Aug 28, 2012

Confessions of an Aunt

Today begins our kiddo craziness, and I'm SO excited for our nephew and niece to arrive!  We love them so incredibly much and love having them over.  You might think I'm making this up so that my brother and sister-in-law will read this and be impressed, but I'm being completely genuine here.  I had the opportunity of living next door to them for a year and a half, and it was so much fun to be a part of their daily lives.  They only live a couple hours away now, but it seems like the kids change so much from one time I see them to the next.

As much as I love having them here, it is a lot of work to host a five year old and a two year old for a whole week.  And here is my big confession:

The last time he was here, my nephew (5) told me that his house was way more fun than mine.

The conversation went something like this:

Me: If you could go anywhere in the whole world, where would it be?
Him: Home.
Me: Why would you want to go home?
Him: Because it's the funnest place I've ever been to.  It's more fun than your house.

Ouch.  It really stung, even if he is just a little boy.  The reason it hurt so much is because it was true.

We usually have quite a few projects going on, and it's so hard to set those aside, especially when you've got motivation and momentum to get them done.

The last time my nephew came, it was more of a spur of the moment deal.  I've had a lot more time to plan this visit than I did last time, so I'm hoping to make this one a lot more fun for him, his little sister, and for me.  My plan?  I'm going on vacation with them.

Instead of dusting the furniture, I will get down on the floor and play cars with them.  Instead of making "nice" meals that they don't eat, we may eat a lot of hot dogs and PBJs.  I'll even cut their PBJs with cool cookie cutters instead of worrying about wasting food.  Instead of trying to keep them quiet inside, we will spend as much time outside as possible where they can run and yell as much as their little hearts desire.  My plan is basically to not have a plan or big expectations.

I'm excited about them coming and am excited to let you know how it goes!

For those of you who have been asked to watch over little ones and are intimidated by the thought, here are some ways that I maintain my sanity:

1.  Keep chemicals and sharp objects up high.
2.  Put tissues, paper towels, and napkins out of reach.  I don't know why, but medium-sized pieces of paper are REALLY fascinating to toddlers.  If they are in reach, they will be everywhere.
3.  I only put a little bit of inexpensive soap in the dispenser in the bathroom.  They tend to use way more soap than they need (and I don't discourage them from using it!), but I don't want them to empty out my Bath & Body Works soap when they decide to wash their hair in the bathroom sink.

4.  Take the batteries out of noisy toys.  If they never knew the toy made noise, they'll never miss it.
5.  Buy toys.  You don't need a whole bunch, just a few.  Better yet, ask friends with kids if you can take any off their hands.  They probably have more than they want in their house and will be weeding them out eventually anyway.
6.  Don't load kids up on sugar.  It seems obvious, but it's really tempting to spoil kids with sugary stuff.  We will be having "cookies" for breakfast one day, but what the kids don't know is that they are all natural and don't have sugar or sugar substitutes.  I guarantee you, they will still think they are getting a treat.

Photo of Elle Fanning from Daddy Day Care (2003) with Hailey Johnson, Khamani Griffin, Max Burkholder

7.  Be clear on what your rules are.  I starting going over the bedtime rules with my nephew when he was two, and it didn't take long before he could recite them by himself.  Every night that he spends here, I ask him what the rules are, and he repeats them.  We rarely have problems at bedtime, and when we do, he knows that he has broken the rules, because he knows what the rules are.
8.  Be consistent.  Most kids have some kind of set schedule, and you might be able to mix it up for a day, but two days might be out of the question.  It depends a lot on the child and his/her age.  My two year old niece can maybe skip the afternoon nap if she goes to bed early that evening, but my three year old niece couldn't care one bit.  Everyone will be happier if you can avoid toddler meltdowns.

9.  Ditch the diaper bag.  If you need to go out for a couple hours, don't worry about packing up the whole house.  Just toss a diaper, a bottle, and a toy in your purse.  Don't stress yourself out!
10.  Have fun!  I'm obviously still working on this, but here are some of our favorite things to do: make a tent in the living room and have a pizza party in it, drive downtown to watch the train come through, watch boats and barges go through the locks, picnics in the butterfly garden, bonfires and s'mores, anything with stickers, swim, etc.

These are just a few of the things I've learned through the years, and I'm sure I'll learn a lot more as I go.  What about you?  Do you have any tips on keeping kids busy?

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