Real Life Prep Time

The hardest thing about parenting, for me, (besides the noise) is 'no prep time'.  After a week of dragging the kids out of bed and through the morning routine in time for school, the rascalls are wide awake come Saturday in the black and white movie hours of dawn.  Before I even tip a sip of tea to my mouth, someone is yelling, crying, whining or hysterically giggling in prelude to one of the first three.

Instead of feeling refreshed and ready to start my day with this tribe of children, I feel "Ugh.", "I'm not ready for this."  At this precise moment I wish I had prep time for real life.  When I taught, I made sure my day was mapped out, supplies and books ready to go at the start of the day.  Nowadays, evenings are jammed with homework, baseball, dishes and laundry.  Weekends are still a time for catching up, cleaning up and chilling out for my husband and I.  But we need to balance those grownup activities with kid oriented quality time.  We have discovered that "Go outside and play while I rake the yard." doesn't really cut it with kids.  Kids crave our time and attention in a way that is really incomprehendable till you are a parent in the movie of Life.  Kids are the masters of high expectations, they are clear what they want (our time and attention) and when they want it (right now).  We could learn a thing or to about the results of high expectations from our children I suspect, but that is probably a whole other post. 

So I found myself this morning, using PBS for prep time, and just as I think how I have come to rely on this simple form of technology to amuse while I prepare breakfast, dinner or myself, my kids remind me it is not the only way.  Of course they don't tap me on the shoulder, or speak softly in my ear.  You know that.  The boys start horsing around (boy language for I am bored with nothing to engage me)  and so I tell them, "Go out of this room and find an activity to do by yourself, you may play in the same room if you choose to be safe and friendly to each other."  So off they go.  I know if I said,"Go find something to play together." the results would not be half as good.  I remind them instead that being together is a priveledge (thank you brilliant Listserve Moms for this idea) and they earn this priveledge by treating each other well.

The result, for the next half hour before breakfast the boys played with spaceships they built out of legos for serious imaginary adventures.  They even included little sister.  After breakfast, play resumed for another hour at least. 

The hard part is do I use this as my prep time? shower? clean up  breakfast? OR Do I just sit back and enjoy the rare show of sibling cooperation and comaraderie?  I know if I were in the classroom, I would be there, noticing, watching, listening and enjoying someone elses' children.  I would take it in so I could share withthem or their families the great stuff they are capable of .  I might even write it down to remind myself what engages them, and tuck it away as a tool to use in the future.  Something like this:

"Joey really got down to Lila's level, talked to her and gave her an in.  Within minutes she was flying around with her spaceship making alien noises and needing to be rescued (will deal with that another time :) Charlie morphed his spaceship play into boat play, and floated his in the small kitchen sink.  Lila scrabbled around for boat parts and imaginary fishing poles to emulate big brother, while Joey dismantled an erector set construction to build "the greatest car ever".  Lila:  "look at the fish I caught!"  and Charlie the Shark Hunter: "My Hat!  My Spear!  This is just horrible! I am going to charge you!  I am going to kill you!  UGHHHT  That Shark!  ow!  That thing is strong."

Signing off and still in my nightgown. . .A

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