Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Desperate Housewife

A few days ago, after spending the day to that point doing the usual stuff - playing and homeschooling and errand-running - I looked Matthew in the eye and said that I had no idea what to do with him next.  I was fresh out of ideas.

His unblinking and immediate response:  "tv?"

Me:  "Fine."  I hated agreeing to it, especially in this context, but I didn't have anything better to suggest.

Matthew (on his way to turn on the tv):  "By the way, mom, you should really make a list of things we could do when you don't have any more ideas.  Because you really need to spend time with me."  Said as if I never spend time with him...I, who am with him virtually every day, all day.  Well, who ever said parents were appreciated by their offspring, right?

Before Matthew was born, I used to wonder (in a state of something akin to panic) what people did with their kids all day...specifically, I wondered what on earth I would do with my kid all day.  I had no idea.  People that I mentioned this to generally reassured me, along the lines of "don't worry - you'll figure it out" or "they'll do whatever you do" or, my favourite, "it just comes naturally."  Right - for whom?

Actually, for the first five years of his life, I discovered that advice to be, by and large, true.  When Matthew was just over a year old, we moved here from Vancouver, and I had virtually no friends for the first year+.  So I blathered on and on to my kid, talking non-stop, telling him everything and anything I could think of; I read him kids books, magazines (including Macleans, which I also read to my now-nine-year-old nephew when he was a baby - it's how he and I learned about Afghan mujahadeen rebels...which was helpful a few years later when I ran into Peter Mansbridge on an airplane and we talked about mujahadeen rebels...but I digress).  Matthew was my companion, both of choice and necessity, and I held little back.  I am convinced, incidentally, that this was a significant force in his being able to verbalize a minimum of 250 words by the time he was eighteen months old.  Even his like-aged cousin occasionally holds her hands over her ears and despairs: "Matthew, please stop asking so many questions" or "Matthew, please stop talking."  Of course, being a mature woman, I would never do that...hmmm.

At any rate, I'm fast running out of ideas as to what to do with Matthew during the day.  The weather has been so bitterly cold recently that, even bundled up, he/we last only 10-15 minutes out there - at most.  I suppose it will get a bit easier for the next couple of months, given the 'extra-curricular' activities that I've signed him up for.  But after homeschooling is done, and we've done crafts, puzzles, reading out loud, listening to audio CDs, had a bath, played with some toy or another, rolled around playing some wrestling/tickling game or kicked a ball around the basement, maybe done some baking together, maybe even gone on a field trip, etc etc, what do we do then?  I'm genuinely stumped.  Really, if anyone has ideas as to what to do with a five-year-old only child who's home all day, please let me know.  Do you hear the desperation in my voice?


  1. I'm still reeling from the Peter Mansbridge sighting! Wow!!!! I would WAY rather run into P.M. than, say, Brad Pitt. I just can't wait to tell my husband. You lucky thing! :)

    My thoughts are: it's not your job to entertain your child all day long. Matthew needs to understand that you have work to do, and that sometimes he needs to entertain himself. You sound like a Mom who spends lots of time with her child, and that's great! Cut yourself some slack... he's a big boy who will not be harmed by being left to his own devices every now and then. In fact, I'd go so far as to say it would be healthy for him to have some time to think his very own thoughts, play by himself with Lego, look at books by himself, look out the window and see the world, talk to himself, play playdough himself, etc.

    I'm not advocating the parenting style that is "leave your kid alone all day long." You're not going to err on that side, ever! :) But kids need to learn that their parents don't exist solely for their children's pleasure. I think Matthew may suddenly discover that he likes having some time alone, now and then, to do his own thing.

    And finally.... don't feel guilty. Kids are really, really gifted at figuring out where the areas of guilt are in their parents, and then capitalizing on it. lol! He KNOWS you feel that you need to entertain him. He's got a good thing going! You're an awesome Mom. You DO spend time with him... lots of it. :) Hang in there!

  2. Gwen said it better than I could have - it's time for Matthew to learn the important skill of entertaining himself.
    It's an incredibly valuable skill to learn to enjoy your own company.
    I also believe that a little bit of boredom now and then can spur creativity.

    You guys have a lot of together time and obviously enjoy each other's company so I'm not worried that you are in danger of neglecting your child or taking this too far.
    Also - it will be healthy for him to learn this skill before your Ethiopian kids come home because you will not have the one on one time then that you have now. It would be incredibly difficult to go from all mom all the time to splitting mom 3 ways even if it means two new playmate siblings.

  3. I was going to post exactly that! It's good for a child to be bored and have to figure out what to do on his own.
    And as for the guilt trips - they're a killer... Last week I went out in the evening, on my own, for the first time in the 6 mos. we've been home and Bereket said, "Why you all the time going, Mummy?" sigh.
    Hang in their Ruth - you are an awesome mum!!

  4. I'm on board with Gwen's thoughts too. I have to tell you that your conundrum is a big reason why many parents (including me) do the preschool option. It's a matter of taking the morning or afternoon shift, but hard as heck to do both. So kudos to you - you're offering one power packed day already!

  5. I agree with what's been said so far. It's a really good skill for kids to learn to entertain themselves. I find that for boys, things like Lego and KNex are great for them to entertain themselves with. Then again, a cardboard box, some scissors, and markers works as well.

    But for activities for the two of you, an indoor circus (masking tape on the floor as a tight rope, being a lion tamer with stuffed animals, juggling whatever is handy, and of course, no circus would be complete without clowns with silly clothes (daddy's wardrobe on Matthew perhaps) and face paint. I also love board games with the kids on snowy days.

    And then there is the complication of him being an only child at the moment...just borrow a couple of kids one afternoon a week. You'll be doing their parents a favor and you can have a break of sorts while he has a playmate or two. Of course, soon enough, he will have siblings!!!

  6. Hey there -
    I just wanted to say thank you for all of the thoughtful, thought-provoking comments. I am taking each of them to heart and I will, at some date in the near future, post again about this...after putting more thought into your comments.

    THanks again my friends!!


  7. Hi Ruth,
    Just catching up on your blog. We would love to have you guys over sometime in the next couple of weeks for a playdate.