5. Then promptly open a bottle of wine and indulge in a glass.
6. If said ipod + glass of wine trick does nothing for the bickering, pestering, and antagonizing, try this approach - take one child and plop him onto the kitchen counter while you continue to attempt to make the delectable, nutritious, and semi-creative meal you've been trying to make for the past half hour. The other kids can't reach him, he can't get down because the counter is too tall, and peace is restored..... for a few minutes, at least. Summon your husband/partner to arrive home with all your mental might. If said spouse is unable to arrive home because of demanding and very necessary bread-winning job, consider reverting to "lame" PBJ dinner and see above.
7. Making school lunches is not a fun job. I marvel at the fact that my father made my lunch for me, every day, until I graduated from high school. Especially because I insisted that he make the sandwich the morning of school, not the night before, because it did not please my palate when it tasted "stale." Especially because he always asked how my lunch was, and I always managed to find SOMETHING wrong with it. Anyway. In order to survive the nightly ordeal, I've gotten into the habit of pre-packaging snacks for the entire week on Sunday afternoon. I pre-pack the grapes, pretzels, cheerios, tubes of yogurt, granola bars, and carrot sticks into individual bags, then place all the bags into a plastic bin that I store in the fridge. On school nights, I simply have to grab one of each, make the sandwich, and voila! Done. This is far from an original idea, but it is amazing how much of a difference it makes in the attitude toward packing lunches.
8. Listen. Sometimes kids say the most amazing and creative things when we are not listening. When we take a moment to silence ourselves and not speak, occasionally gems of beautifully spoken language emerge. (A word of caution, however. Sometimes you'll hear sailor-type words you wish you hadn't heard.) Tonight, we were reading a favorite bedtime story, The Imaginary Garden, a beautifully illustrated story about a girl and her grandfather who paint an imaginary garden on a large canvas on Papa's balcony, in lieu of the real thing. We finished it, and Leo wanted to go back a few pages. Sometimes I am too tired and try to rush through this. Tonight I was simply too tired to rush, so I just turned the page and waited. He pointed at the picture and said, "Why not Theo have any ice cream?" "What?" I asked, incredulous. "Why Theo's Papa not give her any ice cream?" he asked again. I replied, "Honey, it's just not part of the story...." "Oh.... Theo's Papa should get her some ice cream." (Apparently, Leo was savoring the memory of his own recently enjoyed dessert). Fine, I'm a sucker for literary connections, but this was a gem.
9. Laugh. As much as you can. And when you're faced with the choice to laugh or to cry, choose the former. This takes practice, but generally speaking, children provide ample opportunity to practice the "laugh over cry" choice.... plus, children provide the added advantage of allowing adults to laugh over things that really aren't appropriate in the grown-up world. Tooting in the bathtub still ranks very high on my list of Most Hilarious Things Ever, but I'd never admit that in real life.
10. Love. Sometimes, the thing that they least expect is the thing they need the most. A hug and a snuggle after a terrible tantrum - or to end the terrible tantrum. A warm embrace stops the nasty backtalking mid-sentence. Kissing them one last time before going to bed yourself, watching their peace-filled bodies deep in blissful sleep, knowing you have kept them safe and loved them well one more day - love.