Sunday, November 3, 2013

The Art of Herding Turtles

Once, before I had kids, my sister told me that taking her students on a field trip was like herding cats.  I thought that was a hilarious comparison.  I don't know why I've never forgotten it, but I think it stuck with me because it sounded like the most frustrating thing ever.

Now that I have kids I'd have to say getting children organized and keeping them on track isn't quite like herding's more like herding turtles.  If you prod a cat they're likely to run or at least move a little quicker.  If you prod a turtle there's no change in their speed.  No reaction.  Nothing really makes them get into gear.

Up until recently I felt like I was herding (easily sidetracked) turtles every time we needed to get out the door at a specific time.  And once I had them ready, that still left me...the turtle-herder who hadn't even brushed her teeth yet.

Fear struck me when I realized that there will be a third one in the mix here soon.  A helpless baby turtle.  This speed and lack of focus on the part of my older turtles wasn't going to work.  We were never going to get anywhere.  On time, at least.  And its not just that...I wanted to reduce the general amount of chaos in our home.  I mean, daily activities really shouldn't require SO much energy.

That's when I looked at my boys over lunch one day and said, "Alright guys, what skills do you have?" Sullivan just stared at me blankly.  Max told me he knew how to get "dwessed by himself" and "put waffles in the toasta".  That's a good start.  I said, "Well, Momma's going to give you some more responsibility.  How does that sound?"   "Good!" Max said.  Sullivan copied Max and yelled "Good!" too.  

And with that we started streamlining our operating procedure around here in many ways.  
Not only has it been good for me, I think its been awesome for the boys to have a little more ownership of their day.

We started with the AM routine.  In the mornings the boys are now responsible for getting themselves dressed without my constant supervision.  Max has been able to get dressed on his own for awhile now...but only when he felt like it.  There were days he'd like to pretend he was helpless.  Now I leave them to get dressed on their own instead of hovering over them and then finally just dressing them myself when I got impatient.  While they're working on that task, I use the time to get myself ready for the day.

I do love to spy on them now and then, though.   It's cute because Max will always stop what he's doing to help Sully find the arm holes of his shirt :)  
These photos were taken back in August...I still cringe when I see Sully's botched haircut.

They each have their own closet with a set of labeled drawers that have the clothes they've picked out for the week.  So all they have to do is put every article of clothing on that's in that day's drawer.

Things actually take longer this way, but at least I'm using my time better.  By the time I have myself ready they're usually finally dressed.   And super proud.  They come out of their room and say "ta-da!" like they're revealing a magic trick.  Which sending two boys into a room and them coming out dressed for the day IS a bit of magic.  Especially when the first 5+ minutes of them "getting dressed" usually starts out like this...

The other thing I'm taking off my plate and delegating to them is snacks.  Again, I've done this with Max for awhile now, but we're moving Sully up the ranks.  They each have their own box within reach in the fridge.  The box contains all the snacks they get for the day.  Once its empty they're done. When I first implemented this Max ate every single thing in his box before 11am, but it's been a good lesson in self control.  It's a bummer when you have no "after-nap-snack" to eat.  And I love, love NOT hearing "I want a snaaaack!" 100 times per day x2.  Eat what you want...when its gone, its gone.

Now I hear the fridge door open, rummaging around, the chairs being pulled out and when I pop my head in the kitchen I see two self sufficient little guys happily eating the snacks they chose.

It's amazing what they're capable of when you give them a bit of space and instruction.

They're also responsible for their nighttime routine with the help of a step-by-step chart.  They love this too.  I'm obviously right there helping them with the bath and brushing teeth, but this simple chart has made them so focused.  They treat it like a game and see who can have a "happy chart" first.
We've easily shaved 20 minutes off of the time it takes to get into bed.

I cannot even tell you how much more smoothly things go now that we've made these few changes.  I don't feel like I'm constantly barking orders anymore and they feel like such big boys being trusted with all of these important jobs.

I know things are going to get crazy when the third arrives, but I feel well prepared for battle at this point :)  Any other suggestions from Momma's of 3+ are welcome!  I'm trying to be as realistic about the challenge ahead of me as possible :)

1 comment:

  1. Okay, these are all SUCH great ideas!!! I'm stealing them for sure. Annalyn is pretty self-sufficient, but good grief she is a turtle! And even though I've had a "morning list" on our fridge and snack bowl on our counter for a while, I've let things slide - and so has she. And like you, I have a new little turtle coming soon, so we need to get this fixed asap! Thanks for sharing your tips, Sara! :)