Things We Now Have Time For
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In the midst of a crisis, or a setback, or a global pandemic, as we’re experiencing right now, it often helps to “look for the helpers,” as Mr. Rogers encourages us to do. We seek the silver lining, the consolation that comes with the disappointment.
There’s this amazing thing that happens. Have you heard the phrase, “what you water will grow”? It makes sense, on a biological level, but it holds true on a psychological level as well. What you notice, perpetuates.
You hit a red light AND you spill your coffee AND you forgot your presentation AND you got a call your child is unwell…
Thank goodness I didn’t run that red and hit the bicyclist! I didn’t even see them! What a relief my partner never listens when I say “we don’t need more napkins,” when they get a meal to go, now I have something to tidy up with! It’s so great I work with a really wonderful team and I know they’ll have an extra copy of the presentation for me, and they really won’t begrudge me skipping the meet-and-greet after the presentation to pick up my child, I know we really have each other’s backs.
During this social distancing, it’s easy to think of all the things we’d rather be doing. Let’s make a list of all the things we now have time for.
- Retiring the paci or bottle. Particularly in high-stress times, it’s nice to have soothing measures, but spending time together means opportunities for planning and scheduling. Working down from a paci all the time to a paci in a pocket to a paci just before naps to a paci sewn into a favorite stuffed animal to snuggle with.
- Toileting. How often are we just too busy to stay home with a child who’s working on toileting, we can’t just stop everything to use the toilet, we’re out and about and need the diaper, it’s easiest to work on toileting at home in just underpants, but who has time for that? Us! That’s who! Plus one less thing to shop for on those grocery runs!
- Shoes. We don’t like to let children practice putting on and taking off shoes, but we DO want them to throw their shoes on, no big deal, as we’re running out the door. We also want them not to be absolutely captivated by and happy as a clam taking off their shoes and socks, wiggling their delicious toes. Well, this is a great time to practice. Take off your shoes a hundred times. Put them on a hundred more. Practice is practice!
- Getting dressed. We get children dressed because it’s easier than letting them do it. Again, we’re always in such a hurry. Well, not these days! Take off your pants, put them on. Same with your shirt. We’re not going outside, but yeah, go ahead and practice up and over with your coat. The zipper might take a while but all that time now is an investment for when we’re back on a schedule and “magically” you know how to zip your own coat. It’s also wonderful for preparing hand-me-downs. Maybe there are clothing items you know don’t fit your child, but they don’t know, or understand, or choose to buy into this reality. Let them wear the belly shirt and the pants that don’t button. When it’s uncomfortable, or they’re tugging at sleeves, or their ankles are cold, no one is telling them to do something they don’t want to do. They’re the generous ones, gifting to a younger sibling or unknown child these treasured pre-loved items.
- Perfecting a recipe. Mine surely cannot be the only household with a freezer full of well-intentioned black bananas. Use this time to perfect your banana bread recipe! This batch has, wait for it, half pecans half walnuts. Tomorrow we’re trying chocolate chips AND nutmeg. Things are gonna get wild. Maybe you want to try this strategy with an omelette, or chocolate chip cookies, or barbeque. There are about a thousand “best ever” recipes out there, maybe this is the perfect time to test them and find the winner. Without sports brackets, the whole family can get involved! Work through recipes for a specific food, or through a whole cookbook that’s never been cracked open, or your own creative food choices. About that…
- Make a “never again” recipe. My mom made a lot of soup growing up, a skill and habit my sister inherited. The line was always something “if you like it eat up, if you don’t oh well, we’re never eating this again!” Look through the fridge for vegetables that need to go in soup, cans of beans no one remembers purchasing, frozen items that need to be thawed to know what they are. Worst case, there was usually corn bread on the side. Other foods that translate well into “never again” recipes are smoothies, pizza, and sandwiches. Who knows, maybe you’ll find a new favorite combination! Maybe this will pave the way for…
- Clean and organize the fridge. Or the pantry. Or the bathroom. We all have [at least] one area where things get added but rarely completely cleaned out. Does anyone in this house even eat pickles anymore? We can end social distancing with a sparkly kitchen, or at least enjoy our spaces when we’re spending more time in them.
- Self-care. This phrase gets thrown about quite a bit, and it’s easy to imagine it just involves massages and ice cream. Self-care is important, even, or especially, for young children. Another one of those “we have to do this cause it’s important and urgent right now” things, like putting on shoes, that if children feel like they have some agency they might participate more willingly, even independently! Things like toothbrushing, handwashing (we’ve all seen the fun videos, have you recorded one yet?), brushing hair, taking baths are all really important, and give a sense of well-being in these unknown times. We all have read the recommendations to stick with a routine, take a shower, put on clothes even if we’re not leaving the house, and it’s important for children, too. Just like with shoes or getting dressed, if we give them the skills when we have time, like now, they’ll be independent and have the tools when things return to business as usual, which they definitely will!
- Basic first aid. If someone in our house is sick, how do we take care of them and ourselves? If there are outdoor adventures, how do we clean a cut or a scrape? In case the potholder slips on one of those batches of banana bread, what do we do for a wound? What do we take care of at home, and when do we need someone else to help? Every interaction is an opportunity for learning, for helping children to feel a part of what is going on around them, capable and independent and empowered.
Written by:Charlotte Snyder