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Filling out the Day

When my children were younger, I dreaded the holidays, especially the Summer holidays! 7 or so weeks of constant 'parenting' stretching before me with two hyperactive, stimulation seeking, active boys ready to be entertained from morning to night. And if they weren't being entertained? Well, then there was fighting and rule breaking and destruction and mayhem. I would turn into an emergency response service, going from one disaster to another, trying to put the world to rights.

Then a couple of years ago I played the explore game of fascinated anthropologist. I looked at exactly what was happening without any judgement or blame. In the evenings, as I replayed the day as a movie in my mind, without attachment to the characters as they danced across the screen, I noticed that the days that were planned and the kids knew what was happening were easier. The days that we had somewhere to go in the mornings were calmer. The days that we had activities the kids were looking forward to were simpler. It was the days where we didn't have a plan that things became chaotic and messy.

After some refinement, and figuring out the complexities of our own situation, I came up with a strategy. We have a breakfast meeting each day of the holidays (and on weekends, and public holidays) and fill out how our day will progress. First (next to each of the letters) we each put down one thing (two tops) we would like to do that day. Please note, I get to put down something that I would like to do too - and my kids learn to respect that, as I respect their activities. Then we put down (next to 'Do') the tasks that need to get done. After that is done, we work out how to fit all of the components into the schedule - with the understanding that sometimes things happen that we don't expect and we can be flexible about that. It can be a great puzzle as we first put in the 'time bound' appointments and then figure out what can be done at the same time and what needs the participation of other people. We also refer back to the previous day and see who missed out and make them a priority for the next day.

So it is no longer my job to entertain the kids for the holidays. I even know that most days I can have a little break. I still run around to disaster areas periodically, and I still use my stash of 'boredom buster' activities that are hidden at the back of my wardrobe, but the necessary other jobs also get done. And best of all, we don't have the button pushing and picking fights that we used to have because everyone is secure in the knowledge that there is a plan and plenty to do.

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