The Art of the Melt-down

In my years as a father, I’ve noticed something alarming. I am thoroughly convinced that our children are secretly plotting together in a concerted effort to destroy any scrap of sanity we might have remaining (which is not a lot with five kids).

We’ve all been there. You’re in the middle of the store and one of your kids totally loses their cool. It might be a fit over not getting that toy they so desperately “need.” It could be they have to go potty 2 1/2 minutes after you just took them to the potty. It could be they are so hungry they simply can’t wait another minute for you to provide sustenance for their frail, weak, emaciated little bodies. (If you made it through this paragraph without picking up on the thickly-laden cynical sarcasm, please do one of the following: (a) Re-read that paragraph using every ounce of sarcasm in your being, (b) Stop reading now. This obviously isn’t the blog for you, or (c) Dress like a pirate, go to the grocery store, and address everyone as “Me Matey!”)

"Where be your ranch dressing, Me Matey?!?"

Or maybe you’re catching up with friends right after church. One of your kids obviously must’ve stumbled upon a hidden stash of pure sugar, and is now running in circles all around the foyer, despite any attempt at discipline. You’re embarrassed out of your mind, worried that one of the well-meaning church ladies might try to cast a demon out of them if they don’t stop (sometimes YOU wonder).

But have you ever noticed that only on very rare occasions will more than one of your children have a melt-down? Sure, there’s certain days where more than one will have issues – such as the day after Halloween, the day after Easter, anywhere within a two week window either side of Christmas, etc. But outside those “special days,” that is a rare occasion. And that, I submit to you, is no coincidence.

Late at night when you’re convinced they’re sleeping, I’m convinced your children are gathering for a conference. For the sake of this blog post (it’s my blog, suck it!), I’ll call it the “Crazy Conference.” At this meeting, your children are secretly plotting together to ruin any shred of mental health that might exist. In my head, this is a very organized meeting. I imagine the children follow Robert’s Rules of Order and make up an official agenda. Although I have yet to find a meeting agenda for one, I’m convinced the agenda would look something like this:

Derrickson Children
Crazy Conference Agenda
Monday, January 30, 2012

  1. Call to Order – 2:00 AM
  2. Reading of the Minutes from the Previous Meeting
  3. Unfinished Business
    1. Grocery Shopping Prevention Measures
    2. Re-evaluate Effectiveness of Church Foyer Policies
  4. New Business
    1. Stopgap Plan to Prevent Future Dinner Invitations
    2. Fundraising Strategies to Replenish Hidden Candy Stockpile
  5. Next Meeting – Monday, February 6, 2012 – 2:00 AM
  6. Adjournment

"And then you'll climb up on Dad's head like this..."

My plan is to try and infiltrate one of these meetings and see if I can dismantle this organization. My sanity depends on it. If you don’t hear from me in the next week or so, please alert the local authorities to look for my body in the McDonald’s ball pit.

Until next time…

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Survival Tip #2

As a father of five, things work a little differently than a parent with one or two kids.  When you have one or two kids, juggling kids and responsibilities is a breeze.  Sure, I can (vaguely) remember back to having two kids and thinking life was overwhelming.  But in reality, it’s a simple issue of manageability.

Here’s the math to support my hypothesis:

Parent A + Parent B = 4 hands, and 4 > 2.

This means either

(1) Parent A manages two kids at once with two hands, freeing Parent B up to do whatever needs done with the two remaining hands (clean up messes, shop for groceries, pick their nose (you know they do), etc.).

OR

(2) Parent A manages one child with one hand while Parent B manages the other child with one hand, freeing up one hand per parent for any required tasks.

Unless one (or both, God forbid) parents are amputees, or one parent is a double-amputee, the math (and logic) are sound.  Simple, easy, manageable children.  Even if you were to increase the number of kids to four (provided both parents have full use of both upper limbs), there are still the same number of hands as children.

Parent A + Parent B = 4 hands (still), and 4 = 4.

Sure, in this scenario, life becomes difficult as there are no extra hands to get anything done – leading to more messes and difficulty getting everyday tasks completed.  Difficult, but not impossible.

But, when you graduate to kid number five, you have a simple irrational equation.

Parent A + Parent B = 4 hands (magic how that works each time)

But suddenly, there is an imbalance as 4 < 5.  And barring growing a third arm (depending upon your proximity to a hazardous waste dump), picking up a Parent C is your only option.  But, since polygamy is illegal in most states, and it usually leads to even more kids anyhow, that option rules itself out.

So, here I am to present:

Survival Tip #2: Strength in Numbers (or Dividing the Troops).

When my wife and I go shopping, we do one of two things (depending on how our kids are acting. We either go together or one of us keeps the kids while the other goes to the store.  One thing I’ve found that seems to help when we go together is getting two shopping carts.  We’ll each have one of the youngest kids in our cart, and then we set our kids up in formation, leaving one of us with three kids (usually me), and one of us (usually my wife) with two (she has them at home more, she deserves a break).

On the rare occasion we’re feeling brave (aka, stupid), we stick with one cart and have a hilarious sight for all the other shoppers.  In the cart, sitting in the basket are the two youngest – Seth & Ellie.  Standing on the front of the cart, our seven year old, Josh.  And flanking the cart on either side are the two oldest, Oriyah & Joey.  This is only on the rare occasion when we’re after something quickly, because there isn’t a lot of room (or safety) for very much stuff in the cart with two kids.

So if you have five kids, make sure you’re a team and if you’re going to take all the kids, make sure you both go.  It’s for your own good.  Alternately, you could hire a babysitter or convince a family member to watch them – but with five kids, it is incredibly difficult to find someone who is brave (aka, stupid) enough to want to take them all.

If you’re a single parent, I’m so sorry.  You’ll need to either find a Parent B or grow three more arms.

Pictured Above: The Typical Single Parent (I think).

Until next time…