My wife and I start work at about the same time every day, but my schedule is slightly less rigid than hers, so for the moment it’s my responsibility to drop Charlie off at school. For those of you new to my universe, Charlie is my 5 yo and this is his first year of kindergarten. If you have not been blessed with the joy that is children, let me just say that I have frequently stated that “If I had known it was this much fun, I’d have started sooner.” Of course I will also admit that had I had children earlier I probably would not be as patient as I am now, although I am FAR from Sainthood, as my son will attest.
However one difference that I strive to make every day is to demonstrate by ‘doing.’ We tell our kids to look both ways before they cross the street, but, do you? Think about it, your sitting in a 2000 pound car, getting ready to cross a busy highway, how often do you “really” take the time to look both ways, as you no doubt tell your kids to do. I know the ONE time I didn’t; my son said from the back seat, “hey dad, did you see that light?” He was being as polite as a child can be, while making his point.
That being said, what about YOUR morning routine? Tomorrow, make a mental note of how many times you say to your child, “Come on, hurry up, or were going to be late.” Now in my situation I could ALMOST make a valid reason (excuse), for saying that, see my son’s school has gotten smart, they are so tired of kids being late that they now penalize the parents! Your child had 5 excuses per quarter. After that they (you) get charged $1 for every time they are late, after that its $5 and then there is a 2 day at home suspension. They understand, that as a private school, its NOT the bus drivers fault, they don’t have one.
But back to the subject at hand, how often do you allow your child, regardless of their age, to be a kid? For example, this morning, Charlie wanted something different for breakfast, cereal, and no milk; normally he’s a pancake kind of kid. So cereal no milk here we come, cup of chocolate milk on the side, and as I lay it down I say, ok, now in 20 minutes you need to be doing “X.” What X is doesn’t really matter; Charlie is a Melancholy personality so you don’t ‘surprise’ him with things that have to be done NOW. He gets that from his mom. So he has, as he sees it, plenty of time, so he eats a piece of cereal, watches TV, eats another piece, you get the idea.
So at 10 minutes before the next event, I remind him, ‘hey, you got 10 minutes’, he looks up, shoves two pieced of cereal in his mouth, “OK dad.” And goes back to the TV. Five minutes later I walk past and notice that not much cereal is gone, “Hey you know you have 5 minutes before X, you need to eat, we can take that with us, but I know you don’t like to eat in the car.” He looks up at me shocked at the idea that all that time has vanished, “Dad, I think I want milk on my cereal.” I look down at him, knowing that he would have preferred it from the start, “well bud, if you want to have some after school, we can put some milk on it, but right now you just don’t have time.” He starts to protest, at which point I remind him of X and why we do X at that certain point in the day, and now he’s all about X.
We are at school, and I’m walking him up to “his line”, that’s where he and his friends wait every morning for the teacher to come and collect them. He looks up at me and says, “Dad, do you have to leave right away?” Now he knows I’m on my way to work, but because of a recent accident, he also knows that I can sometimes be flexible in my leaving time, so I look down at him and say, “Why, do you need me to wait with you?” Understand that the “final whistle” had been blown so we were less than 5 minutes from his teacher coming to collect his class. What can you do in 5 minutes that REALLY makes a difference? In an elementary school parking lot at 8am, you can get in your car and wait in line with every other parent rushing off to work. Of course, having done that you will also have the picture in your mind of a very sad faced little boy, trying desperately to choke back his tears.
Why does a 5yo who has been attending school for over 5 months get scared some days? Who knows, who cares? I’m dad, and you know I can do in 5 minutes? I can pick up a little boy, have him wrap his arms and legs around my whole body and have get a kiss no the cheek. Then I get to hear, very quietly, “I know I’m going to miss you, but I know I’m going to see you this afternoon.” This is something Charlie and I say to each other each morning before we part, it’s also the reason why, like last week, that it drives me absolutely insane when my j.o.b. forces me to stay late. Not because I don’t like working late, but because I made a promise that I now have to not keep! So I repeat it back to him, give him a big smooch on the cheek and he’s fine, he gets down and starts talking to all his friends, I could be invisible at that point, or so I think. Because when the teacher does come get him, and the line starts moving, he turns and with a HUGE grin, yells “bye daddy, I love you,” and I repeat THAT back to him, just as loudly.
Then as I get in my car I see the thing that breaks my heart the most, Emily’s mom, or Sanjay’s dad, or the Twin’s nanny, has screeched to a halt at the end of the line, and practically shoved the child out the door, while yelling, “run, hurry, or your going to be late.” I’m not the most patient dad in the world, and I’m not the GREATEST planner in the world, and I know, stuff happens, you get a flat, you get a ticket, and you get juice spilled in your briefcase. But I don’t EVER want my child’s last words heard by me, yelled in haste as I ENCOURAGE them to run across a crowded parking lot or busy street.
So yes, use any excuse, pick any ‘reason’ you want, but don’t EVER pick that one.
have kids? seen this happen in your world? hopefully NOT the same wa, but lets hear about it.