Monday, June 15, 2009

The Times They Are A Changin’


When I was a kid I would wave good-bye to my mother after breakfast in the summer and run out the door. I'd ride my bike all over the place, return for lunch mid-day or call her from a friend's house to tell her I was eating lunch there, go exploring in the woods and return home in time for dinner. I rarely watched TV and I managed to keep myself occupied without a Wii or a DS. My, how times have changed.

I decided this weekend that I was going to require my children to play outside a couple hours a day, provided that the weather holds. I have work to do both in my home and writing deadlines so I must have some free time. It's either stick them in front of the TV for a few hours or force them to play outside. I choose the latter. Today was my first day testing this new requirement out. My kids have been outside for a total of 22 minutes and I have had to take disciplinary action 3 times with my son to keep him outside and once with my daughter. I've had to break up three fights and turn the hose on and off four times. I have gotten a staggering amount of work done. Staggering.

I decided, just minutes ago, to try another strategy out. I sent the two older kids and the dog out the door and I locked it. I locked them out. They are confined to a fenced-in suburban outdoor prison that contains such torturous devices as a swing set, a tree house, a waterslide, a sand and water table, and a never ending supply of flora and fauna to keep them occupied. Yep, just call me the warden. It seems to be working. For the first couple of minutes they both just stood right outside the door, turning the doorknob over and over in disbelief. Is it really locked?

Yes, yes it is.

I'm happy to report that, a mere 15 minutes later, they both knocked on the backdoor not to whine and ask me to come in but to show me a big bucket full of magnolia leaves they'd collected. I admired it from the other side of the door and encouraged them to collect as many as possible. I'm hoping that will keep them occupied for a long time. It's a really big tree.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Sweet Nothings

Every morning, as we're getting ready to go to school, camp, the pool, etc…, I get Harper dressed for the day and strap her in her carseat. I leave her there while I get myself ready to head out the door. This process usually takes between 10-20 minutes. Harper has no problem with this as she is the most laid-back child on earth. When I'm finally ready to begin the painstaking process of getting all four of us in the car and strapped in, I herd the older two kids out the door and into the car with strict instructions: Kids. Focus. No dillydallying. Just get in your seats and buckle your belts. Get in seat. Buckle belt. Simple, right? No. Just ask any parent. No matter what I say, one or both of them is still not buckled by the time I return to the car, Harper's seat slung over my arm and ready to be clicked into her chair.

Why? Why? Why? Why can't they just focus on one task for the 10 seconds it takes to get strapped in? Have I failed them in some way? Are they both suffering from ADD? Why?

This is usually the streaming audio in my head during times such as these when, despite the fact that I'm on time and really don't need to hurry, I feel the intense urge to rush. Rush. Rush. Rush. Sometimes I think this is the plague of the modern mother. No matter where we are or what we're doing, we're in a hurry. It's a tragedy that our kids are paying for. We might as well go ahead and prescribe the anti-anxiety medication for them now.

In the midst of all of this self-inflicted stress, I notice a small white index card placed across Harper's legs that says, in red marker, "I Love You." There's one just about every morning, carefully placed in Harper's car seat along with her stuffed monkey. Its Truman's little love note to his sister. I see this and I tell myself: Breathe. Savor this moment. It's life at its best. And I remember that while my kids may be painfully slow at buckling their seatbelts, they are also overflowing with sweetness and light, humor and joy. How did I get so lucky?