Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Present Tense

When I talk to people about why I quit my job in 2007 to be a full-time “at home” mom, I frequently say how important it is to me that I can “be present” for my kids. I know myself well enough, now, to realize that my requirements for sleep are far greater than most people’s (9-10 hours a day), that quiet, uninterrupted alone time is critical for my mental well-being, and that sitting still really isn’t my forte, so I have to be involved in service activities, particularly those that need organization and enthusiasm. There was simply no room in my life for full-time employment. Mind you, I am employed as a contracted grant-writer, but the hours are up to me and the job satisfies the alone-time and the organizational service requirement.

The biggest challenge for me now is the balancing of all of these aspects of my daily work, keeping in mind that the ultimate goal is for me to be able to be present for my children when they get home from school. If you’ve followed my blog even sporadically, you probably know that my daughter has ADHD, mild Tourette’s and dysthimia. My son has some type of emotional behavioral disorder and probably also has ADHD. These are not low-maintenance children, even as they are actually quite good at taking basic care of themselves. If, as over the past couple weeks of winter break, there are no real demands on their time and energy, they’re cake. Truly. But when you ask them to participate in the “normal” day-to-day life of an elementary school kid, you’re asking a lot. Six hours of school, instrument lessons and practice, daily reading, spelling and math homework, Girl Scouts, church activities and run-of-the-mill friendships all take effort, even if they’re fun. Toss in a dog and a couple of cats and the present can get pretty tense.

Recently, I started making detailed “to do” lists for each kid, which include de-compression time after school, homework, family chores and the bed-time routine. When they get home from school, it’s all clearly laid out. If over the course of a couple hours things go off the rails, I can re-direct to the list and try to regain a sense of order. Gavin, in particular, responds well to the list (he is his grandfather’s grandson J). But the list isn’t enough. Even having it all there in black and white is no substitute for my being present. That means I can’t be in the bedroom writing my blog and expect them to check the clock and start practicing their piano at the appointed time for the prescribed duration. It means I can’t take a nap after Ledon gets home and expect her spelling and math homework to be done when I get up.

I’m not saying I stand over them (although in some cases this is actually required). I’m working hard to help my kids develop a sense of responsibility and self-management. But it’s amazing how my kids can sense when I’m not present with them and for them even when they’re working on their own. They have no trouble doing what they’re supposed to when I’m banging around in the kitchen or folding laundry or any of those sorts of things. When they call me, and I respond—at least verbally—they know I’m “there.” When I’m at the computer writing, even if I respond verbally to a question, they know they’re second in line. That’s when things get ugly.

Today I will be present. They’re home, now, and they’re both in the de-compression part of the schedule. That runs out in 11 minutes and I have a suspicion that if things are to go smoothly this afternoon, I’d better be done with this blog before then. Because they're my day job.

1 comment:

  1. Rebekah, kids have to LEARN responsibility & self-management; which means someone has to be willing to TEACH them what that all really means. So yes, DO stand over them from time to time if necessary - it's through that experience that they will learn how to manage themselves. You go lady! :)