Monthly Archives: February 2010

Never underestimate…

Just when children push you to your limit, I mean your final limit, they can surprise you.  I found this to be the case the other day.  My children were recently out of school for a teacher workday.  I applied my newly resurfaced idea of working together to make a plan for the day.  That went pretty well, until the squabbling started.  I had a few things that I had to get done in a designated window of time, then we were going to move forward with our plan for the day.  I had some ideas that I just had to get on paper.  The muse called and I needed to answer.  Then, moments of screams, running, doors slamming, shrieking, and crashing sounds eked their way into my work.  I was determined to not leave my task and let them “work it out” in their own way.  That worked for about 10 minutes, then I just couldn’t handle it any longer.  That proved to be even more disastrous.  He said, she said, he did, she did…  “Please let me finish my work, then we can do xyz.”  They kept on with their respective arguments.  I mustered up some mommy courage and simply walked away.

A few minutes later I noticed something unusual for that particular morning.  Silence.  Pleasantly surprised, I continued working and thought how wonderful it was that they had worked it out without my help.  I reflected on the parenting class I took several years back, Redirecting Children’s Behavior (http://www.incaf.com/ — The International Network for Children and Families).  I recently re-read the book, by the same title, by Kathryn Kvols after a friend started experiencing some parenting challenges.  I loaned her the book, but decided I should do a quick refresher before passing it along.  Reading it again was a good reminder of simple, yet powerful approaches to parenting.  One point I gleaned from the class and book was to allow children to work their issues out on their own if at all possible.  I sat there at my desk all smug and proud of myself that I remembered this simple directive.  Little did I know that more was happening than I thought!

After 15 minutes, curiosity got the best of me.  I called upstairs, “What are you all doing up there?”  “Oh, don’t worry, we are just fine.  You will actually love what we are doing.  Just don’t come upstairs until we call you.  Okay?  Promise?”

I was more than curious by this time.  I wondered what on earth they could be doing, and that I would love?  I thought about sneaking up and spying through the Jack and Jill bathroom door, but I thought better.  That just wouldn’t be right.  I ask them to be patient for things, now I had to do what I ask of them.

About 45 minutes later, both of my children came to the top of the stairs and announced that I was to come upstairs immediately.  I went upstairs and was instructed to come into my son’s bedroom.  My daughter, being the spokesperson for the two, told me that it may not look at first like they had been doing anything, but I should trust that they had been doing a lot of work.  The two of them nodded in unison.  My son took the floor next and proceeded to tell me that with the help of his sister (that part almost floored me), they had cleaned out and reorganized all of his dresser drawers.  He didn’t like the system as it was, and it needed to change.  Drawer by drawer a presentation was made, with comments sprinkled in by my daughter.  Drawer number one, socks folded neatly into matching pairs (a sock hodgepodge had always been the past order), number two, boxers (okay, he will be embarrassed that I shared this), three, the largest drawer, all UNC t-shirts folded impeccably, and so on. He even had a drawer for all of his baseball pants and accessories (the cup finally has a permanent home :)).  I was speechless.  I couldn’t believe my eyes.  “WOW!” I said.  After a few more glowing comments, I had to ask where the idea for this project came from and how they decided to work together.  My son said, “Mom, it just needed to be done.  It wasn’t working the way it was, and I didn’t feel good about where any of my clothes were.  Now I have them the way I like them, so I will keep them neat.  It works better for me.”  I then asked how he got his sister involved.  “She just said she would be happy to help me and I said sure.”  That was definitely another WOW!

Flabbergasted and proud would be good words to describe how I felt in that moment.  Never would I have imagined that my son would think of cleaning out his drawers on his own, much less enlist the support of his kid sister (although he has acknowledged in the past what a great “folder” she is).  The outcome was perfect.  They got along, did a great, much-needed project on their own, and I got to finish my writing.  If we did nothing else that day, it was a great one.  I learned to never underestimate my children.  They can and do surprise you when you least expect it! What a great mommy moment.

