What Would Mary Poppins Do?

Posted on
Categories Attitude, Household and Family Management, How Do The Moms Do It, ParentingTags , , , Leave a comment
Ballet shoes
Photo Credit: clogsilk

After taking the summer off, it was time for my 7-year-old twins to return to dance lessons. Since their lesson is on a weekday evening, I have to leave work early to get there on time. I let my daughters know that their dance bags needed to be packed and ready to go well ahead of time.

Of course, they waited until the final moments I would allow them to, but 2 days before their first lesson, I put my foot down. In the mad scramble to pack, they had no trouble finding their dance clothes, but their shoes were another matter. I told them to check our shoe rack, their dance bags, their dance cubbies, and their room. All they could find was a lone tap shoe, a size too small for the littlest feet in our house.

It was time for Project Clean Your Room, Episode 2.

Thanks to Episode 1, there was no need to sift through detritus from the floor. However, we did have 3 bins of unsorted stuff to go through, as well as 2 desks to examine. I started barking out orders. I would go through the bins, distributing their contents to the girls. M was in charge of returning toys to their rightful homes, whether that was the toy shelf, the toy bin, the donation bag, recycle bin, or trash. J was in charge of books and paper.

We weren’t 5 minutes in before J returned from another trip to the bookshelf, huffing in indignation. “This is not fun!” she informed me. “What would Mary Poppins do?”

What Would Mary Poppins Do? from hdydi.com
After Mandy’s Halloween post, I couldn’t help pulling out my daughters’ old Halloween photos. They were both Mary Poppins (from different scenes, of course) when they were 3.

I started singing “Just a Spoonful of Sugar,” but was informed that it wasn’t working.

“Okay, M,” I improvised. “All the stuffed toys are secret superheroes with invisible cloaks. They’re going to fly into the toy bin. Try not to crash them! And J, you’re Super Librarian, and your mission is to get the books through the Hallway of Word-Eaters to the Bookshelves of Knowledge. Go!”

And they went, willingly and in good spirits.

As it turned out, the dance shoes were exactly where I’d told them to look first, in the shoe rack. But hey, their room is being put to rights, and I learned to ask myself, “What would Mary Poppins do?” You know what? A spoonful of sugar, imagination, or laughter does make that medicine go down, in the most delightful way.

Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the divorced mother of 7-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. She lives with them and their 3 cats in the Austin, TX suburbs and works full time as a business analyst. She retired her personal blog, Double the Fun, when the girls entered elementary school and also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.

Share this...Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on StumbleUponShare on TumblrShare on RedditDigg thisShare on LinkedInEmail this to someone

I Have a Mature Discussion with My 7-Year-Olds About the Value of Challenges

Posted on
Categories Difference, Discipline, From the Mouths of Multiples, Household and Family Management, Parenting Twins, Talking to KidsTags , , , 3 Comments

For months, my 7-year-old twin daughters’ room looked like a department store after a tornado. There was so much stuff–toys, books, clothes, art supplies–strewn across the floor that I could rarely get the vacuum cleaner through the door, much less vacuum. I attempted to pick up, only to have two chipper children distribute junk across the carpet in my wake. I nagged and cajoled to no effect.

Part of the problem is that I’m a lousy housekeeper myself. How could I ask my children to clean their room when there were papers strewn across the dining table and my kitchen was forever in the midst of reorganization? My requests that they clean were half-hearted, at best.

Over the course of two weeks, I did a major decluttering, tidying and deep clean of every corner of the house, except the girls’ room. I hired a new lawn care service. I still need to apply fresh contact paper to my kitchen shelves, but everything else feels livable. I’ve even shampooed my carpet. (Why, oh why, did I wait so long to buy a steam cleaner? I used to rent them from our local grocery store, but found that my Hoover brand one paid for itself in no time.)

