Parents, how are you holding up?
I admit, I went into the first full week with rose colored glasses. I had lesson plans, arts & crafts, a schedule. I was ready.
Here’s the truth: I was not ready.
Seemed to be a theme with other parents I talked to, as well. They had great plans to get their kids excited, engaged and keep them learning without leaning on the TV. But apparently every kid decided it was their mission to make us question our ability to handle working from home, raising our kids and playing teacher.
And man was that a wake up call.
Let’s recap the last three days:
Monday, Day 4: The moods my kids woke up in foreshadowed what the day would be like, but I naively overlooked them, hoping to make it a great day for everyone.
Don’t get me wrong, there were great moments, but overall, I’d give the day a 5/10.
The first tantrum was a mere 5 minutes after breakfast. Then my 3-year old (the one who demanded circle time on Saturday) could not have been any less interested. My 2-year old, however, wanted to read book after book and had a meltdown when, after 30 minutes, the baby had had enough.
But you don’t need to know all the details. Here’s the summary: lots of tears, lots of fights, a few great little moments. A challenging day that I didn’t expect to be so challenging.
Tuesday, Day 5: Walked into the day a little more cautious than the day before, but with big plans for the morning. I even set up their little table just for arts & crafts, playdough and anything else they wanted to do. For the most part, they were pretty good and relatively content in their day. My 2-year old asked me throughout the day why it was a school day and we were at home. My rehearsed response wasn’t enough for him, so I expanded it a bit. Instead of saying “we need to stay home so we don’t get sick,” I said, “we need to stay home so we don’t get sick, but it means we get to play with all our toys and read all of our books and maybe we can even pick a movie later!” That worked.
But it also reminded me how nasty kids can get when they watch too much TV in one sitting…
Wednesday, Day 6: They have officially lost interest in circle time. I tried to change it up a bit and encouraged them to bring a show-and-tell item to talk about (i.e. one toy from the playroom). That started out great until they both grabbed a shark toy and it turned into an epic battle of “BITE!!!” as they wrestled with each other and I tried to calmly – but quickly – move the coffee table out of their way. I tried to get their attention again by teaching them some fun party dance songs, like the Electric Slide and the Macarena. All three boys stared at me in disbelief and embarrassment. So, I guess that’s starting already.
Once I let go of the rigidity of how I defined “circle time,” things got infinitely better. They cleaned up the playroom the first time I asked to move on to the next activity. They played quietly and nicely with each other for almost 90 minutes with kinetic sand. They were thrilled to have a productive outlet that required focus and independence (I had them clean the grout in the kitchen floor; more on that later). And they were thrilled to have the ability to choose their snacks and go get them by themselves.
My Top Lessons
- Take a Drive – If the weather doesn’t allow you to get outside for fresh air, put everyone in the car and go for a ride. Just drive. 10 minutes, 30 minutes, an attempt at getting everyone to close their eyes and recharge for a bit – just go.
- Be flexible – The activities I had planned either didn’t go as expected or were met with hesitation or disinterest. Honestly, this caught me off guard; my kids are normally excited for the various things we work on together or different experiments we try out. They weren’t having any of it. And I felt upset and discouraged and frustrated (level 1 for those who are interested in our Energy Funnel). So I took a breath, reminded myself that it’s ok for them to not be interested in what I put together and found other things to do. In fact, as soon as I stopped trying to force activities in front of them and instead inspired creativity, the big two took off to the playroom where they created an entire storyline to act out and happily played together for nearly an hour while the baby napped. Being flexible comes with being aware of yourself and what’s going on around you – once you’re aware, you can receive and review more information and then use that information to make an intentional decision about what’s the next best move.
- Watch for your kids’ signs – You know which ones I mean. The ones that tell you they’re tired but won’t put themselves to bed. The ones that tell you hangry is fast approaching, but they haven’t communicated to you that they’re hungry or, perhaps worse, they’ve already reached the hungry point where nothing looks or sounds appetizing. Be aware of what your kids’ body language is telling you and work with them. Consider setting up a snack section in the kitchen with healthy and easy to grab foods.
- Think big – Sometimes, we forget that learning is often done best when it’s not called learning. It could be called playing, doing experiments, fixing things, trying something new – it’s all learning in various ways. So, in thinking big, I took a step back and thought about everything I was reading and hearing about continuing kids’ education while they’re at home. I decided to give my boys a productive task: helping me clean the grout on the kitchen floor. We made the homemade grout cleaner together, found extra toothbrushes and got to work. Voila! My lesson plan for the day: achieved. Science, check. Sensory, check. Cause and effect, check. Responsibility, check. Fine motor skills, check. Following directions, check. A seemingly simple task was comprised of lots of little pieces.
- Spend time with myself. I know I have to be my best self to help everyone around me who need and want my attention. I find that if I am all about them and not intentional about taking care of myself, then I don’t have the energy, focus, resilience and patience I need to make the days happen in a successful way. I have learned I don’t need a lot of time, but I do need some time. Time to think, journal, shower, breathe, exercise, make a call, write a blog. Don’t deny yourself some time to do what you need to do for you so you can be there for them.
- Use a Book – One of the best activities we did was building a leprechaun trap, an idea that was spontaneously decided on as a result of reading a book called “How to Catch a Lephrachaun.” Read a book with your kids and see what type of creativity it inspires.
- Assign a task – This sounds more intense than it actually is. I recently read that kids like to have tasks assigned to them, particularly the toddler/pre-K ages. They like to feel purpose and stretch those independence muscles. So I gave my boys a task: go fix it. Here’s the instruction I gave them: “Get your toolboxes, pick out a dump truck and a tractor. Ok, your dump truck and tractors are broken and we need to get them fixed quickly because [pause for your kids to tell you why they need them working again].” The boys jumped right to it and were so excited to be assigned a specific task it allowed me the 30 minutes I needed to get dinner on the table.
- Experiments – I did a quick search for some easy, kid-friendly experiments you can do at home (with some simple, likely-to-have-on-hand-already supplies) and found a slew that I’m hoping to try. Check out the lemon volcano and the rainbow baking soda + vinegar to start.
- The Zen moment – At least once a day, work with everyone in the house to have a quiet moment of reflection, stretching, yoga poses, meditation or quiet play. Put on some easy listening music. Set the timer. Insist that the house take zen breaks during the day to help everyone center, manage their emotions and feel a sense of calm in this strange moment of time. My toddlers love doing “yoga breaths” to help us all calm down and reset.
Consider reading The Quarantine Diaries: Day 3