Monday, February 18, 2008

Lessons My Children Have Taught Me

The children have a week off from school, which they face with great joy and I face with great trepidation. Keeping two children happy and occupied with something constructive for 9 days in a row is not an easy task. Especially since, in the time-honored tradition of siblings, their preferred occupation is bickering with each other.

A little fighting and arguing between siblings is to be expected, even more so because their age difference has always been a part of it. Teen girls basically view 8 year old boys as a disease. I expected this 9 days to seem like 9 years.

But so far they have surprised me. The Girl decided to play school with The Boy. I even heard her reading a book to him - and he was actually listening! The Boy never allowed me to read to him until he found a Goosebumps book about garden gnomes that come alive and do mischievous things. That sounded scary enough to interest him, and scary enough to require my presence while it was read.

After the reading, it went quiet for a while, then for a while more. Finally, the silence was too much - I burst into the room to check on them. Appears it was nap time at school and I interrupted.

That's a key lesson, however. I have decided that children make bloodcurdling noises and scream over nothing in order to reassure mothers that they are still alive and well. It's when it all goes quiet that you wonder what could possibly be wrong. You can't really ignore it, because they might be doing something dangerous. If they are not, then it becomes obvious to them that you have noticed how quiet they are and feel that they aren't living up to their potential.

Equally inadvisable is to notice how good they are behaving and compliment them on it. It sounds like the right thing to do - reinforcing good behavior and rewarding it with praise - but again, children realize they have been lax in their duties and will redouble their efforts to make noise and fight.

I am trying to re-educate myself and work on changing my instinctive reactions. Even now, as The Boy decides to clean the refrigerator, I am smiling and being totally non-reactive to his assurances that "only three eggs broke" even though I desperately want to know how they got broken.

It's going to be a long 9 days.

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