Monday, June 17, 2013

Just the Way You Are

My oldest son was driving me crazy this morning.  I had been up an hour before I saw him, luxuriating in a long walk and time to pray.  I was feeling very zen.  I hung my dog's leash up on the peg and when I turned around, I saw my adorable children eating their cereal in their jammies.  Since there is nothing cuter in my world, I went over to kiss the top of their heads.  "Mommy!" my son screamed.  (He's in this screaming phase - Everything he says sounds like an old man with a hearing aid.) "Didn't you say we could climb the ladder today?"

Don't you hate when you tell them things in advance?  I did tell him he could climb a ladder today.  We had a nursery rhyme to read today about playing and it sounded like a fun way to tie in the story.  But getting out a giant ladder at 8 AM isn't my idea of a good time.  I decided to stall.  "Sure, babe.  Let's wait until Daddy goes to work so that we have room in the garage," I said.  "Okay!  Let's go swimming instead!"

Again, it's only eight in the morning.  "We can go swimming in a bit.  I'm going to eat breakfast and you can go play," I told him.  "Okay!  Let's play baseball!" he shouted.  "Mama!  Mama!  Baseball. Yes," my youngest piped in.  "Or we could just get out construction trucks and dig in the dirt!" my oldest said, sensing my lack of enthusiasm.  At this point, I started entering into sensory overload.  Every idea involved a lot of set-up, tear down and parental supervision.  "Guys, go play by yourself.  Mommy needs a minute."  I found myself feeling so frustrated.  I thought, why in the world can't they just build with their blocks or color or anything else in the world that doesn't involve me?  After all, I just wanted to eat a bowl of cereal before being accosted with a to do list.  Then I flashed to my mom's idea of writing down all their ideas to help them do one thing at a time. I finished my cereal then called them over.

"You have so many great ideas but we can only do one thing at a time.  I also need turns to do things that I like during the day.  Let's write down all of our ideas and we'll put them in a jar.  We can take turns picking out our activities.  Deal?" I asked.  "Deal!" they both said.

As I wrote, my oldest helped cut them out and my youngest put them in the jar.  I added a few school tasks and a few "free play" cards to break up the activities.  First, they picked the ladder so we practiced climbing in the garage.  Next, they picked reading (guess who threw that one in there?).

I read a line out of a Pooh book that said, "Friends like you just the way you are," and my oldest jumped up and gave me a bear hug.  "Mommy, I like you just the way you are.  I really love doing things with you."  A lump formed in my throat as I thought about what a big statement that really is.  It can be hard to like each other just the way we are. We always love each other but it's hard to like it when a kid has 6,000 ideas of things to do before your first cup of coffee.  If you're like me, you want to tell them to buzz off.  The challenge is to still show them love while teaching them to manage all their ideas, emotions and impulses.  If we do, they will do the same for us.  At least that's my hope in this tangled, crazy world of parenting.

How do you help your kids to manage all their ideas?  How do you encourage independent play?  

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