Wednesday, March 27, 2013

My Little Helper

I am all for raising independent and self-sufficient children. I am giving our 4 year old more responsibilities. I figure, if he has jobs at school, then he can earn his keep at home. He has chores and jobs. He has to set and clear the table. He has to clean up his toys, put his dirty clothes in the laundry and put his clean ones in the proper drawers. He even helps make his own lunch sometimes. He can get things out of the cupboard and fridge to help make lunch and dinner. He likes to make his own sandwich. He makes a mean ham and cheese sandwich. Here is the recipe - 2 hams, 2 breads, and 1 cheese. Lay them out, pile them up and smoosh them together then eat. I did not realize how bound and determined he was to make lunch today. I walked into the kitchen to find the refrigerator door open. Not unusual. I thought he was getting the bread, ham and cheese. But, I noticed I did not see his little feet under the door. He was IN the fridge digging in the back to find all the ingredients for his lunch. Guess he was really, really hungry. I pulled him out of the fridge and explained that maybe I should help get the hard to reach stuff. He proudly suggested he use a chair next time. What can I say? The kid is a real problem solver. So, we have 2 new rules in our house. One, no climbing in the fridge. Two, if you cannot reach it with your feet firmly on the floor, ask a grownup for help. Each day brings new challenges. And new rules.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Sara's Sleepover Manifesto

Here is Sara's list of approved activities for a sleepover. A girl must be prepared at all times. 1. Make pizzas. 2. Chocolate fudge cake 3. Alvin and the Chipmunks Squeakuel with popcorn 4. Dance party! 5. Fun time 6. Talent show 7. Stargaze outside (with iPhone). 8. Bed 9. Girl party (at midnight) 10. Wake up (at 8:00) 11. Breakfast (pancakes) 12. Paint nails To all interested and potential parties - she can be packed and ready to invade your home in less than 10 minutes. Her luggage will include a sleeping bag, a pillow, assorted stuffed animals, multiple costume changes (enough to last a week), books, toys, and games. Her costume and wardrobe changes will take into consideration any all climate changes, any possible events and a few backups for emergencies. But, you must provide all the food and activities. She is just the cruise director. Activities and food can be added but not subtracted. She is willing to negotiate (within reason). Pretty ambitious for a girl who falls asleep at 7:30 p.m.

Career Strategies of a 4 Year Old

Christian is already career oriented. His preschool assigns jobs weekly to the kids. Their glitzy and glamorous jobs can be snack helper, line leader, caboose or calendar helper. Naturally, some jobs have more glamour and prestige than others. Some come with great responsibilities. Some are more highly coveted than others. Christian's favorite jobs are snack helper, line leader and calendar helper. He loves being snack helper because of the power associated with the position. You get to dole out snacks, ring a bell and tell people to sit down. Calendar helper is an equally powerful job. It involves a pointer. You get to stand in front of your seated classmates and tell them the day, week, month and weather. It's a great responsibility and he wears it well. He needs to exercise a little more caution with the pointer but even Walter Cronkite started somewhere. Well, line leader. Need I say more? It's being the lead dog during the Iditarod with the added perk of ringing a bell and ordering your subordinates to line up. He likes to take initiative and jazz it up. Sometimes, his line does the conga. Sometimes they hop. Sometimes they skip. But, alas, the lowly job of caboose is not a coveted position. In fact, he came up with a brilliant career strategy. He outsources the job. If he is picked for caboose, he simply assigns it to a friend. His friends love being the caboose. They clamor for the role. They try to bribe him. Again, the power goes to his head. But, at age 4, he knows where his strengths lie. And, he discovered, as the caboose, the view never changes. He has decided he is a leader, not a follower. His teacher has decided the sheer brilliance of it makes it amusing to watch the substitution replacement selection process.I applaud his creativity. I also fear what jobs he will try to outsource at home.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Testing, Limits and Boundaries

