I really should call it potential, or probable, or inevitable, or even pending trouble. Because when the kids get signed up for activities, the trouble you think you might encounter has more to do with you and your planning purposes than with them and their eventual trouble. As you sign over half a paycheck for their activities you think to yourself:
- What is an easy dinner to prepare prior to an active hour of running around?
- What ingredients must I have on hand for that night?
- When should I start cooking?
- What time should dinner be served?
- Will we walk or drive there?
- Will the toddler sister come along or not?
It’s a lot of planning and organizing. For us, Wednesday night is the big, early night. Also the one when the kids are the most rambunctious PRIOR to the activity. Soccer starts at 6 pm, and if we walk to to the community centre, we have to leave the house by 5:45 pm at the very latest. This means we have to eat by 5:15 pm, about an hour earlier than usual.
Soccer Night therefore has become spaghetti night. Spaghetti with meatballs, purchased or home made*. I know ahead of time that I will need sauce, pasta and meatballs, and that’s all stuff I can prepare ahead of time (or purchase, if in a crunch). This takes care of part of my organizing for the night, and I know that by 4 pm on Wednesday night I should fill a pot of water and turn it on, just in case I forget to do it at 4:30 pm. At my house, a pot of almost boiling water is ready for pasta as early as 4:15 pm.
But the real trouble, far as I’m concerned, happens later in the season, after the recreational activity has become a reality for several weeks. Suddenly you notice things like
- it gets dark earlier which shortens the evenings considerably
- evenings are colder, requiring more clothing which by default adds to the time required to dress the little sportsman
- the toddler sister has it in her head that soccer night applies to her too and she needs similar preparations as the older kid does, only with more help
This adds to more planning, and more noise, at least at my house.
By the time we return from the activity, it’s dark and cold. Back in early September, returning from soccer at 7:15 pm often had kids expending more energy on the front lawn with the neighbours. It was good for them, and it was good for me. I could get inside, get the bath started, wait for the kids to finish their bouncing around and come inside.
Now? It’s dark outside by 7 pm. Instead of running around outside the kids start whining about being tired the moment they step into the house.
And this is the point I’m trying to make about the so-called trouble with recreational activities. WHINING.
I needed to come up with a plan to stop this in its tracks before I lose my mind. Whining is incredibly annoying to listen to, but especially so at night time and when everyone is tired.
Last night we got home at just after 7 pm. Benjamin is all hyper and flushed and happy, hungry as a horse and thirsty enough to drink an entire bottle of water. He is commanded to
- take off shoes and jacket and put them away
- wash his hands
- and sit down at the table to eat some cereal
Instead of doing above mentioned tasks, he’s rolling on the floor whining he’s too tired. I tell him he must do it or no cereal. He does it while whining some more, but manages to get himself seated at the table. He’s too tired to wash his hands. “Sorry buddy, you’re not eating without washing your hands first”. He whines some more, gets his hands washed, then sits at the table and devours two bowls of cereal.
“Ok, time for a quick shower!” I say in the most encouraging voice I can muster up.
More whining. He drags himself to his bed and lies down on it, sweaty soccer clothes and all. Whining and complaining about how tired he is.
And I realize I had enough. I felt like yelling at him, I felt like dragging him into the shower with clothes on and all, I felt like slamming the door and going to bed ignoring the kids (Sonja had her own crisis, naturally, but luckily her daddy was handling her).
Instead of ignoring him, or yelling at him, I did this:
I walked up to Ben’s bed, lowered myself to his eye level, and said the following in a calm, quiet but very stern voice:
Benjamin, being tired after an activity is part of it. I understand that you are tired. I’m tired too. But my day is not over yet, and neither is yours. You have a choice to make. You can stay in bed in your sweaty clothes and go to sleep without showering, brushing your teeth and putting your pjs on. Or you can get it all done quickly and be in bed in 10 minutes so you can go to sleep. Think carefully which choice you will make because if you decide to stay in bed without getting showered, you will have decided you can no longer handle going to soccer on Wednesday nights.
I left the room. And bingo, it worked. Worked like a charm and without whining. And I had a happy, tired, and CLEAN boy in bed 10 minutes later.
*I make the sauce in bulk in my crockpot. It’s easy and fast and I can freeze in jar and containers. I currently have at least five more jars of frozen home made tomato sauce in the freezer, and two baskets full of tomatos waiting their turn to dissolve into sauce. Meatballs I make from scratch most of the time, also in bulk, but I found an italian place that sells delicious meatballs with meat from reputable farms, so that is my backup.