There never seems to be enough time in the day to accomplish what I want to accomplish these days. If you’re a working parent you may be familiar with the following song and dance: wake up early in order to get anything done for yourself (quiet time, gym, finishing up work from yesterday), get the kids ready and off to school, daycare, etc, rush hour traffic, meetings, meetings, meetings, pick up kids, after-school activities (piano, gymnastics, dance), family dinner by 7 pm (if it’s a night you don’t have late meetings), kids in bed by 8, then post up in front of the TV with your laptop for a couple of hours finishing work until you drift off and get to do it all over again the next day.
Somewhere built into this daily routine are supposed to be things called teachable moments. Opportunities to truly engage with your kids around meaningful instances where you can use real life as a chance for dialogue. Most of us (myself included) miss this small windows because we’re simply too busy racing from one thing to the next that we just aren’t paying attention. It gets easier though to discover (or manufacture if you’re creative) teachable moments if life forces you to slow down.
This past few days our routines have been turned upside down, offering up plenty of chances for teachable moments for both myself and the girls. My wife has been out of town in Vegas at a work conference, and when I dropped her off at the airport she asked me, are you sure you’ll be ok? Do I need to call in reinforcements? (i.e Grandma). To my credit, I didn’t pridefully answer, of course! Instead I gave her a weak smile and head nod as if to say, I’ll take my chances. I think we’ll be ok. (full disclosure, grandma is coming over today, but that’s only because the kids are out of school and I have a board meeting to attend).
Our first day turned out to be a disaster. I forgot Olivia’s project, Riley’s piano lesson (fortunately a phone call reminded me), our teen niece lost her key and missed tutoring, and London had a meltdown at dinner (which I made, which no one wanted to eat). By 8pm that first evening I was surrounded by the aftermath of what appeared to be a war zone and I was so completely exhausted that I was in bed before 9. True story.
The next day fared a bit better, I started the day earlier (4:30 am) to give myself a real head start with catching up with work/emails, then making breakfast/packing lunches (a task that I normally do everyday already), but the extra things on my plate included getting the girls up and ready. Usually that’s the part that I skip. Not to be sexist (ok maybe a little), but dealing with 3 girls, getting them ready in the morning even at young ages is perhaps one of the scariest things that I did all week. Truly, it’s the one task I avoid regularly as a dad. I do all the laundry each week, clean, cook breakfasts and pack lunches for everyone…just don’t ask me to do hair and get the girls dressed. Except, that’s what I had to do.
And so I spent the past few days observing my children. Riley my oldest is super methodical, like with everything. I’m constantly telling her to hurry up and stop moving so slowly (getting dressed, brushing her teeth, eating, putting her coat on, etc). It’s the mildly annoying, she’s so deliberative about everything, it borders on indecisiveness. Sometimes I just want to say to her, make a decision already! The funny thing is, it’s one of those personality traits that I know she gets from me that I try to suppress because I dislike my own indecisive nature from time to time. I view it as a weakness. Olivia meanwhile is very decisive (she’s the middle child). When I came up in the mornings to wake her up (Riley was already awake by the way), she already knew what she wanted to wear (something inappropriate because it was short sleeves in 30 degree weather). Of course I didn’t let her wear it. London is just happy to be along for the ride in the mornings, she wakes up smiling and joyful. My teen niece barely makes it out the door to the bus stop everyday, though to her credit- the past few days she’s demonstrated a surprising capability of getting herself up on time to not have to rush.
Based upon my observations, the teachable moments became mine, not theirs. I shared with my wife yesterday some of my reflections and she mentioned that actually, Riley hates it when I call her slow, she sees it as a bad thing. I did not know that, but now I totally understand why she gets a little sad when I tell her to hurry up and stop moving slowly. My lesson: have more patience and build in more time for her to do her thing so that I don’t have to hurry. You can’t rush perfection right? (and she is a bit of a perfectionist being the oldest child). Her lesson which I’ll have to find an opportunity to help her learn: trust your judgement, you’re a smart girl.
For Olivia, I wonder what it’ll take for her to learn the consequences of her own decisions. I guess that means first, I’ll have to let her start experiencing the consequences more often. That probably means that I should have let her wear the short sleeved shirt and then seen how it worked out for her. Interesting follow up to that, as we drove home from school yesterday she mentioned to me that she was going to change into the outfit that she originally wanted to wear that I wouldn’t let her. She did and the world kept spinning so…I guess I’ll have to learn how to pick my battles with this one. Last night I went the breakfast for dinner route (it’s my go to meal, and everyone felt safe eating it lol), and do you know that London actually ate several of my pancakes? And even my teen niece has stepped up her game, she seems to actually be putting more effort into her studies unprompted by me to do so.
So what have we learned? Well first, I miss my wife. Doing all of this with a partner is tough enough. It’d be even more difficult to sustain this pace on my own. Looking forward to her return this evening. Second, thank God for second (and 3rd and 4th) chances. As parents, we make our fair share of mistakes and our kids whether they know it or not are our ginny pigs as we’re learning right alongside them. I’m still growing as a father, and it’s good to know that they are too.