Archive for September, 2011

he lives in a yellow submarine

Wesley: Mama, is George your favorite Beatle?
Me: Yes, he is my favorite. Who’s your favorite?
Wesley: Ringo.
Me: Interesting. Why Ringo?
Wesley: Because he’s a born lever-puller.*

* Lever-puller? Liverpooler? How exactly does one write down a pun?

don’t be in a hurry

Even though I am a half-assed parent, there are a few things that I have finally figured out, or finally accepted to be true, after being told many times. The most important–and, in my opinion, hardest–one is this: don’t be in a hurry.

It’s hard to remember on a daily basis. But kids don’t do “hurry” very well. Some kids are better at it than others, true, but most of them are a lot easier to handle and more fun to be around if they have more time. For us, allowing 15 more minutes to get ready in the morning, for example, makes a huge difference to Mary’s day. My temptation is to say, “Surely it makes more sense to let her sleep that 15 minutes,” but it really doesn’t.

Giving warning before changing activities helps, too–“10 more minutes in the pool, then it’s time for lunch” is a lot easier for Mary to accept than “Okay, out of the pool!” without warning.

It has taken me a long time to accept this fact. The thing that finally tipped the balance for me and helped me remember to do it most of the time was realizing that adults are like this, too; we just don’t have to arrange those transitions consciously.

Think about it: if you had ZERO control over your own schedule and your own activities (which most kids do; we decide for them), wouldn’t you want a little warning?

Yanking them from activity to activity without warning is like sending an adult to an all-day meeting and not providing an agenda. I know I wouldn’t like it, especially if there was no sense of when the meeting would end, when we would get a break, or how long any activity was going to last.

For example, Wesley’s day: some days, he stays home all day with me; other days, he comes to pick me up from the university with Conor; some days he’ll have dance class. He needs to know what we’re doing that day. And he needs a little warning when we’re about to do something new.

It’s also really tempting to be in a hurry and just yank them from one thing to the next thing because I have things to do, papers to write or grade, errands to run. But at the end of the day, that is boring for them, unless I include them. They don’t mind going to the store if I explain what we’re getting and why we need it and how we choose it…etc. But if I just pull them through the store and ignore their questions, trying to move us along faster, they’re bored and annoyed. And eventually, difficult.

I’m a big advocate of talking to kids. They understand a lot. Talking over them like they’re not there is disrespectful. I’m not saying you should put your adult conversations on hold to discuss “Elmo’s Potty Time” again and again, just that you should talk to them like they’re people when you’re dealing with them. I try to remember that what they’re discussing is interesting and important to them, even if you’ve discussed it roughly 100 times before. They are figuring out the world.

When they ask “why”–for the millionth time–I try to explain. It is frustrating and annoying and time-consuming sometimes, for sure. But there’s a reason it’s an almost universal little-kid phase: they’re absorbing huge quantities of information at an incredible pace. They need more. They need lots of information at the moment they want it in order to make the most sense of what they learn. And taking the time to answer those questions is part of slowing down enough to make things better for them.

Just a thought. The beginning and end of the semester is the most time-consuming, and it’s easiest for me to lose track of this then. Not like any of you are looking for my parenting advice…but it’s just so simple and yet so difficult.

5

It is really hard for me to believe that Mary is five.

I feel like she was a baby just a few minutes ago. But I also can’t really remember what it was like before she arrived, either.

She is opinionated, funny, stubborn, affectionate, tempestuous, independent.

In other words–she’s five.

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first day of school conversation

11:00

Wesley: Where’s Mary?

Me: At school.

11:07

Wesley: When can Mary come home?

Me: At 3:00. That is in…a little less than four hours.

Wesley: Oh.

11:11:

Wesley: Has it been four hours yet?