I almost slipped but I didn’t say it. Instead of asking my kids the generic “how was your day,” when I picked them up from their first day of camp, I asked who they sat next to on the bus, the names of their counselors, what they learned in swim lessons, and how it compared to last year.
As anticipated, we spent very little time at home today. As I cooked dinner, I called my kids up to watch my favorite childhood show, “Little House on the Prairie.” It took all my willpower not to join them on the couch; this was after all episode 1, season 1. I wasn’t sure that my son would stay interested but the show featured horses, wolves, and building houses; when I set the table, both of them insisted that I leave it on. I had given them no information about the show other than it took place about 150 years ago.
Last week, my son rediscovered our neglected reward chart on my iPhone. The app has an easy set-up which allows you to individualize chores and behaviors for each child, as well as rewards. You can use pre-selected chores and rewards or write your own. You can also allocate the payout amount. For example, after 30 stars, we have a game night.
Right before bedtime, I explained the challenge of the day to the kids: that I would talk about someone special to me whom they’ve never met. I didn’t focus on the reason why they had never met him, that he had died almost thirty years ago. I wasn’t in the mood for all the questions that accompany the word “death” and really, this challenge was more about celebrating his life than anything else.
If I hadn’t specifically created Day 14’s challenge, then today’s adventure to the Met would never have happened. I pushed us all out of the house mid-afternoon simply because of the existence of this challenge. I needed to stay home during the morning so we got a late start. My kids weren’t exactly itching to go anywhere and they moved accordingly. It shouldn’t surprise you that we arrived at the train station, only to see the train pull away from the platform. But I need to introduce kids to culture, I thought.
Today’s highlights include a whole lot of misbehaving, a whole lot of reprimanding, and fifteen minutes of sheer bliss. In the middle of the afternoon, I asked both of my kids to take out a book. I set a timer and we all read silently. My five-year-old does not read but she sat leafing through the pages. When they each tried to interrupt the silence, I actually shushed them. I took a deep breath and finally relaxed. I sat and read an entire chapter of my own book. It was magical.
After a long day, tiring day at the zoo (failing miserably at Day 3’s challenge: no yelling), my son and daughter were in no mood to organize their bedrooms. As I assessed my daughter’s closet, she managed to pull out all her dresses, try them on, and drop them to the floor. Needless to say, we did not get very far.
That overused expression “dance like no one is watching” holds true for my children. My son has no problem busting a move walking through a mall, in a restaurant, or in our house (all of which he believes goes unnoticed), yet clams up when someone directs an innocent question at him. A few days ago, I used the word “embarrassed” in conversation and quickly realized that neither of my kids really understood its meaning.
So, you know what happened when I relinquished some control to my kids? A whole lot of nothing. My kids were particularly indecisive about pretty much everything today. In fact, they seemed to want me to make all their decisions for them. (I did make watching TV all day off limits as well as eating candy).
What do you want for breakfast? I don’t know, they responded. So, I gave them some options. What do you want to do today? I don’t know. So, I gave them some choices and we went to the pool. They did want to go home earlier than I would have liked and I didn’t try to convince them to stay any longer. My son couldn’t decide what to eat for lunch so skipped it. They didn’t have any opinions on dinner either. Overall, just an abnormally easy day. There was no fighting, no separating them, just happy outdoor play.