The Busy-ness That Is Life

We have doctors’ visits, therapies, homework, jobs, cars that need washing, floors that need mopping, vacuuming, clothes that won’t iron themselves, shopping, cooking, and children who want more of our time than the daily chores of life will allow.  My children are grown and I still remember the look on their faces when the wanted my time and I couldn’t give it right then.  It’s hard to say no when they are young.  Later, it is they who will say no to us when we need their time, but that’s another story (or is it?)

How can we have more time with our children?  INCLUDE them in what we do.  Too many parents plop the kids in front of the TV and then fix dinner by themselves.  It’s American–so what’s wrong with it?  It excludes your child from all the learning and life skills that helping with dinner might provide and denies him/her the camaraderie of a family that works together, and ultimately, delays/denies development of teamwork skills.  It’s seemingly everywhere in the fabric of American life, and it shouldn’t be that way.

Children learn by imitation, and if we push them away from things we do that they could benefit from learning, we hurt them more in the long run than we do today.  We need to include them when they first ask to help–age 3, 4, 5–and recognize their efforts with praise.  We need to be patient with the mistakes they must make in order to learn, and we need to allow the time for their growth at our side.

We should not do their homework for them, but we must see that it is possible and that they have everything needed for them to do it.  If we do our household accounts, read the paper or books, journals, or magazines while they do homework, our stillness while they learn impresses upon them that we value their learning time and will do nothing to distract them from it.  By these two strategies, children learn that they are valued and capable, two things that help prevent future drug abuse, truancy, gang activity, and many irresponsible behaviors.

As parents, we must mentor our children into adulthood.  We foster that growth by keeping them at our side for everything possible so they learn to imitate our adult behaviors.  The time our children crave with us is there–we just need to recognize the ways our adult activities nurture our greatest imitators and bend ourselves a little to meet their needs.

This is especially crucial for children with learning difficulties.  They get slapped in the head and heart every day with things they can’t do or have great difficulty doing, and the grades on their papers are not nurturing their self-esteem or sense of competence.  The home, where you include them and help them develop homemaking and self-care capabilities, is a haven where they are respected for what they CAN do and for what they ARE learning.  As they become competent, they develop what psychiatrists call “islands of competence.”  These islands of competence are lifelines for children with disabilities.

Yes, we are short on time, and it feels like we don’t have time to wait for our child to learn to peel potatoes.  But we MUST, and we will soon find that if we give the time for them to learn, we can later give them the chore as their contribution to family life–and then we don’t have to peel potatoes at all, a 100% saving of our time for that chore.  If what your child gets out of it doesn’t stir you to be patient and give time for learning beside you, think what you’re going to get out of it, too.

Enough said.  Here, you peel this potato.