Chacos column: Preparing the kids for the big game
We’re in the midst of a transition in our home. Calendars, schedules and flowcharts are pasted everywhere. A few famous quotes are dusted off and rearranged front and center for their power to sink back in while aimlessly opening the refrigerator door.
September is a delicious month for the organizational, goal-oriented and tidy individual. The drill sergeant has returned to her lair, much to the dismay but also delight from my husband and children.
We had a family meeting before the start of school and asked the kids for some increased help. We began with teaching them what food items we think belong in a lunch and then told them we’d like them to prepare theirs daily. At the end of the second week they looked like freshman binge eaters at the buffet food court. They dished up the same exact food items each and every day and just didn’t seem to care.
Next, I color-coded and updated the wall calendar so the kids know exactly where they need to go and when. Truth be told, this is actually so my husband and I know where the kids really are when someone asks us. I feel silly when I say, “Oh dear, I thought they went home with you.”
Trying to get a decent outfit on a 12-, 11- and 9-year-old is a herculean task. I’m positive my kids think they’re heading to play basketball for the next seven hours instead of heading off to school. But I want to see some reverence for where they spend their day. I tell my kids that education is a privilege and their teachers work hard to prepare an exciting day for them. The least they could do is show up looking decent. Jeans with holes in the knee is just a fashion trend I can’t wrap my head around.
Damn, I’m starting to sound like my parents.
So the kids are now required to choose an outfit the evening before, prepare lunch and pack their backpacks so they’re ready to go the following morning so there’s little cattle prodding from me. Sounds simple enough. However, if you live within earshot, you’d know we’re not doing all that well yet.
Truth be told, I’m ready to throw in the towel with the entire “independence” and “autonomy” act for some basic mom-driven routine. Two weeks into this charade and we spend more time talking about what to pack for lunch than if I just made them all myself. I can make beds with my eyes closed and in minutes. Then I’m guaranteed the hospital corners are tucked perfectly and the pillows are tossed at just the right angle.
I think back to the times when I had to teach my kids more mundane chores, like emptying the trash baskets around the house. I remember thinking that this is a task a monkey could do, most certainly one that could easily make Momma proud. So when the contents of the bins trailed down the stairs, I knew we were in the midst of raising clueless primates that needed the tasks broken down into itsy bitsy steps.
So here we are, in the throes of September when I’m doing what feels like two-a-day trainings at a sports camp. They sweat, curse me under their breath, complain and fight back. I stop short of wearing a whistle and a stopwatch, but I’ve contemplated it plenty, just to show them I mean business.
I’m preparing them for the big game because next week is the Jewish new year, Rosh Hashanah. During this time we’re asked to set intentions for the upcoming year. This is a time of sweetness, a celebration of life, and the joy that comes from working on goals you set for yourself.
My kids will be asked to think about what they can work on to make them happy, healthy and productive little people. I’ll explain to them that their thoughts and feelings will be put in their book of life, and we’re going to celebrate the upcoming year working on all of our goals together. I’ll explain to them that sometimes we’ll need to sweat the small stuff and work on the little things. My hope is that when it’s time for them to add it all together, they become the sum of all the parts.
I will start by insisting they brush their teeth before leaving the house every morning. I’m aiming to ask them only once, as a courtesy to the others who will interact with them during the day. Life would be easier and certainly more efficient if I just strapped them down and did it myself. But where’s the lesson in that?
Andrea Chacos lives in Carbondale, balancing work and happily raising three children with her husband. She strives to dodge curveballs life likes to throw with a bit of passion, humor and some flair.