Let’s be honest. In order to accomplish anything in my house during daylight hours, my children have to be A) playing with their dad; B) watching a show; or C) getting into shenanigans. Summer Break is almost, blessedly upon us (which as the wife of a school teacher is amazing for me, but wow for everyone else), so soon enough Option A will be happening quite a bit, but otherwise B & C are my only hopes for daytime productivity.
And let’s be honest again: when I’m pregnant, TV time for the Littles totally means, please-just-let-me-close-my-eyes-and-catch-a-quck-cat-nap time for me. My sleep comes (but mostly goes) in waves, leaving me perma-tired and completely reliant on PBS and Netflix for KIDS to help me get a little reprieve between sleeps. So while that means Option B is totally in use on the daily, I wouldn’t exactly call it productive – at least not in terms that actually provide visible proof around my house.
That leaves us with Option C: shenanigans. Ben learned this tactic well last summer when I was off to “Yoga School” and I’ve kept it going this entire school year. Basically, it comes down to this: if you want the children to truly occupy and entertain themselves, you have to ask them to do one thing (pick up a room or help with some other chore, or go to the store, typically) and then pretend to not notice/care when they go off to play and do something else entirely because they don’t want to take on the requested task.
Now. A little disclaimer. Our kids do listen. Sometimes, at least. And they do help pick up and do other chores around the house. So please, don’t think we don’t hold them responsible or accountable ever; we just also happen to know that sometimes we can get 20-30 minutes of hands semi-free time if we turn a blind-ish eye to said shenanigans (so long as no one is getting hurt, of course), and it can totally be worth it.
For me, implementing Option C comes most often in the form of doing the dishes. I am much more likely to do the dishes during daylight hours than I am at night, but it rarely happens because someone always wants, you know, a snack or a book or for me to chase them (they love playing Chase in the house as we listen to loud music). In no way is cleaning more important than being with my kids, but seriously – if I don’t do it, no one else will and my counter can only hold so many days’ worth of dishes, so from time to time, I have to get creative and care-free about how I manage the children and the mess.
Today, I managed to turn Chase into Don’t Come in my Kitchen!! which was (pat on my own back) brilliant, as I held Lincoln on one hip but kept “chasing” the other kids away from the two doorways that access our kitchen. It kept them wildly entertained and me from having to run after them through the whole house. And even though he wasn’t thrilled about it, Linky eventually gave in to Option D (food) in order to be put down so I could actually start washing my sink-full of dishes, all while still protecting my kitchen domain from Little invaders.
As they do, one game lead to another, and pretty soon the kids started bringing in fireworks (plastic ball-pit balls) and hot lava (blankets and pillows and Boppies and a yoga bolster) and who knows what else (at least one pool noodle and a plush banana) to leave in my doorways. “Look out!!!” they’d cry as they dropped off another arm- or bucket-full of debris. “This is going to explode in 15 minutes!” (Well, at least I’ll get lunch made before then, I thought). “More hot lava! hahahaha” and so on, until this stack of Kitchen Tax existed, entirely blocking one of the doors:
And you know what? I was glad to see it. It gave me the time and hands necessary to clean and, yes, make lunch, and no one was squawking or squabbling or insisting that I chase them as I completed those tasks. If this kind of mess and silliness is what it takes to get from one task or hour to the next, and people are having fun while it happens (OK, playing is fun; dishes are just necessary) then so be it.
As long as they know that Kitchen Tax comes with an eventual Clean Up Tax, we’re all good.