Which I suppose is all I can expect for February, but so far I’ve been completely frustrated with myself. Our time is tight. There’s nothing I can do about that. Our mornings and evenings will be rushed so long as our living situation continues as it does at present, and I would say it is the greatest single source of stress between PP and myself. It’s always go-go-go-go-go hurry-hurry-hurry whydon’tyouhaveyourpajamasonyetIaskedyoutodothat20minutesago. Get your teeth brushed! Have you flossed yet? PP, you know you need to put your toys away or you’ll lose them for a week. No, you can’t leave them out. Sweetie, that sounds fascinating, but it’s dinner time and you have to eat–you really have to finish your dinner–it’s almost bedtime, you’re not going to have any playtime–all right kiddo, time to get your pajamas on–I KNOW you didn’t get any playtime, what do you think I’ve been telling you for the last thirty minutes?
She wants more time at home to do fun things, and she wants more time to play with me, and both of those are reasonable things I wish I could give her but they are beyond my resources right now. If I can get the telework thing straightened out that will take some of the pressure off (I’m still working on it); other than that, it would have to come out of either sleep time or work time, and neither of those are feasible. So we’re stuck with this ridiculous schedule.
Monday was particularly tense. I spent it making her new mittens and a scarf because she’d lost her old ones at school, and her backup ones are not warm enough to be outside for long. Is it frustrating for her to watch me sew all morning? Sure. What were my other options? I took her skating with them once we were done, and that was fun, but apparently not fun enough. Then we came home and I made dinner and she was upset again that I couldn’t play with her. We need to eat! It’s non-negotiable! It set the tone for the evening: she was sad and frustrated enough that putting any of her toys away became a struggle and we spent the rest of the day arguing about why she needs to put her own toys away and she got not a lick of playtime at all.
I hate that.
If I think about it, our major points of conflict these days are:
1. Getting dressed and downstairs in the morning. It takes her at least 20 minutes, and that’s with her clothes out and waiting.
2. Eating dinner. She has a million things she wants to tell me so it takes an hour to eat and by the time she’s done it’s time to put her toys away so she gets barely any playtime.
3. Putting her toys away. Our rule has been that she needs to put them away herself in the evening or lose them for a week, but this is not working anymore. She leaves them out knowing I will stick them in storage for a week and not caring because she has so many other toys to play with instead.
1. To have any hope of getting to work on time, we need to leave before 8:00 (and that defines “on time” as “less than 20 minutes late”). To leave at 8:00, PP needs to be eating breakfast at 7:30. To get downstairs for 7:30, I need to wake her up at 7:15 at the latest and have her clothes ready (and her lunch packed). Even then I need to give her lots of reminders about getting dressed and brushing her teeth and putting her boots on (“What an adorable puppy you are! What beautiful fur you have! But you need to get your boots on NOW, sweetie.”)
The main thing for this to run well is for me to get out of bed by 6:45. If I don’t, nothing else goes right. But that’s hard for the sleep-deprived single mom to do, and there are many days I fall right back to sleep after turning the alarm off.
Still, this one is doable.
2. Eating dinner. It takes her an hour.
Given when I get to work, I leave around 5:15, pick PP up at the daycare around 5:45, and we get home just after six–in the winter, it’s the best we can do. In order to be in bed for 8 she needs to start getting ready for bed around 7:30. That gives us about 80 minutes.
And she spends 60 of them eating. These are not elaborate dinners, either. We’re talking reheated spaghetti-and-meatballs, grilled cheese sandwiches, soup and toast, scrambled eggs. Five-minute dinners, because on weeknights five minutes is all I’ve got.
I love talking to her but she needs more playtime. As it is she gets a few toys out while I’m getting her dinner on the table, plays with them for a minute or two, once supper is done she talks to her dad for a few minutes and then it’s time to put the toys away.
It sucks, and no wonder she’s frustrated.
I try to chivvy her along a bit (“PP bunny, it’s not playtime, it’s eating time. Sit down and eat your dinner quickly and you will have more time to play,”) but it doesn’t work. I need a strategy that will encourage her to eat her dinner in a more reasonable time period so she can get some actual playtime in the evening.
I suppose there are a few elements to this:
a) She needs to stay at the table rather than get distracted by something she wants to pick up or a story she wants to tell me or a picture she wants to go look at.
b) While at the table she needs to actually be eating. Not telling me all about the chihuahua puppy she’s going to buy when the guinea pigs are dead and how cute and soft and fluffy it will be and how she will hug it and it will lick her and she’ll love it very much and it will sleep in a puppy bed in her bedroom.
If I could even get her to finish eating in 30 minutes that would help. Then she’d be done by 6:45 and she’d have 30 minutes to play before needing to put her toys away, which isn’t much but is more than what she’s getting.
Can I turn it into a game? If we had one or two of her favourite toys “eating” dinner with us at the table, would that encourage her to keep her butt in her chair? If one of them had her desert and she had to finish her dinner by 6:45 in order to get it? It might be worth a shot.
And if I wrote it out for her too, maybe, and showed her that in order to have playtime she needs to finish eating for 6:45. Sort of like a combination of Playful Parenting and that chapter in Nurtureshock where they talk about preschoolers making Play Plans to develop better attention and discipline.
3. Putting her toys away.
This is exacerbated obviously when she barely has time to play with them, and hopefully if we can deal with the dinner thing this won’t be as frustrating. But again: if she puts her toys away FAST then we have more time to play beforehand, and more time to read stories and snuggle before bed afterwards.
The rule’s not changing: if she doesn’t put them away before bedtime she loses them for a week, because my own schedule is also planned in ten-minute increments and I can’t pick up after her every night–nor should I, she’s six.
But maybe I can think of a way to turn it into a race: can she finish picking up her toys before I finish clearing away dinner, for example? If she does, can she “win” an extra bedtime story or song? And if I am cleaning up at the same time she is cleaning up maybe it will seem less “unfair” in that peculiar 6-year-old calculus of justice.
I’ll give it all a shot and cross my fingers. Single mothering, Dear Readers, is hard and sometimes it feels like it never gets easier.