The team was already gathering when I pulled up to the school with my son. I said, “Okay, we’re here,” and he looked up from his phone, scrambled to get his things together, and jumped out of the car. In my side mirror, I saw a van pulling around us and I yelled, “Wait!” at my son, but he’d already slammed the door and didn’t hear me. That nano-second played out in slow motion as I watched him never look, running in front of the van to join the team. Thank goodness the driver of the van was looking straight ahead, saw my son, and slowed for him.
Had this been a sitcom, there would have been a laugh track played as the disheveled boy ran to practice, probably dropping something along the was. The sitcom mom would smile and shake her head and be off to her next busy mom task.
My life is no sitcom, but what it is — and probably yours too — is a daily attempt to be a nurturing, productive role model for my children. I want my boys to see and hopefully model my work ethic as they grow into young adults. But this episode with my son brought to my attention that I also have to teach them the strategies that allow me to be so productive.
Before I share about strategies, here’s another story. After I dropped my other son off at camp, I was walking back to my car. Another mom and her son were hurriedly speed-walking toward the camp drop-off spot. The mom had a can of sunscreen and she was spraying the boy’s arms and legs (or at least she was spraying the air around his arms and legs) while they were in motion. A couple of us witnessing this scene chuckled as she looked up, laughed, and said, “We are SO late!” It was a funny sight, and again could have included a laugh track and been a funny scene in a busy sitcom about parenting. But the thing is, she wasn’t “SO late.” In fact, she was less than 5 minutes late. She was simply caught up in the “go-go-go.” Driving away, I began thinking about what we are modeling for our kids.
Some of us are naturally type A personalities. I am. I enjoy being a productive “go-go-go” mom taking care of my three boys, working, working out, etc. I’ll point out here that I am a “go-go-go” mom, meaning I like to accomplish as much each day as I possibly can. However, I do not encourage overscheduled, “go-go-go” kids.
The two stories I shared earlier reminded me that we, as parents, should also teach our children the strategies we use to be productive. Otherwise, we might just be raising kids who feel stressed out trying to follow in our productive, “go-go-go” footsteps. So here are three strategies I am working on with my kids (and it is a nice refresher for me too as I practice what I’m preaching!)
- Prepare the night before. Sometimes we think we’ve got this, we can just wing it in the morning, but even if we can, why not prepare the night before and have a calm, easy-paced morning? (If you’re wondering how to model this for your kids because you’re so used to just doing the prep work behind the scenes, here’s how I’m doing it. I’m talking out loud about what I’m doing and why. “Ok, let’s go ahead and pack lunch tonight so we’re not rushed tomorrow.” And I’m asking the boys questions to keep them listening. “Do you want pb&j for lunch tomorrow? Great. Can you please pull out the stuff to make that?” For us this week, we’re looking at the forecast. “Let’s put the sunscreen bottle on the counter so we don’t forget it in the morning.” And we’re planning clothing. “You’re running tomorrow. Make sure you have clean socks.”)
- Take a breath, collect your thoughts and your things before leaving the house/car. Even though we prep the night before, we need to take a pause and make sure we’re not running out disheveled. (Again, I actually practice this with my son, having him pause, put his phone in his bag before opening the car door, and remind him to be aware of his surroundings — to not almost get hit by a car!)
- Ask what’s more important. Sometimes even with preparing the night before, we find ourselves running late — because we’re human and maneuvering in a world full of other humans. We grown ups know how to prioritize and get our day back on track, but we need to model this strategy for our kiddos too. (Especially since I will have young drivers in a few years, I am modeling how to prioritize when in a rush.) By asking the question, “What’s more important?” we can model how to prioritize. When asking the question, make is consequence- based. (If my son is playing a video game and I ask what ‘s more important, the answer is always going to be the video game. By comparing consequences, kids understand what you’re really asking. And yes, my son will still say the video game is more important, but he gets this smile and change of tone that let’s me know he understands and just doesn’t want to admit it.) So I model this consequence-based question while driving by asking, “What’s more important, that we get there on time or that we get there safely?” or “I could go faster, but is trying to make up time worth getting a speeding ticket, which will make us even more late?” The desired outcome, of course, is that when our kids are faced with making important decisions on their own in the future, they will weigh the consequences and choose wisely, especially when it involves operating a 2-ton motor vehicle!
I know , practicing these strategies with our kids is not sitcom-worthy. Adding a laugh track to making a pb&j in advance or practicing good decision-making is not going to make it any more fun. But, practicing these strategies may help prevent a drama — and I think all parents will agree that preventing drama where we can is totally worth the effort!