvellous Lulastic readers on Facebook (come and say hello), here are FORTY ways to re-connect, shake the grumps, and start having fun. I can guarantee you won’t be stuck in a parenting rut after a handful of these.
We have always relied on a little bit of the ludicrous to break a bad mood.
1 Dance. We will stick on the loudest, bassiest, most fun music we can find (actually, we have a playlist for it- Grumps Begone) and then we just GET DOWN. Reader, Lorella says these mini discos always start with this favourite song.
2 Facepaint. A new face, a new mood. I have a whole bunch of face painted faces in an album on my iPad and we chose one of those and rock our animal selves for a while. It normally ends in Ramona painting my face in her signature style- red all over.
3 Fancy Dress. We all tumble into the dress ups and become flamboyant mermaid ninjas.
4 Pots and Pans. LOUD NOISES. We bang and crash them and and chant and shout a sing and let it all out in a rhythmic way.
5 Roar. A reader explains that they let it all out with a lion roar. I very much like that sense that our bodies can perfectly capture our feelings- if we are feeling fierce we can BE FIERCE.
7 Pulling faces. Bex and Missie Lizzie both rely on face pulling contests. It is silly and fun and will end in giggles, but perhaps more importantly it involves eye contact- one of the fundamentals for reconnecting.
The great outdoors
The outdoors, isn’t it great? It is the one stop shop for the irascible. Readers share about the almost immediate impact of soaking in Vitamin D on moods.
8 Find a spot of grass, your lawn or a patch of park, throw down a thick rug and lie on your backs and watch the clouds. Spot the dragons and alligators and candy floss. (That last one is WELL EASY.)
9 Pack a picnic and eat outside. On your balcony, at the beach. A picnic, for us, involves no caramelised onion tarte- but a can of sweet corn and a can of tuna, and crisps with which to shovel them in.
10 Find a place to run and race and leap about. After running races we can usually be found collapsed in a heap of giggles. Mary says “Sometimes you just the grumps! And kids need to understand that people have mood changes, bad days, sad days etc and that its ok to feel that way. Love support and time and then an epic round of puddle jumping and tree climbing followed by lots of hugs.”
11 Follow My Leader is also a temper shifter- and particularly ideal if a child’s anger comes as a result of feeling powerless.
12 Teddy Bear’s Picnic… All the cuddly toys shoved in an ikea basket, plus a packet of hobnobs. A tree to sit under= winner.
13 Barefoot babies. Whatever the season, shake off those shoes and socks and connect with the earth beneath your feet. Sarah says “We go outside and walk barefoot on the grass – grab some of that great earth energy!”
14 Go to your local beach, woodland or river, whatever the weather. Victoria says “We did it a couple of weekends ago in the rain and sat on a grey pebble beach having hot soup out of a thermos & eating cheese & tomato sandwiches…”
A wise old sage once said “Cranky kids need to get in the water”. Find a way…
15 Bath. You have to turn the taps on, and then help your child in the water and stuff. (Hehe. It is so easy, but it is our absolute first resort.) Crank the connection up by getting in yourself and washing each other’s hair.
16 A colourful bath. Depending on the depth of the bad mood, you may need more help. We stick a few drops of food colouring in to make it extra awesome. (Um, in case you are wondering, and you don’t have food colouring on hand, sliced up beetroot also works a treat…)
17 Bath paints. They are crazily simple but combine the pleasures of being in water with being messy and creating something. Recipe here.
18 Pool. If you aren’t the irritable one than consider a swim at the pool. If you ARE the irritable one STAY AWAY. Those tangled cossies, sweaty legs, pubes stuck to your feet will be way, waaaay too much.
19 Water play. Perhaps you need five minutes to hide in a room and east your secret stash of maltesers. Get out the pots and pans again, several towels, and let your kids have a riot on the lino. Thalia says “Outside water play. ‘Go and get drenched. Sure you can take your soft toys…’
Speaking of secret stashes… Kids need to know that comfort can be found in eating. Ha, I jest. Sort of. Hey, no disorder is going to come of pulling out the pizzas at times of immovable grizzliness. (Don’t quote me on that.)
Anyway, anyway…. LOOK, PIZZA!!!
20 We have saved the day with DIY pizza. I don’t know what it is about it, but my children absolutely love the awesomeness of designing their own dinner. (Which we have sometimes eaten at 3pm.) Ramona’s speciality is with sprinkles of popcorn.
21 Get an ice cream. This is probably our second resort… It involves a famous chain that prey on the whole word with their scary clown man and addictive sugary substances with extra msg…. One I avoided for TWO DECADES. Then I had kids and realised that their ice creams cost 30p and if you go through the drive thru YOU DONT EVEN HAVE TO GET OUT OF THE CAR. OR, THEREFORE, YOUR PYJAMAS. 60p buys both my children so much happiness- I actually feel like it is US exploiting THEM.
22 Chocolate cake! Or biscuits. (Whatever.) Eating something so rich, on the best china has an opulence that feels like a snatched magic moment. (*Maggggic moooooments….*)
23 A chocolate platter. Bring it all out man. Come on…Help the kids think that they have struck gold. You will love it too, and that is partly what the list is for. Finding things that will lift the mood of everyone. It’s legit, anyway. There is Valium in chocolate… I mean endorphins…. Or oxytocin…. Or something….
