Thursday, February 19, 2015

fun and games



There are a few explicit emotions that surface when my kids realize, "Wait, Mom is still in bed, and we are supposed to be getting ready for school." From what I could hear coming from downstairs this morning, it's safe to assume utter jubilation is putting it lightly.  Being told you have a snow day is apparently the equivalent of telling an adult they've won the lottery.   Now, with the "lucky" weather we've been having, my kids are now snow day bazillionaires. 

"Good morning boys" I announced as I came down to the kitchen, unsuccessful at sleeping in like I had hoped.  "Morning, mom." Ethan was already in his simultaneous electronics mode--ear buds attached to his I-phone and his ears, a Nintendo 3-DS being played in his lap (at least he heard me).  Isaac was playing at the kitchen table, already having created a scenario that looked like the dance hall scene from West Side Story with Hot Wheels.  They were fully emerged in their day off. 

As I ground coffee and put water on to boil, I took a deep breath.  Today was the first day we had "blizzard bag" work from school sent home.  For many parents, this is nothing new.  For us?  It's sacrilegious.  Now, I'm not that great at being lazy, but when snow/cold days happen, I am happy to stay in PJ's and watch "Stampy" Minecraft videos on YouTube with the boys, play Cranium, catch up on our Pok√©mon, you know, the usual.  They are unexpected treats, snow days.  Not any longer. 

I waited to tell Isaac about the "fun" packets sent home for him to work on until AFTER I had my coffee.  The boys had breakfast, and then, I broke the news. 

"So, we have some work to do today, Booder." 

"What?" 

"We have some packets from school to do.  See?"  I put the two packets on the table in front of him:  one math, the other phonics/reading.  "How about we start with one page of each, and then add a few more through the day?  You can still play, just a few breaks for work." 

Isaac looked at me like I had sprouted a second head with flames shooting out of its eyes. 

I attempted to transition from theatrical Hot Wheels games to "fun" math games.  I tried explaining how he can earn I-Pad time if he can complete just two pages of his packets. 

The second head sprouted ANOTHER head, and was that....yes, lava pouring out of its eyes this time. 

"Okay, buddy, let's give it a try, ok?"  I tried having him clean up his cars for a better work space.  Nope.  I tried writing "Unexpected and Expected" behaviors on the chalk wall to help motivate him (this is a great technique used at school to help the kids self regulate their behaviors).  Nope.  I gave him a squishy platform for his feet, and piece of gum to chew (this helps him focus).  Nope.  I tried being strict, then I tried sitting next to him and helping him stay on task. 

I felt like the tri-headed monster Isaac was imagining from earlier. 

I had to step away while Isaac cried, slammed his head on the table and yelled, "I can't dooooooo thiiiiiiiis!" I had to stand by the sink and stare outside at the icicles hanging from my neighbors house and listen to Isaac try and do a few problems, only to get frustrated and throw his pencil.  He kept drifting off, losing his place, and getting angry.  I know he knows how, and I know he can (he had already completely 3 rows of problems on his own).  It's finding the strength to allow your child to figure out that learning means not knowing everything.  I reminded myself of that fact as I walked over to encourage him. 

"Buddy.  Bud, look me in the eye please."  Isaac rubbed his eyes so hard (he hates tears) his face was red and splotchy.  I took his face in my hands and kissed his cheeks.  I held him close and then looked at him.  "You can do this."  (More protesting from him)  "I believe in you, and I know you can.  I can help you, but I can't do your work for you."  I gave myself the pep-talk as much as I gave it to him.  He had been working on this one worksheet for an hour and 10 minutes already. 

As I looked down at the worksheet, I noticed he had completed another row, plus some.  He had also decided to cross out the "fun" in "fun and games" that was written in the right margin of his paper. I agree, buddy. 

After this page was completed, we celebrated.  We jumped around the kitchen, ran in circles around the dining room table, and toasted with some Green Goodness.  As I type this, he has already finished 4 more pages from his packets.  As with most things I work through with Isaac, it's like climbing a mountain:  it's hell climbing up, but once you reach the summit, you see how far you've come and get strength and momentum for the descent...until the next climb comes soon after...

And we keep climbing.
No fun.