All summer long we’ve been flitting from one activity to another. Not over-scheduled or responsible for anything beyond our small world. We’ve been bored, free and had a good dose of spontaneity. We did all the things.
Yesterday after dinner I asked the children to write on the white board their ‘plan for tomorrow’. I asked them to think ahead about ‘how they will fill their day’. I did not have any inkling that this would cause so much distress.
The 10 year old panicked. Didn’t understand the parameters of the task. Couldn’t make a decision. ANY decision. Writing something down was a commitment she was not willing to make. Writing a list to her meant sticking to it exactly with no room for freedom or creativity. The 11 year old went quiet and did her best.
Me: ‘There’s no right and wrong, think about what you’d like to do tomorrow and all I’m asking is that you include one task that contributes to the household.’
This concept is not new. We’ve been doing one ‘chore’ every day, sometimes all together, sometimes not, all summer long. Ok, nearly every day. This is routine.
I just wanted an idea of how they planned to spend their day. Like what would be fun for them? It was like I had asked for them to solve Climate Change.
They sat together with sour faces and I got my answer: they would do exactly what they knew and had done all summer. They would get a chore out of the way quickly in the morning then, as soon as they were allowed, they would leave to be pampered at grammas. That’s what they wanted.
I didn’t need anything new or grand. What kills me is they were so triggered, so resistant to what I thought was going to be a simple exercise in ‘planning ahead’, that I’ve spent the morning trying to explore that with them (and myself). Uh, that’s going well (*grunt*).
I wanted them to take some time and make conscious decisions on how they were going to spend one of their last days of summer. They fell back on routine. Maybe THAT IS their conscious choice. Routines are good. Haven’t I spent all this time trying to install routine in them? Was I asking them to think OUTSIDE of routine? Is that what they heard?
This year they will both be asked to do some Executive Functioning beyond their current capabilities. Grade 5’er will get more homework and start karate. Grade 7’er will be at cheer practice 4 nights a week leaving little time for play dates and homework. They will need to manage their time. The littlest one remembered her cello for school a total of three times the year she had it. Planning ahead takes twice as long for her. She seems to always feel rushed. She’s the kid who has been on the couch for 20 minutes, ‘ready’ to go out with the family, and as we walk out the door she remembers she needs a sweater, shoes, a library book and forgot to put her hamster away.
Look folks, I’m not worried about her growing up to be a competent and happy human. She’ll be fine. I know she is capable but Harvard is suggesting games including strategy, skipping, and Soduko.
This morning Miss 11-year-old looks at me, moping, questioning why they had to write down what they would do for the day. She asks if they will ever have to do that again. I turned away to hide my utter disbelief that this was such a huge burden. I show her my list of things that will fill my day. There is no way it will all get done. It’s a Mental Core Dump of tasks that COULD fill this day. There’s plenty of wiggle room. There are priorities like the documents I need to send to my mum and picking up dog poo. Why does she feel so trapped by a short outline of the day?
How do I show the kids that they can CHOOSE their day? Choose how to fill it, what makes them happy, take quiet time, run amok? Keep doing it myself I suppose. When they ask what’s for dinner and I respond with “I’ll just get creative with what’s in the fridge” (keeping my creative lines open) they do not like it. They like to know what’s going on. But then they don’t like to plan for themselves what’s going on… What is this?!
Perhaps they get that they are on the verge of not needing Mummy so much. They are becoming aware that soon they will be more responsible for their own life and they want some last moments of feeling cradled.
They sure didn’t like the little shove out of the nest and in the direction of a whiteboard yesterday. Their resistance to order, institutionalization, is admirable. It’s also very annoying to this master planner.
In conclusion, I’m ripe. I’m full of all the goodness that summer offers. Blueberries are picked, pies made, glowing skin, sleeping outside, new car, renovations managed, long sweaty dog walks, moon rises, cottage time, gatherings with friends, new recipes, kids bringing me Freezies so they can justify their own coloured sugar water intake. It’s been super awesome.
I’m also ready to get out of this bubble and get Back to School.