Wednesday, August 29, 2012

One Possible Solution

Since we moved the girls' bedrooms upstairs this spring, they've had a bit of a problem staying focused and under control when I send both of them upstairs to do something - namely, to get dressed and ready in the morning, among other things. (I originally typed "we've had a bit of a problem" and then I became indignant: No! It's not MY problem! It's their problem! You'll see where this is going in a minute.)

During the remainder of the spring school year, what I tended to do was have Annie get ready first while Jemma ate breakfast, take Annie to school, and then have Jemma get ready. Since Annie naturally gets up much earlier than Jemma, and since Jemma's preschool started half an hour later than Annie's school last year, this solution worked. This summer, I've been sending one of them up to get ready while occupying the other with some type of activity, then having them switch. And that's worked, too, because we haven't often had to be anywhere at a very early hour, so we had the luxury of letting the tasks of getting dressed, making a bed, brushing teeth, and brushing hair take an hour total.

Starting next week, we aren't going to have that kind of time. So this morning, while the girls ate their breakfast at the kitchen table and I sat on the floor in my underwear, drinking my heavily-creamed coffee, I brought the subject up. What, I asked, were we going to do? How, I challenged them, did they want to solve this problem? They looked up from their breakfasts, eyes still round with sleep and hair a fuzzy wreck getting in their milk, and they acted casual. Oh, they said, we'll cut that silliness out. We'll make a new chart for the front of the fridge and we're bigger now and we'll cooperate and remember how to get ready without becoming a sprawl of hysterical, fighting, naked bodies who have forgotten how to make any kind of forward progress.

Great! I said. Sounds good! I sent them directly upstairs to get ready before we went to the farmers' market. Show me how well you can get ready together! I yelled after them. OK! they yelled back, scrambling up the stairs.

I stood in the kitchen, drinking my coffee, perusing a catalog, feeling smug. Three minutes later, Jemma came downstairs.

"Annie took Chicky Baby away from me!"

"Why are you even playing with dolls? Remember what you're supposed to be doing right now up there?" Blank look. "GETTING READY." She trotted back upstairs.

Three minutes later, Jemma came downstairs crying, alleging hitting. I marched upstairs, facilitated the necessary Tell-her-how-that-made-you-feel/Would-you-like-to-apologize routine, and marched back downstairs with Jemma, defeated in my goal of having both of them get ready together.

Later in the day, when the heat of the moment had passed, I brought the subject up again. "Seems like you two still have a problem getting ready upstairs together," I said, as though it's not MY problem, as though it doesn't drive me completely crazy on a daily basis. "How are you going to solve your problem? What ideas do you have? Even after our talk this morning, it was still a problem." There, I thought. I'm giving them ownership of it, letting them figure out a solution themselves.

Annie piped up. "I have a solution," she said.

"You do? What?"

"Have Jemma go to another school besides mine, one that starts later."

Yes, Annie, that's perfect. We'll send Jemma to private school for kindergarten - maybe every year, who knows? - and when people ask why we aren't sending her to the public elementary that we love, two blocks from our house, we'll explain, "Well, see, the girls couldn't get ready at the same time in the morning, so we thought the best thing to do was to spend thousands of dollars and transfer our younger daughter to a different school. You know. All so they could each get ready in peace."

I. Am. Sure.

1 comment:

  1. how does one ever get out of the house in time for school (or for anything that requires a timely arrival) when children get so easily distracted and do not understand the concept of time? I have tried and tried to make this Anna's "problem"...tried to employ the natural consequences (If you choose not to get ready now, we will be late and you won't have as much time to play with your friend...but, that's fine with me if it is with you) This still doesn't seem to motivate, so I end up being more of that controlling parent (in that article you linked to recently on FB) and less the authoritative one, because I'm so flustered that she just can't brush her teeth without doing a thousand other things first. And, I just plain hate being late. Anyway, I hear you. If you have any suggestions, I'm open to them!