Everybody always told me when my triplets were babies that everything would get easier as they got older, but that was beginning to feel like a lie.
Just wait until they are 5-years-old, they would say, and you will be living on easy street. Only then will you be basking in the glory of getting your multiples through the infant and toddler years.
But my experience with multiples is an exception. My triplets were easy babies and decent toddlers. They slept a lot and hardly argued with each other. They potty trained in one weekend. They loved going to preschool and were friendly to everyone they encountered.
When the triplets got to the magical age of 5-years-old, everything changed, for the worse. They began to fight more with each other. My older singleton daughter who previously thought everything her brother did was hysterically funny, now found him to be the most annoying human ever born. All four kids became opinionated and free-spirited, routinely voicing their displeasure at most of my requests.
I began to yell a lot. If I yelled, maybe they would stop fighting. If I yelled, maybe they would put their shoes on like I asked. If I yelled, maybe they would hear that I was at the end of my rope and understand patience was no longer a virtue that I possessed.
But kids really don’t respond well to yelling. They match your yelling with their own yelling, or they just become desensitized to it.
I sent my best friend a text and told her that I was miserable with my children at that moment. I was not appreciating them, and I was not enjoying being a parent. I needed to find inspiration to be a better mom and live a happier life from day-to-day.
My friend, who doesn’t have four children, acknowledged she doesn’t know exactly what is realistic within my larger-family dynamic, but suggested that I try spending more one-on-one time with each of my children. She thought maybe they would feel special just having undivided attention from me, and in return, I would get to enjoy parenting just one kid for an afternoon or evening. Her logic was that if they each had their own special time with me, maybe they would be more easygoing at home and feel more fulfilled in life.
My friend said that I deserve to have time to enjoy each of my children individually once in a while. In turn, I may come to find parenting more rewarding by cherishing some good moments with each of them. There is just not a lot of joy in breaking up sibling rivalries, demanding they do chores and getting them ready for school each day. To break up pervasive negativity within family life, sometimes you have to create new, unique ways to cultivate happy interactions with your kids.
Since having that conversation with my friend, I have had special one-on-one time with all four of my kids. It isn’t easy to organize with our busy schedules, but it is definitely worth the effort. Sometimes on our one-on-one dates, we go to lunch or dinner at a place of their choosing. Other times, we just run errands. My kids don’t feel like they need to do anything extravagant—they just want to spend alone time with me. It is during these special one-on-one moments that I really get to see my kids for who they are as individuals. We have real conversations about friendships and challenges, without a million interruptions. We have silent moments where we are just together enjoying each other’s company. I can hold hands with them or snuggle them without the other kids swooping in for my attention.
At then end of our one-on-one time together, they feel happy. I can see it in their faces and feel it through the energy of their small hands as they squeeze mine. “When will we get to do this again, Mommy?” they ask. It is then that I know that I have created an experience to fill their hearts.
When I was able to open up to a friend about my frustrations and troubles at home, it yielded great inspiration for me to make positive changes in my relationships with each of my children. We all want to be loved. We all want to be heard. As a mom of four, I needed to figure out how to best reach each of my kids and find the essence of who they really are in order to reclaim peace in my house.
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