I now had the moral high ground to demand that my daughters clean their room. There would be no screen time (TV, computer, tablets), I told them on Wednesday, until their room was clean enough that I could vacuum and steam clean the entirety of the carpet. We average 2 hours or less of screen time a week, but my kids consider it a premium treat.

I didn’t bring the cleaning thing up again. I figured that the next time they asked to watch a movie or look something up on their Samsung Galaxies, I’d remind them that they needed to clean their room first.

Imagine my surprise when I awoke this morning to find J diligently cleaning. I tried to stop feeling guilty about bribing my children to do their duty. After all, it was working, although I’d prefer that my kids do what I ask just because I ask.

It wasn’t long, of course, before there was conflict between the children. J complained that she’d asked M to help out with the cleaning, but that M had told her that she’d rather read. I need to find an approach that was fair to J but still stuck to the expectations I had already communicated. I told J that she could have screen time back as long as I could vacuum the entirety of her room with the exception of the area directly below her sister’s desk. Similarly, M would only get screen time once the entirety of the floor, except for the expanse under J’s desk, was available to the vacuum cleaner.

I asked J if she would like to communicate the adjusted expectations to her sister. She said she would, so I worked in the kitchen. Before too long, J came in to get me. “M needs you.”

I walked into the girls’ room, and M was up in her lofted bed, sobbing. “When I look under my desk, I feel too overwhelmed. I can’t do this, Mommy. I can’t do this.”

I told her to pick up and deal with the first 10 things she could reach. She cried and asked to be held. She was obviously completely defeated by the idea of cleaning up. We talked about how good she was at cleaning up at school. She said there wasn’t as much stuff. I said there wasn’t as much stuff because she took care of it daily. She cried some more, finally agreeing to climb down from her bed and picking up a sheet of paper.

J couldn’t understand it. “This is easy!” she told her sister, picking up more beads off the floor. “Look! Easy!” This just made M cry harder. I left her to pick up 9 more things and invited J to the dining room for a conversation.

Me: M’s having a hard time with this whole cleaning thing. Let’s be supportive.
J: It’s so easy, though. Why is it such a big deal?
Me: It’s a challenge for her. She feels overwhelmed.
J: It’s a challenge for me too! I like challenges!
Me: You have an easier time with challenges than M. She gets worried easily, so I need to help her contain her worries.
J: Challenges are good. Challenges are how I grow up. If I had no challenges in my life, I would still be a little baby.
Me: I agree. Facing challenges helps us learn. This is one way that you and your sister are different. Challenges frighten her, so it’s harder for her to learn from them. Let’s not make her feel worse than she already does.

For those of you with younger kids, you should know that J’s self-awareness is atypical for 7-year-olds. You can certainly have discussions of this sort with the average 7-year-old, but most of them will not look at cleaning their rooms as learning experience without some serious guidance.

I returned to M’s room, where she was back in her bed, crying.

M: I picked up 10 things, but I just can’t handle it. There’s no way I can finish.
Me: We’re similar in that we can both think too much. When I had to clean the dining room, I overwhelmed myself by trying too hard to plan. When I just started, without worrying about the end, it got all cleaned up. Does that sound familiar?
M: But I can’t just stop thinking.
Me: I know. Just think and do. Don’t just think. Go pick up 10 more things.
M: I can’t. I just can’t.
Me: You can.
M: This is a too big challenge.

Whoa. How’d she know what J and I had been talking about?

M: I’m not J. She’s better at challenges because she’s more used to challenges. She has more challenges than me.
Me: Like what?
M: This is too hard.
Me: What challenges does J face that you don’t?
M: Um. Uh. I don’t know. None.
Me: I know it feels overwhelming, but facing challenges now will make it easier to face challenges that come later on. Tell you what. Read a book chapter to calm yourself down. Then put away 10 things. Then read again. You can do this.
M: Okay.

