We had one of those whole-family colds for the last few weeks. It started with the Princess and a random high fever in the middle of the night. Small children and germs being what they are, of course it spread. After I was sneezed on a few times I caught it too. The only person who managed to fend it off fairly well was Mr. Genius, and he was touch and go there for a while.
Our not-so-garden-variety cold coincided with a few abrupt weather changes, so we hunkered down and grimly committed to staying home for the duration. We have a no-share policy when it comes to germs.
Once the kids got over the worst of the fever, they were feeling fairly normal. To prove it, they toilet-papered the bathroom (and hallway….and part of the living room) while I was dealing the whole fever thing. Kids!
After about a week of this hermit-like existence, we decided to venture out one weekend and go to dinner.
The place was packed. It was busy, crowded, noisy. People were literally sitting right next to us, and the wait staff kept having to suck in their stomachs to get around our table. And it only got busier.
As we waited for our food and played silly games with the kids, I kept waiting for the meltdown. The frustration. The screaming and crying.
It didn’t happen!
We managed to make it through the entire meal, and then struggle through the standing-room-only waiting area with no issues. We couldn’t even get the kids’ coats on until we were outside, that’s how crowded it was.
To say this was an abnormally calm experience with the kids is an understatement.
Later, I was analyzing things and trying to figure out why this dinner went so well when previous dinners haven’t. And the only thing I kept coming back to was this: we stayed home. We spent our days quietly playing and doing school things. I flopped on the couch for a lot of it – because not only did I get sick, I ended up with an almost/maybe broken nose from the Destroyer and a flare-up with the other health issues. Sure, I yelled, I disciplined, and things went fairly normally for being home: we didn’t really change anything else.
That’s the key: being home.
So, here’s me on my soapbox for a minute: we’re doing too much. Yes, you too. We families are rushing around trying to make it to co-ops, to classes, to sports events. We’re cramming our days full of stuff that we just have to do because it’s an educational experience or a critical social interaction. Every single day is full – scheduled and planned.
During these last few weeks, my kids were bored. They got up in the morning knowing that we had nothing to do and nowhere to go. They relaxed (and made a huge mess!) and played. Sure, they whined about wanting to go do stuff, but they know the iron-clad no-germ-sharing rule doesn’t bend.
I wouldn’t advocate for doing this hermit impression all the time – the kids need to go get the wiggles out and explore, and I need some adult interactions too. But it’s really obvious to me that maybe we were doing too much. Even after I cut things way back and gave us a break after busy days, we were still overstressed.
Now, keep in mind that my kids have special needs and sensory issues. Perhaps staying home this much gave their systems a chance to reset. I don’t know. I do know that our family needs a lot of down time, and I’m going to make sure they get it.
Time to be bored. Time to play and create without fear of being dragged away from it. Time to invent silly games and run around playing tornado monster. Time to spend an entire afternoon trying to figure out why our science experiment didn’t work like the video did.
You veteran homeschooling parents are probably reading this and thinking “well, duh!” It’s a fine line, trying to figure out how much is too much. And it’s not all the same for each family: what’s too much for my family might be too little for yours. You have to figure it out and find out what works for you.
Maybe the next time I think we’re home too much, I will remember this interlude. I’ll remind myself that my kids need down time. And if they keep getting what they need, maybe we’ll see long-term improvement on the special needs front. Who knows!