Mobile devices, crude weaponry and other distractions
Four year-olds have no concept of time.
Oh sure, they say they do. Tell your kid that he has a friend’s birthday party coming up next weekend and he’ll nod in happy agreement. You may even help him circle the important date on a calendar. It’s just a ruse. You may as well tell him that the party is in one hour, because that’s how long he’ll ask you for clarification. Every day for the entire week.
“Is it today Mommy?”
“No, it’s next week.”
“What? No, it’s next week. In seven days.”
“On Monday, Mommy?”
“No honey. Next Saturday. In seven days. That’s six more sleeps.”
And so on.
As such, telling your child “One moment please,” while you finish up a chore or a phone call is equally futile (one moment = forever). Things have to get done – our family can only occupy a space for so long before it’s taken up with debris and general chaos. I’ve become adept at distraction and proficient at stealing, even creating time to get things done. A few things have worked for me:
1. Colouring: I give them crayons and a colouring book or blank paper (Note: I have to tell them to play nicely. This important caveat is the difference between calm parallel play and making colourful prison shivs.) Colouring lasts five whole minutes, which is exactly how long it takes to get laundry into the washer and address a Crayola stabbing. I can only throw in one load. Don’t think for a second that I have time to fold anything. In fact, I try not to think at all.
Thinking wastes time.
2. Right after school, the boys get a snack and a drink. This is prime dish washing time. They can go as long as 15 minutes if I turn on the TV.
3. If I want a morning sleep-in, I’ll give the kids my iPhone. I can gain an extra 30-minutes and will only have to replace half of my apps. I can sleep right up until the eldest pokes me in the face and announces that he called Tokyo. He’ll mis-pronounce it so it seems cuter.
4. Sometimes, not often, I wake up before my kids do. I realized a long time ago that I would never sleep through the night again, so I don’t fight it. It’s prime time to steal a shower, brush my teeth and start breakfast. Typically, I only make it to the shower before tiny hands and arms are poking my flabby bits through the curtain.
5. On weekends, we run our kids pretty hard. Swimming, skating, soccer – we let them off their leads whenever possible. My four year-old gave up his naps a long time ago, but every once in a while he’ll crash. If it’s time right, there’s a perfect intersection between his nap and the baby’s nap. We call this time the Mythical Unicorn Happy Pants Dance. In theory, there is no limit to the things I can accomplish. Usually, the list is so overwhelming that I implode and sit down to watch non-cartoon related TV.
There are times when 100% focus is not an option – driving, using the stove, operating a forklift, shopping online during Cyber Monday, etc. When it comes to the small stuff (and 85% of it is small stuff), I resign myself to leaving it half done. My older child will ask me to help him count the coins in his piggy bank, or my youngest will drag a book twice his size to the kitchen, calling “Mama! Dis!” I’ll stop what I’m doing and sit with them.
It would be terribly boring and sad to look back and say: “My kids fought really hard for my attention, but damn I had sparkling plates!” Life is about more than keeping a clean house. It takes far less effort to enjoy my kids than to figure out how to distract them.