Make a plan
If you are lucky you might also have time to execute it….
24 We have planned lantern works for the evening…. We made lanterns and then went for the most basic little stroll carrying our lanterns as soon as dusk settled.
25 We have planned movie nights, with tickets and bags of popcorn.
26 We have planned, and done, treasure hunts. For preschoolers, they actually enjoy the planning as much as the hunt. Ruth says “Sometimes I’ll make up a treasure hunt and leave clues around the house.”
27 We have planned camping trips… Making lists (they fix everything) of what we will do and what we will need to take.
It is about dreaming… Of thinking of another day, a different day.
Get your needs met
If you, as the parent, are not coping, do something immediately that will give you hope.
28 Phone a friend. Share your sadness but move on to happiness. Discuss your real feelings, but take a moment to remember some things you have to be thankful for.
29 Dream of sea wind. Plan a trip for your own mental health. Perhaps you all need to get away for one night in order to feel the sea wind in your hair.
30 Book it an afternoon in. Email your other half and discuss an afternoon in the next week that you are going to book in in order to go solo to the cinema.
31 Swap your kids. Call your friend and organise a child swap for the very next day… You have two kids while the other rests and then swap.
32 Start a jar of awesome. My friend was telling me about her friend (it sounds like an urban legend, but I’m sure it’s true) who has a jar of awesome. Every single day she puts something in there, either a little note of something she is thankful for or a trinket to remind her of something special. And then whenever she feels blue she raids the jar, for something to give her the warm fuzzies.
33 Cancel. Can you cancel the appointment, quit any agenda? Swap the dentist for a trip to the beach. Sometimes these decisions feel irresponsible… But they can be the key to happiness.
34 Hands Free. Adele says “Recently what’s helped is me forcing myself not to look at the phone or computer for the whole day or at least most of it. I’ve realised that my being distracted makes us ALL grumpy.” THIS. SO MUCH!
35 Quit the now, for a few moments. I love this one from Becca “Looking at baby photos with them. Remembering that innocence and vulnerability – that we are the caretakers of (hard to remember at times of extremis.)
36 Stop hanging out together. Ha. You know, as much as possible. Adrienne says “Making ‘cubbies’ out of overturned chairs, blankets, under beds or tables, wherever. Separate cubbies for each child (and even for mummy) if we’re all getting scratchy. I realised when my children were quite young that they are all introverted and time alone is really important for each of them. I tried to help them identify their feelings when they were overwhelmed by too much people – and I would ask them ‘do you need some time by yourself?’ NOT as a punishment but as an option for them to choose.”
Sometimes, if we are on our way home and the girls and I are cranky pants I will pray that there is a package from my family awaiting us. Well… Better than God, or my family:
37 Secret Parcel. The next time you find something awesome in a charity shop, be it a box of fuzzy felts or a puzzle. Squirrel it away on top of the wardrobe for when you need a trick.
38 Unknown craft materials. A tiny packet of new modelling clay, a new stamp, some stickers. Something small and as yet
destroyed turned into art will give you a breather and your children some fun.
39 Unseen fancy dress. Again, it is all about the stealth supply. The next time you see a flouncy dress in a charity shop, tuck it away and pull it out when you are down in the dumps.
40 The parent’s stuff. Oh yes, I have been known to willingly hand down to my 18 month old an entire bits and bobs draw so that I can cook dinner. Some people call these “treasure baskets“… I call it “the things I don’t have a home for draw”- key rings, touristy fridge magnets (things usually sent in a parcel from my family), the camera case, a lighter… (Jokes.) You get the idea. Grown up stuff… They love it.
The Four Healing Salves
I heard today of this ancient shamanic concept and feel it is a perfect one to remember, particularly for those of us for whom these bad days happen all too often. I hope it isn’t cultural appropriation to share it with you.
There are four activities that, if we can incorporate them into our weekly rhythm will keep us whole. I see that nearly all of them are present in the above list in some way, so they have a beautiful restorative impact too.
Singing. Be it listening to music, or belting out anthems on our way to work, singing releases all sorts of goodness for our soul.
Movement. Busting the moves, jiggling at the lights, yoga or sports.
Story. Being enthralled in the magic of a story, phoning our friends simply to share stories, catching up with people.
Silence. Sitting on the beach with the whisper of the wind, twenty minutes of meditation, stilling our minds as we cuddle our children to sleep.
How are you doing with those? I see these salves as an invitation to self care, to meet the needs of my own soul so that the next day I can get covered in facepaint whilst dancing to the Monkey song and stuffing cake in my gob at a Teddy Bear’s picnic on the beach.
I really believe that we don’t have to get stuck in a rut – that we all have the power to change things. I reckon these ideas could help break the cycle of disconnect, get you all laughing and rocking your awesome parenting mojo again. Please also check out my guide to becoming a positive parenting wizz! This one word will make these bad days happen less and less.
Do any of these work a treat for your family? Do you have any other suggestions? As always,I looooove to hear from you…