Friday, June 10, 2011

The Drill Sergeant Takes A Vacation

A strange and amazing thing happened not long after I wrote my last post.  I only had to get one kid ready for school and out the door -- Thing 2.  Thing 1, poor lil' guy, was sleeping in after being up much of the preceding night with a cough.  Thing 2 got herself up and dressed, brushed her hair, and appeared in sprightly and cooperative manner at the breakfast table.  She ate what was put in front of her with nary a complaint.  She had a pleasant breakfast, but didn't dawdle to the point where she had to be nagged to finish.  She brushed her teeth when asked, cooperated for the application of sun screen, got her shoes and backpack on, received a reward sticker, and popped out the door with Daddy, right on time.

I thought it was a fluke, this oddly helpful behavior, this smooth morning vibe, this easy-peasy morning routine.  But then it repeated itself a second morning, while Thing 1 remained in bed again.

My inner Drill Sergeant had been granted leave, and happily went on vacation.

In the meantime, a good friend of mine from our kids' preschool days, who now has a toddler and a kindergartner, wrote to me with all sorts of  helpful suggestions and recommendations for handling the kids in the mornings.  Her first suggestion didn't work for us:  she tells her older kid he won't have time to play Wii in the morning if he doesn't get dressed and eat breakfast, and it's his choice what to do.  Great idea, but we are a Wii-less household, at least for the moment, in part because I believe if we had Wii around, we'd never leave the house -- at least not for something as mundane as school.  Late Blooming Dad and I hope to keep the kids content playing Wii at other people's houses; it's a lot cheaper than buying one, and oh, the fights it avoids!  (I know one dad who fights his kids over Wii time.  The man can't get enough.  I secretly believe this would be our fate too if we had one -- or an IPad for that matter.)

But other things she mentioned were highly useful to everyone.  She passed on tips from what I later realized is now somewhat of a latter-day parenting classic:  How To Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk, by Adele Faber & Elaine Mazlish.  The book is chock full of useful ideas, and some of them are so damn simple, you wonder why you haven't thought of them yourself, like this one:  instead of repeating yourself six times until you're so frustrated you're about to turn into a six-year-old yourself, just say a word or two to remind the kids of what you want them to do.  "Kids, pajamas!" turns out to be a whole lot more effective than, say, "How many times do I have to stand here and tell you to put your pajamas on already, people!"

The nice parenting ladies recommend things like answering a question with a question, e.g.,  "I don't know why that kid in your class is always teasing you.  Why do you think he does that?"  Or, "I need you to get ready for school in the morning on time, but you want to play.  What do you think is a way we both could get what we want?"  The idea is to let kids figure out their problems and come up with their own solutions.

It's a good read, full of common sense solutions to many common parenting problems.  I'm glad my friend recommended it.  I'm using a few of the tricks I've learned already.  But there's one thing that I learned from my drill sergeant's vacation, and it's that wrangling one kid, at least in my house, is WAAAAAAAAY easier than wrangling two.

Thing 1 has since recovered from his illness, thank goodness.  And we're making a concerted effort to get both kids abed earlier, theoretically allowing them to get a full ten hours' sleep before having to get up and go.   I've tried, when I've gotten enough sleep myself, to incorporate my friends' suggestions, and the best of those from the parenting ladies.  Some mornings have gone a bit better.  But not all.  

The sibling factor, or perhaps in my case, the twin factor, makes what should be a rather simply morning routine turn into a highly complex operation, requiring constant readjustments and mission creep ... it's beginning to sound a bit like the U.S. in Afghanistan, isn't it?  One thing I suspect about the nice parenting ladies:  they never had twins.


Astrid said...

Good post! I love the book myself, every night I used to read it I made great resolutions, then pfff... couldn't apply them in the morning. I don't have twins, but 3 kids close in age, which also increases the odds for loss of self-control. I think that's why the authors host these seminars where parents can role-play, so their words of wisdom sink in and become more of a reflex than a concept. I wish I could go to one of these seminars.

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