4 (Nearly) Guaranteed Ways for Parents to Stay Sane

From the VodkaPundit Mailbag:

Dear Steve,

It must be difficult, with your busy career and your exciting life, to also watch over two little boys all day.  How do you stay so cool and collected all the time, not to mention your youthful good looks and perfect hair?


Certainly Not Steve’s Wife

I get totally real letters just like this one almost every day, which I should reiterate are really totally real.

But the fact is, parenting is hard, nobody stays cool all the time, and sometimes we feel like we’re going insane — even if our hair is perfect.

With that in mind, and a big assist* from Certainly Steve’s Wife, I present you with Four (Nearly) Guaranteed Ways for Parents to Stay Sane.

1. Friends

It just isn’t possible to describe how important friends are, especially when you want to go a little crazy without losing your mind. We’ve been really lucky here at Casa Verde, because it turns out that Awesome Neighbor Couple live just three backyards away, and their two little girls are just the right ages to play with our two little boys — without too many fights, even though they play together all the time.  What really makes Awesome Neighbor Couple so awesome, in addition to their awesome daughters, is that they share our interests in well-behaved kids, excellent food, and strong drink.  Best of all, we get to take turns watching the kids, who together do a great job of watching out for one another.  All four of us adults have enjoyed more free time, less stress, and more sanity since our kids started playing together — and since we started eating and drinking together.

If you don’t have an Awesome Neighbor Couple, I can’t recommend highly enough that you move somewhere that already has one.

2. Escape

Not to put too fine a point on it, but get the hell out of Dodge whenever and however you can. Sometimes that means an actual vacation without the kids, whether it’s a week in Mexico or an overnight at the nearest B&B. Other times it’s just Date Night to enjoy a grownup dinner and a grownup movie — just be sure to see a late enough show that you get home after the sitter has the kids tucked in and passed out.** Other times it’s nothing more than inviting Awesome Neighbor Couple over for dinner (have you moved yet?) and exiling the children to the basement or the rec room or the backyard or wherever.

In a real Sanity Emergency, you might be tempted to send the kids to the mechanical room and keep them there by chaining them to the water heater — but don’t. Or at least not often.

And when even dinner and drinks with friends is too much to arrange? Tell the kids it’s Grownup Time, send them outside, and sit down and watch a show you’d never watch with them in the room. You might be amazed at how something so violent or gross or otherwise inappropriate can help you stay sane so much.

One night the best I could manage was to put on “Escape (The Piña Colada Song)” while making piña coladas — and those four minutes bought us a whole night of sanity.

True Story™

So do find some escape, please.

*By “big assist” I mean this was almost entirely Melissa’s doing.
**Tiptoe in quietly, pay the babysitter, and put on some Barry White if you know what I’m saying.

3. Strong Drink

For the love of all that is good and decent in this world, enjoy a cocktail in the evening.

Trust me.  And if not me, trust Certainly Steve’s Wife — she has to stay sane with two small boys and a writer for a husband.  And let me tell you: That woman understands, from her painted toes to her perfect hair to deep inside her soul, the importance of Margarita Fridays.

That is all.

And keep the margarita pitcher full.

4. Work

You know what? Work doesn’t always suck — and at the very least you’re in the company of grownups. I’ve learned from working at home, and with two boys on summer break, that sometimes it’s OK to tell them that Daddy can’t be disturbed, and to close (and maybe even lock) the office door.

We spend so much time with our kids, but teaching them to become grownups means we have to spend time being grownups ourselves. Getting lost sometimes in our grownup jobs, instead of in our parenting jobs, might be the best way to do that.

And if nothing else, how are you going to buy Lego Mecha Superhero Flying Fortress Mega Set without a paycheck?

5. The Secret Fifth Thing

Yeah, small kids get cranky and fussy sometimes — but most of the time they’re just goofy and silly and want nothing more than to have some fun with Mom and Dad. So if you want to stay sane, take advantage and just be goofy and silly with your kids every goofy, silly chance you get. Because eventually those little kids will be teenagers, and then the jokes about taking refuge in strong drink won’t seem so funny anymore.

But mostly, never feel guilty about doing what it takes to keep your sanity, because you owe it to your kids not to go too crazy.

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