It happened more than once on the Mosaic logs. A woman had negotiated a schedule to leave work quite early. She’d go pick up her young kids from daycare…and then confess to spending the afternoon and evening hours watching the clock. How many minutes until dinner time? How many minutes until I can start the bedtime routine? Small kids aren’t always the easiest people to hang out with. Especially in the years before they can really entertain themselves (or be trusted not to eat a nickel they find on the floor somewhere), you feel constantly “on.” And “on” is a hard state to maintain for long periods of time. Hence the clock watching.
I succumb to some of that myself, so I wanted to be careful about today. Our nanny is on vacation, and I had the kids today (my husband has them tomorrow). He was working late tonight, and I figured it could be an 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. sort of thing. The weather forecast called for all-day rain. My 7-year-old is still in school, but not the younger two (ages 4 and 2).
So I had a rough plan. We’d do a museum in the AM, and either a shopping trip or YMCA trip in the afternoon. We’d go out for dinner at night.
It worked pretty well. While the Franklin Institute turned out to be closed today, and the kids may have heard some colorful language during my attempts to park downtown (I hate parking in downtown Philly), we spent a lovely 2 hours at the Academy of Natural Sciences. The “dinosaur museum” has dinosaurs, and a sandbox up on the 3rd floor (a nice touch) that the kids spent way more time in than anything else. We drove home, had lunch, then sat for 20 minutes before we got our stuff together for the Y. I ran for 30 minutes while they went to the play room. Then we went swimming. We had to leave a little sooner than we would have liked, because we had to be home in time to meet the bus. We had play time for a little over an hour, then we went to Peace a Pizza, this pizza chain where they have a kids’ area with little chairs. The main attraction, as far as I can tell, is that the kids’ area features movies, and my kids absolutely love the idea of being able to watch movies while they eat (it’s kind of a big no no in our house — no TV during meals). So we had pizza, and ice cream. Then I had to pick up a prescription at the pharmacy. That kind of pushed everyone a wee bit over the edge, and I will admit that my children were racing down the aisles of CVS, but that was the only major naughty moment for the day. After we left, I drove home to find my husband was already there, so we all pushed various combos of kids in strollers on the driveway (they call it a roller coaster) until bedtime.
There weren’t really any occasions for clock watching. My Fitbit tells me I got 15,000+ steps, though with the pizza and ice cream, that’s probably necessary. It’s a reminder to me that things go better when I think through the days. Even thinking up a particular home-based project for an evening (reading 2 chapters in a certain book, baking cookies with the kids) lessens the sense of too much time, which often degenerates into sibling bickering around here.
I completely acknowledge that this is not the case for everyone. Some people can move spontaneously from one thing to the next, or have kids who do beautifully with at-home, unstructured time. This is not my life, however, and part of managing life is figuring out what works for you.
Photo: The dinosaur museum also has butterflies!