We had our new living room windows installed yesterday morning, which meant my job was to keep four children content within confined spaces for three hours out of our day. Who knew that could be the recipe for such a successful day?
The first thing I did, was to assemble the makings of a cold lunch first thing in the morning. Lunch would be as easy as tossing prepared food onto a plate for my little family of four. And it was. No time "prepping" in the kitchen. No time cooling off hot entrées. No wasted time spinning in circles wondering what in the world I would find to feed my finicky eaters. It was quick, easy, no fuss and no muss.
The second thing I did, was to put up a child gate to keep my little family of four safe and out of the way of our window crew. This meant that all five of us were confined to the toy room, the hallway and we had easy access to a bathroom. I plopped myself down in the playroom and did nothing but watch my children. Nothing else.
Instead of hearing of an argument after the initiating offence, I saw things as they happened. I stopped minor infractions as they occurred, instead of second guessing what happened after the fact. By seeing and stopping things at the root of the problem, nothing got out of hand.
Children were more content, I was calmer and the day flowed by ever-so-easily.
When our "upstairs fun" became tedious and the air got chillier with the missing window panes, it was time to head downstairs to play. Our downstairs play area is filled with toys and there was something for everyone, Again, I just plopped myself down on the floor and simply watched over my little charges, putting out "small fires". Not literal fires, just minor infractions which could end up "blazing out of control", left untended.
I've often wondered about those "fires". Are they best stomped out before they start a-blaze? Or is it sometimes better to let the order of natural consequences take hold and let those very same fires burn themselves out?
I often accuse myself as micromanaging my young family. When I watch over every little thing, do they come to expect me to step in and take care of things for them? Or do they really need my help? I have told myself time and time again that I am the one who is making mountains out of molehills.
I think I was wrong.
As I sat back and watched the day, I saw where so many of our battles begin. I found myself calling out one name far more than the rest. When that "one person's" actions were kept in check, the aftermath that I usually deal with after the fact was next to nil.
When one's toys were not at risk of being grabbed, others stopped screaming and became less aggressive. When the aggressor was tamed, the battles stopped raging. When that one "domino" was not tipped over, I didn't have to pick up the rest of those that fell in its wake.
I don't know how to recreate this near perfect day again. I can't lock all five of us in a room all day, every day. Diapers must be changed, lunch and snacks must be organized and cleaned up. The phone rings, my attention gets diverted and distractions happen.
But I can do my best to keep my eyes and ears open, my mind present and accounted for and prepare as much as I possibly can for a day.
Days like yesterday are good for my soul. I have been wracking myself over the coals a lot lately. I haven't liked the sound of "who I have become". I am tired of beating myself up and losing control of our days. I'm just plain tired.
I think I just have to try less, sit more and appreciate the little morsels as I find them throughout our days.
My greatest reward was when I heard my voice echoed back within the voices of the children in my care. I liked what I heard when I heard my words fall off their tongue. Children are mirrors and I needed to take a good, hard look at what they are reflecting back to me.
Who knew the way to such a good day could be found in such a confined space?