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Snow Day Revelation

Snow Day Revelation

Children of all ages look forward to snow days, especially in areas where the fluffy white stuff is a rarity.  Seven inches of snow fell in our area a week ago, just as predicted.  Often with predictions of snow comes a reality that falls short of weather forecasts and hopes of children.  Not this time.  We got what was predicted.  Everyone I came in contact with looked forward to a few days home with children, playing games, sledding, snowball fights, drinking hot chocolate and generally enjoying being nestled all together in a cozy home with a fire blazing.  Sounds like a Norman Rockwell scene, right?  This was the case in our home for a few hours, ok, maybe most of one day.  Then…  “I’m bored.  There is absolutely nothing to do around here.  I have already played in the snow (snow clothes are wet).  I don’t feel like playing any games.  Don’t want to practice my piano/cello (both children were sharing this sentiment and cited their respective instruments), and I don’t want to read anymore. “  Being the responsive parents that we are, my husband and I continued to give each of our children ideas of what they could do with their free day.  Consistently their answers were negative or dismissive.  One child left crying and going to her room in frustration.  The other slinked into the media room and turned on a football game, as though we wouldn’t know.  I believe my husband returned to his new computer to tinker, and I returned to the laundry room to attend to the never empty baskets of dirty clothes.  What happened to the Rockwell scene?

My first response to this was frustration, and a wish for the sun to shine brightly and get rid of all the snow.  Then I started remembering some of the principles I have learned from my children’s school philosophy and a parenting class I took several years ago.  Children actually thrive on structure and routine.  They feel safer and more secure with regular routines and boundaries.  Their young minds are constantly absorbing new information as many changes are taking place developmentally, socially, and emotionally for them each day. Adding structure and routine adds stability.   As an adult I can embrace the day without errands, responsibilities, and expectations.  I was reminded that children need to have the structure and routine everyday, even on a day when we, as adults, think they might need a break.  In hindsight I think we could have started the day off, or even the night before, with a conversation about what our snow day could look like, listening to what our children say they would like to do with the free time.

I got the opportunity to try this new approach a few days later.  The forecast was for snow and freezing rain, and boy did the rain fall.  It was a messy, cold day.  The natives were restless by 10:00am.  My daughter said she couldn’t stand it, she just had to go outside.  She didn’t care how bad the weather was, she had to move her body.

I called both of my children to a mini-family meeting.  “Wow, what a messy day.  It looks like we will be inside all day today  What are some things that you all would like to do today?  Do you have any fun ideas?”  I asked, optimistically, in a chipper voice.  “I don’t know,” replied child one.  A simple shoulder shrug was the response from child two.  Okay, this new approach was working great!

Trying not to get frustrated, I tried again.  “Well, what if I throw out a few ideas and you tell me if you would like to add them to the list of things to do today.”  “Alright,” child one responded with a somber tone, looking off into the distance.

After a few ideas, each child started saying yes, no, or even adding to the suggestions.  It was a little like pulling teeth, but with patience, I was seeing progress.  By the end of the meeting, we had a plan.  I pointed out that we didn’t have to have a strict plan with start and end times, just a general idea of things we would like to do today, maybe in order.

Surprisingly, the first thing on the list was an indoor obstacle course.  They really needed to move their bodies.  I set up a course that included running up and down the stairs, a yo-yo race, shooting soft basketballs (indoor goal), mini-trampoline, running around pillows, playing the recorder, lifting light weights in a pattern, singing a funny song in a loud voice, and ending with a hoppity ball race to the finish line.  They loved it, and asked to go through it three times.  By the end, my son was pooped, but my daughter wanted to have a solo race with me timing her.  I saw an instant attitude improvement.  We went on to play several games, read, practice instruments, and topped the day off with looking through cookbooks for ideas for dinner.  Our son decided he wanted to cook dinner that night, so he proceeded to prepare barbeque potato chip chicken, whipped sweet potatoes, steamed spinach (okay, this was more of mom’s idea), and mini corn muffins.  Our daughter was his assistant, peeling sweet potatoes and helping with other areas of dish preparation when asked.  She decided that she wanted to contribute to the dinner, so she asked to make the dessert.  Her brownies were the crowning touch to the end of a much nicer, more pleasant and fun messy weather day!

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