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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Smart Parenting

For Mormons, Sunday is a day of rest.  Theoretically.  We don't participate in sporting events, go shopping, or various other rest-of-the-week activities.  It is a day set apart to rest from the labors of our week, or in reality, as many of the labors of our week as possible.  Because really, when you have four small children the only rest you get from your labors is when you pay someone else to do them for you.

So Sunday is usually combination of high-intensity work (quick! everyone get your shoes on already we're going to be late!  What do you mean you can't find your shoes?!?) and endless afternoons and evenings (sweetie, it's six o'clock; can we put the kids in bet yet?).  Some Sundays can be quite pleasant; we talk to my parents in Columbia, Brandon builds things with the children, we all have some tasty dessert before story- and bed-time.  Other Sundays are less so, more like a continual series of breaking up fights with crying spells in between.

This past Sunday was a mix of the two, with the mix leaning more towards the latter.  'It's okay,' I kept reassuring myself when Edwin was standing in the corner again after smacking Joseph while we were attempting to video chat with my parents, 'not all Sundays are pleasant.  It's just the numbers catching up.  Maybe next week will be better.'

I've realized after some years of crowd control parenting small children that one key to keeping the crazy as minimal as possible is having a series of activities, so after talking with my parents we went downstairs to make snowflakes.  The last time we cut out snowflakes for Christmas was 2010, so none of the kids were very excited about it.  They didn't even know how to use scissors.  So Brandon and I put the kids to bed after a few demonstrations and then had a great time cutting them out ourselves.

This year, however, Kathleen and Sophia have both started using scissors, so we had some company.  Joseph, after smashing blue Lucky Charms marshmallows into his hair, got put in bed.  Edwin insisted on having a chair up close and personal to watch the process, grew disinterested, asked for a pencil and paper, scribbled for twenty seconds, and wandered off to do something.  After twenty minutes of entertaining himself, he started doing what any three year-old boy would do who has been stuck inside all day after being forced to sit through two hours of church: he started driving everyone nuts.

I mentioned to Brandon that maybe we should make him run stairs to burn off the excess Sunday-evening-everyone-is-going-crazy energy.  Edwin wasn't interested.  We suggested that he run circles through the kitchen and living room, and he thought maybe that was a pretty good idea.  After watching Edwin have a fantastic time, Sophia decided that hey, running really was much more fun that mangling cutting out snowflakes.  Kathleen watched Sophia running and laughing and suddenly lost interest in her own hack job snowflake and joined in the fun.  All three galloped through the kitchen door, rushed past Joseph's stroller parked in front of our Egyptian kilim, and crowded back through the other kitchen door laughing hysterically the entire time.

I was reminded of a story where two fathers on a beach trip convinced their sons that a pile of rocks really really needed to be moved from one side of the beach to the other.  The boys had a great time, the fathers sat and enjoyed their day, and no fights had to be broken up.

The children began tiring, and I asked if they were ready for some leftover birthday cake.  Yes! Yes! they all cried.  Brandon, not ready to give up his own snowflake-cutting, interrupted, 'How about you have a contest?  Keep running and whoever runs the longest gets the biggest piece of cake!'  Without even waiting for her siblings, Sophia dashed off.  Edwin squirmed as Brandon put his underwear back on, and almost ran away with it between his knees.  Kathleen left her new snowflake mid-cut and got back to running.

Brandon and I enjoyed the peace.

After seven or eight minutes, we set the timer for five more minutes and declared that if Kathleen and Sophia, the ones still in the race, could both hold out until the timer beeped, we would declare a tie, and both would get the biggest piece of cake.

Five minutes later, both completed an extra victory lap and sat down with flushed cheeks and bright eyes to their well-deserved cake, happy with the good work they had done.  'Mom,' Sophia explained when I asked her why she wasn't eating her extra-big piece of cake, 'I'm just so tired.'  Brandon looked at her with a smile, 'Well then you should have no problem going to bed tonight, right?'  She nodded in complete agreement.

I think maybe we'll have to start a Sunday evening tradition.


Laura said...

And this right here is why I drag the kids on so many walks when I come to visit. And at work I just drug them.

Liz said...

I used to nanny for a kid who would get really cagey right around bed time. The best solution was to have him jump it out right after his bath. After 8 or so minutes of jumping on the bed he would settle down, and the rest of the bedtime routine would go off without a hitch.

PaulaJean said...

Every house needs a place to run circles in. Very clever. And happy that talking to us in Colombia is a good thing.

nelsonjeneen said...

Are Sunday afternoons sound very similar. :-)

UnkaDave said...

I make your mother do the same thing around our block. The fact that it's Bogotá makes her run even faster.

Just US said...

There are many nights Kaelen runs circles between the living room and kitchen while I make dinner. It is the only way for me to get things done and for him to expend his pent-up energy. Love that it works for you too!