Thursday, January 22, 2015

Small Victories

As I closed the door on my daycare day yesterday, I felt like running a victory lap.

It was just one of those days where (about a trillion) reminders of the 'same old', 'same old' all seemed to come together and create a friction-free kind of day.

I am not exactly certain how many times I repeat myself throughout the course of my day. It is a lot.

I say the same old things. Time and time again. Everyone gets the same lessons. Caring. Sharing. Taking turns. Be gentle. Be kind. Manners, manners, manners.

If you push, you get put to the 'back of the line'. If you don't say please, you don't get 'more'. If you want to walk in front of someone say 'excuse me'.

Reminders, reminders, reminders.

Our days are pretty loosely structured but there are many things the same.

The routines before we go outside. Everyone must go to the bathroom first. All snow gear is laid out on the floor so everyone can do their best to get dressed on their own. Coming back inside is the same thing, only in reverse.

Meal time is pretty routine. Manners are always encouraged. Chew, chew, chew, chew some more and swallow is the name of the game. Bathroom time follows meal time.

Before nap routines are another version of 'rinse and repeat'. Every day. Everyone goes to the bathroom (again) and we either settle in and read books or watch (part of) one of the three Toy Story movies.

Yesterday was an interesting day because I bought a second 'Leap Pad' game. Up until yesterday, the Leap Pad was only for the 'bigger kids'. But ages do not remain stagnant. Our one-year-olds have all turned 'two' and our two year olds have all turned 'three'. It was time to bite the bullet and introduce the little guys into the big guy's territory.

Two Leap Pads and four kids means sharing. A concept young people hear about but don't like too much when sharing involves something shiny, brand new and full of interactive fun.

As long as we had 'four', sharing was rather easy. The little guys didn't know they were going to get a turn at first, so they had absolutely no trouble sitting beside their older friends and watching. Then when the three-year-olds tired of the games and were ready to abandon them, I let the little guys have a turn. Easy peasy.

The challenge came at the end of the day. We were down to three kids and two Leap Pads. I have a timer that I set for five minutes at a time. I explained the concept to my young audience and the only one who had had first hand experience with taking turns every five minutes was the three year old. So I gave the little guys the first five minute stretch. All went well until they had to 'switch' and rotate their turn.

Two years old is a little young to grasp the idea of 'five minute turns'. But not too young to be introduced to it regardless.

My little two-year-old girl does not take kindly to a world which does not spin according to her rules. She cried. She cried so long and so loud she could not hear my assurances she would get the next turn. Thankfully she stopped crying before the five minutes were up, so she did get her turn. But the next time her time was up, she was doubly angry. She cried past the five minute mark and forfeited her next turn. By the third go-round, she still wasn't happy but she sort understood the concept.

Her two-year-old buddy was pretty dramatic when his turn came to wait out five minutes. He wiped non-existent tears off his face. He turned the corners of his lips downward and breathed very, very heavily. But he did not cry. So he did hear me saying the words reassuring him he would get another turn.

These guys have all honed the art of making their parents feel bad at the end of the day and 'pretending' they don't want to go home. My plan was, to have the Leap Pads out of circulation before parents arrived. But I missed the mark by about one minute and thirty six seconds.

Parent #1 (mom of my two-year-old boy) arrived a minute (and thirty six seconds) before his turn was up. I explained to her what we were doing and the timer was due to go off in seconds and his turn would be over. She encouraged us to finish out his last turn.

Her little guy wasn't thrilled to give up the Leap Pad at the end of his turn but was resigned to the (now) familiar routine.

#1 - Mom was totally impressed with her boy for being so accepting of giving up a coveted new play-thing.

Then her little boy decided to play the 'I don't want to go home' game and I scrouched down to his level, asked him to look at my eyes and told him we would bring out the Leap Pads tomorrow, but he had to be really good for his mom and put on his jacket. And he listened!!

#2 - I was shocked and surprised at this success. And so was his mom.

She then asked how his toilet training went that day. I said, "Perfect!" She said at home, he won't even try. He cries and screams and will not even try to go any more.

#3 - I think his mom felt a little defeated. Why is her son so different at daycare??

She left and I thought of the ways 'toilet training' is working for him here.

He is doing what 'the big kids do'. All four of them go to the bathroom before they go outside, after meals, before watching Toy Story (or reading books).

It is a routine. We do (much of) the same thing day in and day out. Often 'something good' follows going to the bathroom. We head off and do something that I don't want interrupted by one-of-four needing to go to the bathroom.

Expectations never (ever) change here.

I expect these guys to listen, be respectful (to me and to everyone else) and do their best. My mom has often reminded me "They are only two!!" and I shake my head and think "WOW!! They are only two and look how good they are doing!!"

Some of my days, I feel like I'm banging my head against a cement wall. I do the same things over and over. I say the same things over and over. I have to remind everyone of the same things over and over. I feel like Bill Murray's character in 'Ground Hog Day'. I feel like I'm caught in a time warp, running in circles and getting no where.

Then I have a day like yesterday.

All four of 'my kids' went home happily and without making their parents feel badly for working all day.

All four of 'my kids' had a relatively successful day in caring, sharing, being kind and taking turns.

All four of 'my kids' have been listening all along.

Sometimes, it is the littlest things that make the biggest difference. Watching little people be kind to one another, using their manners and doing hard things (taking turns when you are 'only two' is one of the hardest things in the world) is one of life's greatest rewards.

These little guys are going to grow up one day. If they leave my daycare with the mantra 'Be kind. Use your manners. Care. Share." running through their brains on auto replay, my work here is done.

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