Things I’ve learnt the hard way as a parent: Lesson Eleven: Getting ready to go out/tidying up etc doesn’t have to be a necessary evil.

With much reluctance I am slowly accepting the fact that being task orientated is not helpful when one is a full time mother. You know the biblical phrase “you can’t serve God and mammon”? In my case it’s more “you can’t serve God and be really efficient”. Well, maybe some people can – the ones who are people people that have learnt to be efficient but still put people first.

I’m not a people people. I’m a task orientated people. I like things to be done in the most efficient way possible, with the least possible interference. For example getting ready to go out in the mornings – this involves going to bed at just the right time, getting up at just the right time, having breakfast at just the right time, showering at just the right time, etc, so you leave at just the right time. Breakfast is not a social meal, it’s a fuelling up as efficiently as possible without wasting fuel on talking when you haven’t woken up meal. And morning coffee, despite what Amazing Husband thinks, is not something to be savoured; it’s caffienating.

Children do not understand this concept. To children, everything is an event, a learning and interacting episode. It’s not just something that’s necessary to enable them to get to the next activity, it is an activity in and of itself.” Noooooo” my inner (just) efficiency/task completing worshipper wails, “just get on with it, do it quickly, stop playing, stop talking, stop laughing, we must BE EFFICIENT!” I must say I’ve managed to train Amazing Husband pretty well – apart from morning coffee – but children just don’t approach life the way adults do.

On Wednesday evening I went to school. Sir B’s Montessori has a parents’ evening every term, where we can learn more about Montessori philosophy, how to implement it more at home, what the kids actually do, get to know each other. It was great. They talked about how everything a child does is for a purpose – even if that’s putting on shoes, taking them off, putting them on, taking them off till his mother is tearing her hair out. But he’s learning something through that. Or it’s therapeutic, helping him process the stresses of the day. Who knows. And that whenever possible we should allow this. (There was also a whole lot about making the house more child height, which we sort of do, but we have to keep certain things out of the reach of Sir A, so it’s kinda hard – another story.)

I think the last couple of weeks have been preparing me to accept that fact. It’s something I’ve known a while, but sooo avoid because it’s INEFFICIENT. To my adult eyes. But, as I’ve been reminding myself over and over during my career as a mother, interacting with my children, helping them learn, waiting patiently while they have meltdowns, eat, put their pants on is far more important work than washing dishes, hanging out laundry, cooking. At least in the grand scheme of things. My goal as a parent is to help my children be the best they can be, and as a Catholic parent, to get them to Heaven. Sure they need clean clothes and dishes, and nutritious food, but what they need more is to do the work of becoming them, no matter how much it frustrates me, and be given the tools and example they need to be empathetic, thoughtful, considerate, assertive, and a whole bunch of other things, little people. And doing what they need in their time is really the most efficient thing to do, because if they do it now they won’t have to do it again later. (Must hold on to that brainwave.)

So, my main parenting goal at the moment is to try and leave HEAPS of time for things. Getting dressed in the morning needs time for them to choose their clothes and practise putting them on themselves. At the moment it also requires plenty of time for Sir A to try to wee on the potty, cos he’s usually not satisfied until he’s done something, or several very small somethings.

Getting ready for nap is a similar story. If they start playing with their lunch instead of eating I cut that short, but gosh it can take time to go the the toilet, get into jamas, have a story. And then a whole big palaver again when they wake up, easing back into wakeful life. So frustrating if we need to get somewhere. So partly I’m trying to avoid needing to get somewhere, and partly I’m trying to be really patient. I hate it! Efficiency come back to me! No, they’re being efficient learners, yes, that’s right.

I’m also trying to not do so much, and have more time to follow them around and try to direct their play if it’s getting destructive. Not having a lot of success with this, cos when they seem to be happily engaged in an acceptable way I just can’t resist “doing something useful”, and then they invariably immediately start flooding the house or crapping on the grass and I get horribly annoyed and have to try to stay calm. I’m hoping this will get easier with practice! And also that Lord B will start to accept that the order he has at school is actually what we want at home too, and Sir A becomes developmentally ready to learn it soon as well (cos without his “negative” influence Lord B would be a lot easier to train up!)

And in case people hadn’t got it yet, I can’t do what God wants me to do (raise my children as they need me to) if I’m obsessed with being efficient all the time. And, for that matter, I can’t live charity (caritas, disinterested love) with others either if I’m always trying to be efficient (poor Amazing Husband is the most obvious other one that loses out).

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3 Responses to “Things I’ve learnt the hard way as a parent: Lesson Eleven: Getting ready to go out/tidying up etc doesn’t have to be a necessary evil.”
  1. Ian says:

    I can so relate to this. I recall taking three of the kids out for a walk around the Waikato Uni lakes some years ago. I had it clear in my mind that the youngest would be in the pram, and that we’d make good pace around the lake and the sportsfield, with the older two on bikes. Nope. Youngest wanted to get out of the pram to look at a snail. Then again to look at a rock. Then again to look at a flower. By that time I was getting quite annoyed (go ahead and laugh – but I was fixated on “completing our walk” dammit!) and started to tell her to stay in the pram. Nope – didn’t want to. Whine, moan, complain from her. Moan and complain from the older kids who wanted to blast around the lake on their bikes. So I cancelled our walk before we reached the 1/4 way point and took everyone home. Later that night my lovely wife suggested delicately to me that perhaps the youngest really enjoyed just stopping and looking at things and that I didn’t need to try to cater to the older kids saying they wanted to hurry up and get going. That I could ignore them and enjoy the wonder of the youngest being fascinated by a snail. So true.

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