by Jenny Kleppe
Today, I have the flu. I can barely move, I am shivery, then sweaty, achy all over and I’ve lost my voice. It’s summertime and I have a three-year-old and a five-year-old home with me in all my glory. It’s 1:45pm and everyone is still wearing pajamas. I have no idea what we will have for dinner and honestly, I cannot remember what my children ate for breakfast. I do know that no one brushed their teeth this morning.
The five-year-old wanted to bring me juice to make me better and hence there is a layer of sticky orange slime covering the kitchen floor. Dishes are everywhere. Toys are EVERYWHERE. I can’t see the table because it is covered in every art supply we own. I do not want to know the state of any other room in the house.
This is NOT how my house usually runs. I am an organizer. A planner. A teacher. A scheduler. A, “You have 5 more minutes to do that until you need to clean up,” kind of mom. I thrive on routine. This summer we have been able to do so many great things because my routine allows me to get two kids up, dressed, fed, and onto our next fabulous adventure. I have only been able to tolerate the disaster that is our current existence because moving from my current couch position is more than my equilibrium can bear.
And this has been, without a doubt, my children’s favorite day of the summer. They are so happy! They are GETTING ALONG and playing together. Kindly, even. They are playing with every toy, even the ones I have not seen them use in weeks because today, they have the time to use them.
The table is covered because for the last 30 minutes they’ve been making me pictures, cards, cut out hearts, and “Feel Better Crowns”. I’m covered in all their favorite stuffed animals and blankets. My usually clean floors are sticky – all because my preschool aged children are doing everything their wonderful little minds can think of to make me feel better. They continue to come up with new ideas and are even evaluating their own thoughts. My son just gave me my third construction paper and tape bracelet and said, “This one is much better. It’s your favorite color and it won’t break like those ones.” Through the mess and the sickness, my children’s kindness and creativity are shining through. And it is letting me know I need to slow down. I want to create more days like this.
It is all well and good to have a routine, to have fun activities planned. I am a do-er, a planner. It is part of what makes me a great mom and a great teacher. I go stir crazy when I’m sick and can’t leave the house. Being sick today helped me to see that when it comes to young children, part of the plan needs to be time. A lot of time. Uninterrupted, independent play time. Time to just be. To read all the books on the shelf. To work it out with your sibling. To use as many pieces of construction paper as they want without their mother limiting or reminding them, “The bigger mess you make, the longer it will take to clean it up!” They need time to set up and then play with their toys. To come up with the ideas and ask, “What’s next?” This is the kind of play and time that will help their young minds learn to focus, to plan, to evaluate, to execute, and to have more fun than I have seen with most of my planned adventures. And deep down isn’t that what we want?
Maybe I’ll be sick tomorrow…