Next month marks 16 years of working with three preschoolers at a time. It's just what we do around here. One child prepares to march off to Kindergarten and another arrives in their wrinkled celestial glory to put the two-year-old in their place.
Recent reflection on this abundant blessing of newborn through five-year-olds has brought a small list of life lessons to mind.
1. Celebrate the small stuff. "Men are, that they might have joy." (2 Ne. 2:25)
Nevermind that your clothes are on inside out and backwards--high five! You dressed yourself!
This baby slept three hours straight instead of two. Hallelujah!
You wrote your name so clearly! Let’s write it on paper instead of on the entry table next time, Buddy.
2. Your mistake or poor choice doesn’t have to ruin my day. I can "act" and not be "acted upon". (2 Ne. 2:14)
Ten toilet trained children later, I am a changed woman. After years of saying in great exasperation, "Why does MY happiness have to revolve around where YOU choose to put your bowel movement?" I abruptly realized that---it doesn’t.
3. Put screens in their place. "Wherefore, do not spend money for that which is of no worth, nor your labor for that which cannot satisfy." (2 Ne. 9:51)
This is a perpetual war. However, small children can be taught to defer their appetite for all things screen. When there is a parent-prescribed "screen time" in place, children eventually stop asking every 20 minutes if they can watch a show or play on your phone. They know the time is coming, and they know Mom is not going to crack with their incessant requesting. You can rule devices instead of devices ruling you.
4. Read it, read it, read it! "Now behold, my brethren, I would ask if ye have read the scriptures? If ye have, how can ye disbelieve on the Son of God?" (Alma 33:14)
"Scriptures first, picture books next," the four-year-old teaches the two-year-old. Daily reading, discussing, snuggling, and asking questions shown many, many, many life-long benefits.
6. Life is divided into days for a reason. "Our lives passed away like as it were unto us a dream." (Jacob 7:26)
Whether a child is stuck in a stage you can’t tolerate or is moving too fast through a stage you relish, enjoy it as much as you can. Whether the day is so bad you go to bed at seven or the day is so wonderful you wish it wouldn’t end, learn what you can from each situation.
7. When you just can’t stand it, get on your knees. "And the Lord provided for them... and he also gave them strength, that they should suffer no manner of afflictions, save it were swallowed up in the joy of Christ. Now... this because [they] prayed in faith." (Alma 31:38)
Being a preschool/toddler/infant parent is joyful and fun and hilarious. It can also be INTENSE. Pray. Pray for patience. Pray for energy. Pray for directions on how to address unwanted behaviors. Pray to be positive. Pray to see each child the way their Father in Heaven sees them. Pray in gratitude for a chance to learn and grow with your children each day.
These few principles are just the beginning of a life-long list. However, as you look back on the numbered sentences, I hope you see that lessons learned in working with preschoolers actually apply to all ages and stages of life. What principles would you add to the list?