Editor's note: Jill Adams is a professional writer based in Fort Wayne.
When I was pregnant with our third child, a good friend gave me a piece of wisdom.
“When you feel overwhelmed,” she said, “just remember the old saying, 'This too shall pass.'”
I smiled appreciatively at her, but secretly had no idea what she was talking about. I had been managing two children quite nicely, and enjoyed being a mother. I had never really felt 'overwhelmed.' And I couldn't imagine my children doing anything to make me feel that way.
Today, I can look back at that moment of sheer naiveté and laugh. I have since learned my lesson the hard way.
As my children have grown and developed their own tastes, they have also developed a tendency to bicker with one another. A lot. The result? Not a day goes by that I don't feel a little overwhelmed. Many days, I feel a lot overwhelmed. My one consolation is my equally frazzled husband.
“Why do they argue all the time?” he asked me exasperatedly.
I shook my head. The truth is, our kids are all amazing people, unique in their own ways. They are the joys of our life. But when they aren't getting along with one another, it's enough to make me want to hide in the corner and rock myself.
Since that's not a viable option, my husband and I try everything else: time outs, separating them from one another, teaching them compromise. It all works … for the short term. And then, it comes back.
“She took my Wii remote!”
“That's my book!”
“Don't look at me!”
“Get out of my room!”
Desperate for solutions to the mind-numbing squabbling, I have sought advice from every friend I have who has walked this path before me.
“Don't let it get to you,” one friend advised me with a chuckle. “That's kids being kids. Set boundaries, make sure they know you're serious, and wait. It will pass.”
Her words conjured up the memory of the advice I had received years ago. I decided that during the heavy-bickering moments, I would retain that nugget as my mantra.
It didn't take long before I had to put it into effect.
“Mom, I have had it!” my oldest son exclaimed to me one evening.
Dreading the impending issue but also trying not to laugh at my little boy's choice of words, I simply waited for the rest of the story.
“I can't do anything around here without it getting ruined,” he continued. “She drew all over my homework with crayons!”
Then he turned and glared at his sister.
I looked over beseechingly at my husband, who was looking upward in an apparent attempt to remain calm. My son held his homework up in front of me, and I had to admit he had a point. It was now barely legible thanks to his little sister's artistic endeavors.
“OK,” I began with a deep breath. “I'll write the teacher a note. You keep your homework in a safer spot next time.”
He marched off in a huff, and I held my hands up as my husband shook his head.
“This stage will pass, … right?” I asked him.
He shrugged and rolled his eyes, and we both gave in to some necessary laughter.
That night, after the kids went to bed, I lay awake and reflected on the day.
I knew this bickering was a common occurrence in families, and a combination of patience and diligence was the only response. I decided that instead of focusing on the frustration of the situation, I would just be grateful for three smart and healthy children.
I awoke the next morning to voices in the kitchen. They were uncharacteristically calm, and curiosity had me moving quickly down the stairs. Instinctively, I peeked around the corner so as not to disrupt whatever was happening.
I first spotted my husband, who held his finger to his lips. Then I looked over and saw all three of my children sitting together at the kitchen table. My oldest was reading to his brother and sister, who were both listening intently. They smiled and laughed together, and my heart swelled with joy.
I knew there would be more arguments ahead; but at that moment, I was perfectly content to embrace the fact my children really did love each other.
This column is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinion of The News-Sentinel. Jill Adams blogs at http://lifewithoutbumperpads.blogspot.com.