July 31, 2014

all our kids want is more of us - taming the 5:00 frenzy

As a working mother, one of the hardest things for me to do is to stop multitasking and be present for my son.

Case in point: the 5:00 frenzy. When my son gets home from school, he's already had a full day with friends, food, teachers, and play time. What he really wants at that moment is me. And what am I doing? Cooking dinner, washing dishes, emptying and reloading the dishwasher, wiping countertops, sorting mail... anything but paying attention to him. This is the point at which he starts demanding gummies or treats, and opens the fridge (unless I've locked it) to find something to get into. I get mad, I give him a snack which is never good enough because I can't get it to him fast enough while my attention is divided, and within 30 seconds he falls apart.
Hooray weeknights.

Is he really hungry? Maybe, maybe not. In my quest to curb this daily madness, I have received two wise pieces of advice. My mother has suggested that when he gets home, I stop what I'm doing and just play with him for 10-15 minutes. Never mind the dishes and dinner (no matter how nice and homemade it might be) unless I'm putting away frozen food, which I can do quickly. As much as I'm in a hurry, he is definitely not. He misses me and wants to reconnect. My mother-in-law suggested that I give him a small snack and just eat dinner a little later (What? And ignore the almighty Schedule?). This loosens the pressure valve of getting dinner on the table, but ironically it also forces me to stop what I'm doing and pay attention to him by giving him a snack and asking him about his day.

Some days I incorporate both strategies, others one or the other (or if it works out, Daddy jumps in and plays with him until dinner's ready). Some days I forget and do neither, and reap the consequences.

I'm still working my way through the book Strong Mothers, Strong Sons. In a section about listening, the author points out the importance of giving our children our attention by saying that they don't care whether we bake goodies from scratch or from a mix, or if we buy them at the store. All they want is to sit at the table and eat them with us.

It's so hard for me to unplug from my multitasking. My brain is going 100 mph especially from 5-8 p.m. But above anything, my kid needs to know that he's more important than whatever is for dinner.