Sunday, January 24, 2010

My Kids are Smarter Because I Don't Stay at Home

I'm convinced my kids would be a little less smart if I stayed at home with them.  I know I would be.  Max and Ruby would drag me down, I'm sure of it.  Or maybe it would be the never-ending circuit from the "school room", where my daughter likes to color, to the "playroom", where my son likes to drive trains, that would mess with my mind.  When I'm home with the kids, I don't get a break.  While one plays quietly, the other demands my attention. They aren't quite ready to entertain each other while they play, so I'm the on call, go-to gal. 

Except, of course, when I build them a fort.

There is something about a blanket draped over a couch pillow that invites kids to drag every toy they own into the hideaway.  As kids, my brother and I, though five years apart in age, could play together for hours in a well-crafted fort.  When we were about five years old, my friend Abby and I moved all of my toys from my room into my closet in order to play camper.  Our unsuspecting fathers, who were babysitting together for the day, had no idea why it was "so quiet."  I'm pretty sure the cleanup they had to do that afternoon inspired Abby's dad to create a built-in fort in his own bedroom closet when they remodeled it.  If the toys were meant to stay there, he wouldn't need to clean them up at the end of the play date. 

I built forts with everyone as a kid.  My grandparents, my aunt, my babysitters, my parents - everyone at one point or another pulled pillows off the couch and allowed me to set up house.  My kids get it honestly, I guess.  They love forts.  Their forts, however, must be built to specifications that tire me quickly.  We need to use the "downstairs" blankets.  If we are building one upstairs, we need to use the ironing board for maximum space and structural support.  Above all, we need to move every single truck my son owns into the fort.  Oh, and of course, I am "too big" to enter the fort.  What fun is that?

I am writing this while my daughter sits in front of the TV.  I resorted to Max and Ruby, her new favorite show - the only show that will keep her attention for more than 6 minutes - because she didn't nap today.  My husband is out this afternoon, enjoying some much needed guy time at the poker table, and I was looking forward to a few hours to work on my syllabus and my lesson plans for this week.  I tried all of the tricks we use to get my daughter to nap.  She refused.  So while my son naps quietly upstairs, she is currently sitting on the couch, not being intellectually stimulated by interaction with her worn-out mom.  She's engrossed in Max and Ruby, a show that will probably not make her smarter.

But I needed the downtime so the TV won.  It's been a tiring few weeks.  I haven't written a blog post in two months.  Since my last post in November, I've finished the fall semester, hosted Christmas, faced looming deadlines, including the start of the spring semester this week with two new courses and the February deadline for my reappointment package.  Despite the chaos of the last two months, I was feeling rather balanced - until last week.

I had been writing a book chapter for a Friday deadline, working the draft for over two weeks.  My schedule for writing was set by pre-existing doctor's appointments, emergency doctor's appointments, preschool registration, the basement renovation - basically, life limited my time.  With a week left to go, I had my days planned by draft number.  By the middle of the week, I coached my babysitter to write the grocery list and asked her to take the kids to the store so I could avoid the banging and cries for "Mama" as they stood at my office door.  I was running out of time, and we were completely out of food.

On Wednesday night, the sitter called.

"I just wanted to let you know I'm throwing up," she said.  Her words not so subtly informed me she would not be working the next day.  My mind quickly sifted through the images that Thursday would hold without the sitter.  I could see my son sitting quietly in front of the Thomas movie, but there was my daughter skipping into my office, trying to write on my paper.  I flipped forward to naptime and knew that Murphy's Law would mean at least one of them would be awake and in need of entertaining.  I turned to my husband.

"I HAVE to write tomorrow.  I have a deadline."

I have to give my guy credit.  He came home after his morning appointments to help, and I was able to salvage a few hours of writing on Thursday.  When the sitter called Thursday night to say she wasn't better...

Well, let's just say chaos ensued.

In the end, my MIL did the grocery shopping, and I was able to get my chapter submitted by the deadline.  My deadline today isn't making me as manic, and I'm about to sign off because my little girl just came in to tell me she needs help with her computer.  I'm not sure what this means, exactly, but it's time to provide some intellectual stimulation for the next generation.  Or maybe we'll just build a fort.

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