We had a very busy day planned that included no less than: reading every last volume in our home library, cleaning out all closets, weeding and other miscellaneous household projects. We were also scheduled to go bulk food shopping, school uniform shopping, and oh yeah, haircuts were also penciled in on the ambitious To-Do List.
But unbeknownst to me, fate had something else in store for us, when I got up that morning, pulled on my military fatigues and tossed back two 12-ounce cups of joe, poised to tackle every last item on this absurdly unrealistic agenda.
Awaking hours before my sleepy summer sloths, I was in full manic-swing by the time they emerged one-by-one, behemoth-breathed and crusty-eyed, from their slumber caves.
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They wolfed down breakfast then dashed off. No explanation.
And while cleaning up the kitchen the most calming, melodic sound I’ve ever heard had settled over the house –SILENCE!
Panicky, I padded into my kids’ rooms assuming they were asphyxiating after jamming Legos down one another’s throats. Yet to my astonishment, I discovered all five children engrossed in a makeshift game they affectionately entitled “The Drive-Thru.” Through a meticulously-organized rotation system, each one had a designated role and all were in compliance with the schedule. The props were nothing more than a large container of fake food and utensils, a couple of plastic trays, bag of Monopoly money, tiny pad of paper, pencil and tape.
And with these “primitive” items, they alternated playing the role of chef, waiter, drive-thru customer, and cashier. And kept themselves entertained for TWELVE HOURS. Okay, let me repeat that last piece of vital information: TWELVE HOURS.
No video game, no television, no iPhone app has ever held their collective attention so long. Ever.
At first, being such a control-freak, I tried to coax the kids to stop playing and stick to the day’s agenda, enticing them with the first activity: cleaning out the litter box. But after a few feeble attempts I backed off and recognized this moment as epic, as a once-in-a-lifetime golden opportunity, as a freak accident.
So I put my list aside, sat down at my desk and spent the entire day and most of the evening catching up on writing projects I’d put off. Basically, I focused on the very stuff I’m unable to do when noisy children buzz about.
Every hour or so I checked in and reminded them to urinate when they felt the urge. But I tell you, these kids were rapt and so excited, I had to drag them out to the kitchen for a quick bite.
What did I learn? What I suspected all along: when I ignore my kids they get along great.