Thirty minutes later, she asked for my help again, but she’d made discernible progress. I helped her finish up. I praised her plenty, but refused to agree that her space was cleaner than J’s. I reminded her that J had cleaned the entire common area without help and deserved her thanks.

Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the divorced mother of 7-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. She lives with them and their 3 cats in the Austin, TX suburbs and works full time as a business analyst. She retired her personal blog, Double the Fun, when the girls entered elementary school and also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.

Share this...Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on StumbleUponShare on TumblrShare on RedditDigg thisShare on LinkedInEmail this to someone

It Gets Better, Especially When You Don't Clean

Posted on
Categories Balance, Household and Family Management, How Do The Moms Do It, Perspective, RoutinesTags , , 5 Comments

When our twins were infants, it would annoy me when other MOMs told me that it would get better.  It was tough, certainly, but it wasn’t “awful” during that period so I didn’t really understand why they kept telling me it would get better.  Then the twins passed 2 1/2 years and OH MY GOSH, did it ever get better.  My husband and I felt like we came up for air for the first time in, oh, 2 1/2 years.  We didn’t even know we were under water before we took those big gulps of air consisting of an easier bedtime, small steps in self-sufficiency, and the ability for the twins to play with each other and older kids in our neighborhood for longer periods of time.  Truly, we look back at the period as the dawn of a new era that we continue to enjoy.

That said, what we did to take advantage of our new found freedom is sort of crazy.  We doubled the size of our vegetable garden, decided to raise chickens for eggs (if you are on the fence about chickens, we totally endorse this), adopted two kittens, and we both began to craft and enjoy our hobbies.  I also began to start running again for about an hour a day, which is singularly the thing I do that spoils me most.  I love exercising and had missed it for many years.

I should mention that I am employed full time and at mid-career, which means increasing job and mentoring responsibilities.

How do I do it?

I do not clean. And I mean that seriously.  I know some of you all say that and perhaps you mean it’s time to change the towels in your bath or you haven’t put away all the clean dishes.  What I mean is that our house is a freaking mess. And while it bothers me, it obviously doesn’t bother me enough to choose cleaning over running/gardening/knitting/chickening/kittening.  There is no way we can afford any help to clean up the house until the twins get out of daycare and we pay off the associated credit card debt in 4 more years or so.

So our solution?  We have parties!!  Yes, it is like killing two birds (but not chickens!) with one stone.  We get to socialize and it forces us to clean the house a few times a year.

I really feel like MOMs get special dispensation in some area of their lives.  For us, we choose to forgive ourselves for living in a messy house.  It makes it so much easier to survive and thrive with our little bunnies.  Our children.  We call our children bunnies.  We would not actually get bunnies.  They would destroy the garden.

Share this...Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on StumbleUponShare on TumblrShare on RedditDigg thisShare on LinkedInEmail this to someone

The Toy Takeover – Part 2

Posted on
Categories Balance, Family, PreschoolersTags , , , , 2 Comments

You can read the first post about The Toy Takeover here.

I was inspired by the TV show Consumed to take another step in tackling the toys in our house.  In this show, families with way more stuff than us agree to put most of their belongings in storage for a month.  After surviving with the bare minimum of dishes, furniture, clothing and personal items, they are supposed to realize they don’t need all the clutter. I thought this approach might work for toys too. 

Before Christmas, I packed up a large cardboard box with all the stuffed animals in the living room. The truth is, I was tired of cleaning them all up every day. I put in the basement with the expectation that I’d be searching through it for someone’s favourite in no time.  After they didn’t mention the missing items for a few days, I thought I’d pick a day to go through it with the kids to pick out their favourites.  That was almost two months ago.  Guess what?  No one has mentioned the missing stuffies.

Since this unplanned first step went so well, I thought we could move further.  I was tired of the toy area being a mess and of the kids being overwhelmed when it was time to clean up.  So, I talked with the kids about how having so many toys meant there lots of cleaning up and not very much room to play. I tried to keep it simple by suggesting that we put some toys in the basement to make more room for playing.  They seemed to agree my idea was worth considering. 

