Paige had one horrible week a couple of months back. Each day seemed to be filled with tantrums, tears, whining, moaning, groaning, and overall grouchiness. Of course, there were some fun and happy moments too, but not enough to balance out all the crying going on! I was getting so upset and frustrated; what was wrong? Besides being two, I realized that she'd been getting more television and computer time than I would normally like, and some of her therapies had been cancelled so her routine was disrupted.
Paige is easily overstimulated. She loves the television and the computer, and would sit for hours and hours if I let her, but all the lights, sounds, and colors really do a number on her. She ends up acting wild and "hyper-drugged" for hours afterward if not another whole day. She becomes "unregulated" and unable to listen to and follow instructions. It's as if she's the only one in the room. She gets so hyper and jittery. Some kids can handle it, mine just can't. I try to limit it to a show or two, but it always ends up with her screaming for more like an addict. Some days I just feel so worn out and tired that the TV seems to be the only solution for me to get a little break. There it is.
I've done a ton of reading lately trying to find ideas of what we can do to create a calming environment that soothes Paige while still being productive and fun. I stumbled upon some principles of Waldorf education in the home, and the ideas instantly resonated with me. While I can't say I agree with the full Waldorf way, there are tenets that I believe can bring more peace and joy into our home.
One thing I found that I wanted to talk about were ideas of things to do without TV, instead of feeling like I have to spend the whole day playing the role of "entertainer." You know what I mean? I found this post over at The Parenting Passageway, and it opened my eyes to including Paige in the daily routines of life. By doing so, I can get things done and she gets to learn new skills and gain self-esteem. We all know the work of keeping the home is plentiful. I find that these days, a lot of tasks are streamlined thanks to electric dishwashers, mixers, etc. But I can still break things down and find little things for Paige to help with.
- Give Paige a basin and some soapy water and some silverware to wash. I can show her how to clean each piece and dry it off one at a time.
- Show Paige where each piece of silverware goes in the drawer so she can help put it away (with the help of a stool).
- Give Paige a whisk and she can beat the eggs for me (really with me) at breakfast time.
- Give Paige each dish and show her where it goes on the table (eventually she can set the table).
- Have Paige clean up her plates and put them on the counter after meals and snacks. She can wipe her crumbs, push in her chair, and wash her hands and face with a cloth.
- Start showing Paige how to fold using washcloths and towels first, then build up to other things.
- Give Paige laundry to put away in each room. Perhaps even if it means only giving her one thing at a time. This will certainly kill a lot of time!
- Have her help me sort laundry and put it in the washer and then the dryer.
- Have her push the heavy laundry basket across the floor for me (heavy work is good for sensory input into her joints and helps regulate her system).
- Show her how to spread jelly on her toast/bagel.
- Show her how we water the plants.
- Let Paige give the dog her food.
- Teach Paige how we make the beds and she can help.
- Teach her to put items in the recycling bin in the garage.
- Show her how to sweep and mop and wipe.
- Give her a spray bottle of water and a little cloth to wash the windows.
- Get cups and practice pouring from one to another. Perhaps we'll start by using beans from her sensory bean box?
These are all little ways I can include Paige in the tasks of home life and kill some time while we're at it. Perhaps the challenge of learning these new things will be just the thing to keep her feeling happy and challenged and not bored. I expect that each thing would take a lot of practice to master, but when treated as an activity and not a chore it can become fun! And I'd still be accomplishing things (albeit slowly). Better that than a cranky 2 year old who becomes impossible to please!
We are also needing to work on self-care skills such as hand-washing/drying, dressing/undressing, appropriate tooth-brushing, washing the face/body, drinking from a cup properly, using the spoon without spilling everything everywhere, brushing hair, eventual potty training, and so forth. These all take time, attention and practice too!
Between all these things and her regular free-play, art time, sensory play, outdoor time, story times, and whatnot, the day should be pretty filled up and TV-free. I recognize that the commitment on my part is going to be much higher, but I think it will be for the best in the end. When I feel overwhelmed or discouraged, I try to reflect on my commitment to be an at-home Mom and what it all means to me and why. I do my best to give Paige the things she needs to flourish amongst her developmental challenges. It is hard. Very, very hard. But it can also be rewarding. I think I'll be happier in helping her accomplish useful things during the day rather than my simply being her "entertainer." That routine gets old quickly. It is easy to burn out yet still feel like I'm not doing much... especially now that I'm not in the career world. But I also remind myself that this time will go by fast and it's simply a season of life. This is my current calling and I want to know that I'm doing my best. My best looks different each day, that's for sure.
I have more to say on the topic of creating a more soothing calm home, but I'll leave it at this for now. We'll see how we do with it all!
What types of activities do you fill your day with as a SAHM?