First Published in February 2011
By Stephanie Trees
In my last post I wrote about the lessons that parents teach their children at home. I said that we can teach those lessons by spending time with our children. I must admit that in the last few months I noticed that my children were flippant with my husband and I. Additionally, they were arguing a lot with each other about basic things like television shows, wii games choices etc. They had no common courtesy, respect or tolerance for one another at all. Those behaviors seemed to trickle down to us. Sure siblings argue and get on each others nerves but it was more that that they were argumentative toward us and in general down in the dumps, which isn’t natural for kids. I had to think where was this stemming from? When I went back to work my free time shifted and my children got the shaft. I realized that my funny bone may have been broken in this transition and that I too was cranky and argumentative. Something had to change. So during one of my bathroom breaks, you know the ones you take to escape, I decided to practice what I preached and I gave spending time with my children a trial. We already have family night and movie night – but this was extra time. I knew it was going to be a huge undertaking for me as an individual. I craved me time (sleep) and couple time (well, you know).
More time? Where was I going to find more time? I thought about my day and came up with some options. My morning routine was usually a burst into flames situation – you know running around the house like a chicken with her head cut off and screaming like a banshee – trying not being late for work. Night time was a fall into the couch type situation –children beside me vegging out. I realized that I needed to change my morning and night time routines. I revamped it so I wouldn’t have so much to do in the morning relieving us of morning pressure and anxiety. Besides, pressure and anxiety isn’t the best way to start your day. Normally, I did tick stuff off my to-do list the night before, but I was still crazy in the morning so I decided to switch it up – doing all morning prep the night before: lunches, clothes, prepping dinner for the next night, bath/showers for me and the kids, and then the big change – time for my kids – real time, sitting in front of the television vegging out and then sending them off to bed with a peck on the cheek a quick story. Now this new plan meant that I was loading up my evenings, but it wasn’t something that overwhelmed me, it felt workable. For our new evening routine I decided that we would start reading some great novels with my oldest son who is 8 ½ and since he has a love of all things magical we started the “Harry Potter” series. The 5 ½ yr. old proved to be a little trickier, but we decided that we would read a short book or play a quick game of whatever he wanted, that didn’t include re-arranging the entire house of more than 10 game pieces.
In order to make sure each child was getting quality time with each parent my husband and I came up with an every other night switch. One night I read to my oldest and he plays or reads with our youngest and vice-a-versa. Now as it happens, my boys share a room, so we all end up playing the game and listening to the adventures of Harry Potter. When we first started this routine we had ourselves on the fast track, as if we were fireman racing to put out a fire, but we slowly figured out that each night, each book, each game has it’s own cadence and if we didn’t push the issue of trying to speed through our nightly routine the happier everyone, my husband and myself included, we all were. Our nightly routine has now become something we all look forward to, my kids get a kick out the character voices my husband and I attempt, and it turns out it we’re all a little less cranky because we took the time to carve out an alternative night time routine. As a family we have found a balance and the patience to deal with each other more effectively. I’ve noticed that my kids complain less about getting up in the morning as well as going to bed at night, which is a huge deal. They’re happier, I’m happier, my husband is happier. And now instead of starting the mornings with panic and anxiety I let my kids jump into my bed for some morning snuggle time –hugs are better way to start the day even if it is only for five minutes. A well-rested child, one who feels loved and protected, can handle their day a whole lot better and so can Mom and Dad. And despite all this additional time we spend with our kids it turns out that we actually have MORE time to ourselves!?! So are you up for the challenge? Give it a try and let me how it worked out.
More About Stephanie:
Stephanie is a wife, a teacher, tutor, babysitter and above all else a mother to 2 precious boys – an 8 yr old comedian and a 5 yr old speed racer!