All the toys
(Almost) All the Toys

On a weekend, I set out all the toys for them to look at.  I brought up the ones that had been “rotated out” and were being stored in the basement. With everything laid out, I suggested that they each fill one bin with their favourite toys. I expected them to protest or argue, or at least to negotiate for more toys, but they didn’t.  So, the rest of the toys went in the basement. I made it clear they could bring up a toy from the basement if they took one downstairs. That was about a month ago. Guess what? Again, no one has asked me to trade the toys. In fact, they are playing with more board games and puzzles now.  I think that having fewer options provides a space where they can see what is available to them.

 

R's Bin of Toys
R's Bin of Toys

 

S's Bin of Toys
S's Bin of Toys

 A chose to keep his train set, a hotwheels track, some cars and Perplexus.  

I won’t end with an overused quotation like “less is more.”  But, I will say that less is okay. All three kids were okay with choosing their favourites.  They were okay with watching us take the toy organizer and the other bins of toys downstairs.  And, they are certainly okay with clean up being so much easier.

 

Jenna is mom to a six year old singleton son (A) and 4 year old MZ twin girls (R & S).  She is also okay with less. In fact, she looks forward to moving toys out of the basement for the next multiples clothing sale, but she realizes that will take some negotiations.


Share this...Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on StumbleUponShare on TumblrShare on RedditDigg thisShare on LinkedInEmail this to someone

The Toy Takeover – Part 1

Posted on
Categories Balance, Family, PreschoolersTags , , 3 Comments

One of the biggest challenges for me over the last year was keeping the house tidy. We had already hired a cleaner to help with the floors, dusting, bathrooms and kitchen. What was left was the daily clean up the trail of bits and pieces that seem to come with pre-schoolers.

Every time I entered a room, I’d be overwhelmed by the mess: the single sock abandoned in the corner, the hill of Lego pieces on the floor, the stuffed animal dormitory on the couch, the crumpled piece of paper with stickers that was someone’s “favourite craft,” a water bottle without a lid, and a doll shoe.

The girls were are still in their “in and out” phase where they could spend the day filling bags, boxes, containers and bins with bits and pieces.  They would put the game pieces and dice, hair clips, marbles, rocks, magnets and pompoms in a little box in their play purses.  Then they’d put the purses in bags.  The bags would go in a stroller, draped with a blanket.  As they trekked through the house on various adventures, the bits and pieces would be disturbed through the kitchen, under the dining room table, between the couch cushions, and on the stairs – times two, of course. Needless to say, getting everything back where it belonged, or a least off the floor, was more than could be expect of a three-year old with limited guidance from an exhausted parent.  And, I wasn’t much of a help since bending over was certain to make my world spin.  Over time, I gave up my level of tolerance for disorder increased. But this wasn’t a solution; it was just a reminder of where I felt I was falling short of my responsibilities as a mother.

One-at-a-time Cupboard Top Shelf
One-at-a-time Cupboard Top Shelf

So, I borrowed an idea from my mom:  the “one-at-a-time” cupboard.  I filled two cupboards with all the puzzles, games, cards, and toys with little pieces. The kids could each select one item from the cupboard.  When they finished with one toy, all the pieces were cleaned up. The lower cupboard had the puzzles and games they could play with by themselves, while the upper cupboard held the ones that need more parental supervision.

One-at-a-time Cupboard Bottom Shelf
One-at-a-time Cupboard Bottom Shelf

Did this help?  Yes and no.  The kids liked being able to see all the boxes of games arranged on the shelves.  They could easily select what they wanted and often asked to play games. But, I couldn’t contain all of the chaos in one set of cupboards.  I’ll share the next step in managing kids toys, in my next posting.

Share this...Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on StumbleUponShare on TumblrShare on RedditDigg thisShare on LinkedInEmail this to someone