This tale can be presented one of two ways.
The glass half empty story is titled as such: Don't judge your day by the Unicorn day.
What's a Unicorn Day, you might ask? Sounds pretty great, right? (I know a certain five year old who would declare every day Unicorn Day if she could.) Well, in parenting standards, a Unicorn Day is that magical day when everything you do in your parenting journey goes right. It's that day when you decided to try all those ridiculous blog posts you read about (never this blog, of course) with promises like GET YOUR KID TO SLEEP THROUGH THE NIGHT! or STOP SIBLING SPATS! or HOW MY TODDLER STARTED EATING VEGETABLES WITH JOY! And they ACTUALLY WORK! Just like that. Like magic, you suddenly have the secret to solving all your parenting strategies. This is the point where you want to reach for your phone and message your sister or your mom tribe or your entire Instagram platform announcing "I have arrived!" You start dreaming of happier afternoons or mornings or evening or whatever was the struggle before because you finally have the magical pill to fix all your ailments. You are basking in the honeymoon stage of a parenting job well done. It's ecstasy, I tell you.
Except that it's not. Sorry if that was blunt. Remember. This is the glass half empty side of the story. This is actually what we call the Unicorn Day. Whether the moon was aligned just right or your hormones are clicking in the best kind of way or your children momentarily forgot their main focus of challenging all parental input. Either way, the day, is just that. A day. One day. One single day in the Amazing Race of raising small people into big people. And yes, like a Unicorn, it was beautiful and lovely and made everyone happy. But the trap is thinking the Unicorn is now a permanent fixture in the barn yard. The Unicorn is mysterious and beautiful but also fleeting and hard to catch. And if you make the mistake of assuming that Unicorn will stick around for you to live this life of rainbows and glitter, you are going to be so disappointed to wake up the next morning only to find your barnyard is just chickens, and pigs, and horses. Is this analogy making any sense?
What I am saying is I have learned over and over and over again, always the hard way, that as soon as I think I fixed some stage and found my new beautiful normal, the day changes. Actually, let's be honest, it usually changes within minutes. And instead of appreciating that moment for what it was, a Unicorn moment that was a lovely gift, I am left disappointed, cheated, defeated.
I still feel this let down from time to time. I have a short term memory for parenting lessons. And the glass half empty part of this story is that yes that new strategy did work once, but don't expect it to work every time. It's never that simple. See it for what it was, a unicorn to be admired from a distance, and get back to the barnyard days of parenting.
I hope if you have listened enough to my words over the years you know that living a glass half empty perspective is not how I like to go through life.
So let me introduce a different way of thinking, the positive lesson I like to call: Diversifying your Parenting Portfolio.
Let's take one of my trickiest time of days to exemplify this, shall we? The Witching Hour. Yes, it's a parenting cliche. It's that time of nightmares from post nap/school pick up time until the dinner and bed time routine begins. This is when children are hungry, cranky, wired, clingy, demanding, short fused, and on and on and on. And let's face it, so are we. I am forever seeking that perfect fix to get to the finish line of a quiet house. And I have tried so. many. things. I have tried cooking dinner earlier in the day so I am focused and available for my children. I have tried getting them to help me in the kitchen. I have tried screen time, no screen time, healthy snacks, no snacks, endless snacks. I have set up art activities. I have read books. I have gone for walks or set up indoor obstacle courses. I could go on and on and on.
And each time something seems to be working, at first I would get myself caught up in the lure of the siren sound of the Unicorn. But when it stopped working the very next day, I would immediately take it off the list with resounding bitterness. Tried that. Not gonna make that mistake again. Moving on. Or maybe WE WILL NEVER MOVE ON (That last thought was on those REALLY bad days.)
Today was another day like any other day. I needed to cook dinner, I needed to clean the kitchen, and I needed to also feel like my children were getting the necessary attention they need to make it through this challenging part of their day. On a whim, I turned on a story podcast. I knew the 5 year old wanted me to read to her but I just didn't have the capacity for that in the moment. Having another person read books seemed like a good stand in. And the three year old really just wanted to be on the counter "helping" me with dinner. I handed him a spoon and told him to scoop.
These sound like great strategies right? Surely you pinned that on Pinterest before or flagged it in a blog post to refer to some day. Maybe you heard it on a podcast. Or maybe you have yourself tried this already. Listening to stories, helping in the kitchen, these aren't magical pills. In fact, I too have tried these before. Many times before. And with very inconsistent results. Somebody thinks the stories are boring and would rather watch a show. Somebody dumps an entire box of salt onto the dinner ingredients and steals my zen moment from cooking. Whatever the problem, I have walked away from these great ideas with frustration and defeat.
But today, miracle of all rainbow colored miracle, it worked. He scooped the food onto a sheet pan for me as I chopped, with narrowed focus. She sat on the couch intent and doodling and flipping quietly through picture books asking for another story as each one finished. There was no screaming, by children or parent. There were no messes being created. Chores were getting accomplished. Learning was happening.
It was magical.
And what I discovered was that today, pulling out these ideas to make it through another challenging moment was not difficult. I had them banked already for future use. Yeah, maybe they didn't work once before, but that didn't mean they wouldn't work again. And it also doesn't mean they will work tomorrow.
What I am finding is so beneficial to my well being as a parent is instead of looking for that one thing that I can do really really well with accurate success rate, I work best when I have many options to go to in my Mary Poppins bag. The more I try with my kids, the more I have to choose from in the moment. If I arm myself with options to try and keep trying again, then I won't get so defeated by that one time it didn't work. That's ok. We'll try it again another time.
It's not just about being more adaptable in your parenting, although that can help, it's also about being willing to try again when something doesn't work. Being open to all the different ways to help them sleep, eat, play, and learn is also seeing them as growing and changing people, people with good days and bad days, unicorn moments and chicken moments.
I couldn't begin to fully explain what it means to diversify your financial portfolio but I think it means the more options you have, the greater your success rate. Today I highlighted podcast story time and scooping tasks during dinner prep as successful possibilities in my parenting portfolio. I feel like my success rate just took a big leap in my future earnings as a parent. That's the kind of magic I can be proud of.
So tell me, what's in your parenting portfolio? I think we could all use some more diversifying.