Sounds like a road test for a car. But I am actually talking about parenting a 4 year old. My son is bound and determined to test my limits and his boundaries from the minute he wakes up until he goes to bed. I am not unrealistic. I want respect and listening. But this little guy is determined attempt to challenge, argue, negotiate and debate anything and everything. To say that I am stubborn is an understatement. I will NOT negotiate with a 4 year old. He is slowly realizing what little power he has in this house and he is attempting to claim more daily. And he is failing. But, as each new day starts, so does his fresh new resolve to see how many ways he can test me. His first order of business is to put on clean underwear. Each and every pair must be picked up, examined, considered then discarded. Then the Herculean task of choosing breakfast. I am not running a Vegas all-you-can-eat buffet. I give him 2 choices. Without fail, he tries to choose option C, not on the menu and over my dead body. He will eat but must be reminded multiple times to face forward so he does not fall out of his chair. When he does fall, this is suddenly MY fault somehow. Not receiving any first aid or sympathy, he climbs back up and eats his food. Slowly. I could feed a barracks full of soldiers 3 hot meals in the time he takes to eat one cup of yogurt. Ironically, he clears the table and cleans himself up with no fussing or reminding. Getting dressed is my next unreasonable demand. I am greeted with a "not yet". He is given the choice of getting his clothes on or sitting in a time-out in his underwear. Sighing heavily, he is dressed. This is a slightly speedier endeavor. Hair and teeth are brushed without complaint. I don't know why or care. I take the gift and race upstairs to dress myself. Putting on 1 coat and 2 shoes takes my son longer than Scarlett O'Hara took to primp for a party. Off he goes to school, where I am told he is an angel and a delight. Lunch is consumed with the same lack of speed. Nap time approaches. I did not know it was possible to climb stairs THAT slowly. Sometimes, he even ends up going back down! Faced (daily) with the loss of books before nap, he shows some hustle. I have read all the parenting books. I don't negotiate. I don't cave. I give a few choices to give him the illusion of power. I explain the events that will occur and how I expect them to occur. When he fails to follow the simple, basic and reasonable requests made of him, the consequences are explained. When he is faced with the consequences, he has the audacity to look shocked. Then he tries to plead and bargain. "Give me one more chance" falls on deaf ears. People assure me that this is a natural part of development and he will grow out of it. I hope for both our sakes that he outgrows it soon. This kid needs to learn that I am older, tougher and already survived this with his older sister. He doesn't stand a chance.

Plugged In and Disconnected

I took the kids out to breakfast last weekend. Paul was out of town for work and I had no desire to mess up my clean kitchen. The kids colored and we chatted while we waited for our food. A father came in with his 2 kids, each was fully armed with an electronic. Both kids immediately whipped out their personal Ipads. He pulled out his phone. All three were glued to their screens the whole time they waited for their food. Even when their food arrived, they ate while staring at their screens. Not a word was spoken. No eye contact was made. Next to us, a middle-aged couple was doing the same thing. No conversation, no eye contact. They may as well have been dining alone. While we ate, we talked about school, friends, plans for the weekend. We told bad knock-knock jokes. My kids asked a million questions. I made up a million answers. They opened up and I listened. I love my electronics as much as the next person. My kids love to play on the Ipad or Wii. But, we do not allow electronics at ANY meal - at home or in public. We set firm limits about when and how much screen time is allowed. We are all so busy that sometimes meal time is the only time we have to connect. At dinner, we learn what jobs Christian had at preschool. We hear about what Sara did in art class. We hear about Daddy's day at work. We talk about an upcoming family wedding. While Christian eats lunch during the week, I sit with him and read books to him. When Paul and I dine out, we will glance at our phones to see if the sitter has called. That is all. I felt sorry for the father and his kids. Here was a perfect opportunity to talk and connect. Instead they all chose to connect with their technology instead. Ever since Sara was a newborn, we had lunch with my father weekly. She learned to sit through a meal before she learned to sit up or eat solid food. She threw food, ate food, colored or people-watched. It is sad when a family cannot turn off the screen time for facetime. I had a rewarding and enjoyable breakfast WITH my kids. They ate food while sitting next to their family.