Thursday, April 15, 2010

More Parenting Through Literature

Today has been a good day on the parenting front. I am in that magical carefully-considered-defined-introspected-and-worked-hard-to-cultivate Zone where no matter what happens or what spills, I am able to handle the incident in a kind, gentle, firm, guidance-oriented way. Especially considering that we have Deadlines and Tasks and other Capital-Lettered Words that us Type A-types seem to be concerned with looming up. Look at me--growing as a person here. :o)

It is much easier for me to remember to be a playful parent when I'm in that Zone, and when I remember to be playful, we all have fun (imagine!) and I'm able to sustain that Zone-y feeling. But if I lose that Zone-y feeling (sing it with me! "You've lost that Zone-y feeling, wooooah that Zone-y feeling . . . !), it's so much harder to keep my parenting goals and tools at the forefront of my consciousness.

Here's an example of how I awesome I've been today--after soccer, we all came home and rested and had a snack and cooled down a little while. Then it was time to do some cleaning up for our guests who are arriving tomorrow. (Because even I have housekeeping standards. It's true.) Ryan volunteered (!) to clean the bathroom surfaces, window and mirrors, so I sent him off to do that, armed with supplies.

Morgan, as my regular readers will know, is a reluctant worker when it comes to household chores. Also, it's extremely difficult to get her re-focused away from what's going on in her head and onto any particular thing I need her to do in general. She indicated an interest in wiping surfaces (these kids love anything that involves wet wipes or Windex and paper towels). I was cleaning the kitchen, and knowing I should keep her near me so I could help her stay on task, I suggested she wipe down the pantry door and all of the cabinets and drawers. Because, they're all pretty nasty, to be perfectly honest.

She happily obliged. After spending about 2.5 minutes wiping the door, she wandered away. I called her back with "Hey Morgan! Wow, that door sure is white where you cleaned it! Come finish the rest and make it match!"

She came back, cleaned for another minute, then drifted off again.

Me: "Morgan, I can tell you've worked so hard on this door. I can't believe how close you are to finishing it. I knew I could count on you!"

She perked up at this--I know that she LOVES it when we give her responsibility and notice how well she's handled it. Really, all kids like this as far as I can tell, but she especially enjoys this now that she's reached the ripe old age of five. She came back and said, "Just you wait, Mom! I'm not done yet!" And then she finished the door.

In the meantime, Ryan kept dashing into the kitchen with "casualties" from his battle (used up paper towels from the Battle of the Mirror, apparently). :o)

So I was all proud of myself for being encouraging (yet not praising with a vague "Good job!" or "Good girl" or "You're the best daughter ever!") and keeping my temper and NOT saying things in a mean voice like "You haven't finished yet." or "Come back here!" or "Why do you keep leaving? Don't you see you're not done?" or anything else similarly discouraging. I was teaching her some real jobs and taking the time to show her how to do them. And she really stepped up. Seriously, this child is typically nearly impossible to get any real help out of, she really is (ask Brendan or Kelly!).

After a while, Ryan had finished his jobs and Sean was becoming crazy annoying something of a hindrance to the cleaning process. So I assigned Ryan to play with Sean, which in a household with a toddler is considered an actual real job (at least in our household).

Somewhere along the way, I noticed something and said:

"Hey Morgan, this is just like in Little House on the Prairie. Ma and one of the older girls working and doing chores and the other older kid playing with the baby."

Again, I probably would not have thought to say that if I'd been stressed out task-focused grumpy-because-the-house-is-a-mess-and-I-never-get-any-help Mommy. And somehow it was the perfect thing I could have possibly said.

Every task after that was "Ma! Look how I'm cleaning this table! Just like on the prairie." and "I wonder when Pa is coming home from work." and "It sure is a Big Job to keep our house tidy when we live on the prairie!" and "Won't Nonnie and Uncle Tim just love to visit our clean house? When will their covered wagon arrive tomorrow?"

She made me call her Laura and we've been referring to Sean as Carrie for the last few hours. Ryan has somehow managed not to say something disparaging once about being referred to as Mary (it's possible he hasn't noticed and I'm not eager to enlighten him just yet). It was so easy and FUN to finish up our cleaning (and we're not really finished yet, just taking a break).

When I sat down to rock the baby, she sat near me and asked what Laura might do when Ma was with the baby. I suggested that the real Laura might have played with dolls or worked on sewing or read a book. She decided to read a book and then went and got a stuffed dog (renamed Jack in honor of our game).

Fun day. A nice reminder to me that Parenting in the Zone makes it easier to stay in the Zone, and to make sure to include Morgan and give her responsibilities. I need to keep noticing when she steps up, and we need to have FUN.

Now I'm wondering what I should add to our reading list next, since this Parenting through Literature things works so well around here. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer? We have some painting that needs doing. What else?


Hanah said...

Have you read _All-of-a-Kind Family_? I loved this series when I was a kid. The sequels appear to be out of print, but the first one at least is still available.

ChrisL said...

What a great concept - literature as an inspiration for running a household.

Just make sure they don't get a hold of Lord of the Flies.