If you have kids, especially kids in school, you know the summer can seem like an eternity. Somehow, when the kids are around it seems like the world is moving in slow motion while time is flying by. Kids have a way making the simplest tasks require more time, more steps, and more words than an adult could ever imagine. Simply leaving the house to go to the store can evolve into a lengthy process. During one excursion it took 50 minutes for two adults, one infant, and three little kids (one of which is non-ambulatory) to get into the car. Squandering time leaving the house can cause other chores to “take a hit”. The laundry is behind, the dust is collecting, and dinner is delayed.
Instead of dwelling on the inevitable time crunches of summer, I decided to find a better way of coping with kid issues…my solution was kid-swapping. I asked a friend of mine who has children of similar ages if she wanted to “swap kids”. I would watch her kids while she either did work around her house or ran errands and in turn, she would watch my kids while I was able to work around my house “kid free”.
I was not sure how it would work out when we discussed this arrangement. I wondered if our kids would play well. I considered that my friend and I might parent differently and that could cause some strain in our friendship. I wondered if it would be really productive or if executing this endeavor would take more time than the benefit I would receive from not having to watch my kids. I also wondered if my kids would behave and if they did not, would my friend would want to stick it out?
The benefits I reaped from this experience were far more than I anticipated.
When my friend and I got together, we usually wound up gabbing a bit…okay, it was more than a bit sometimes. It did cut into my productivity, but…I realized how much I enjoyed her company and it made the summer even sweeter to have girlfriend to talk to. Our friendship has really blossomed and it would not have happened without all of these “swapping” experiences.
I realized that I could get still some work done even with five kids in the house. The infant slept much of the time and the remaining four kids played so well together that I rarely had to intervene. The kids looked so forward to their play dates and to help encourage good behavior, I threatened to cancel play dates if the kids were naughty. I did spent a wee bit more time preparing lunch and snacks on “swap days” but I still got work done on top of that which was a pleasant surprise to me. I enjoyed playing will all the kids too.
And yes…I did get work done. I did blog once. I mainly made telephone calls and handled other miscellaneous tasks that would be challenging to do surrounded by my loquacious kids. It seems I cannot do anything longer than 4 minutes without some sort of dialogue from one of them. My biggest endeavor was organizing the toys. I left my kids at my friend’s house and headed home to a completely empty house. This has never happened before.
I took three extremely large bins of toys and divvied up the contents into 9 smaller bins. Five of the bins had specific contents while the remaining bins had nonspecific toys. Two of the bins were devoted to items with wheels and wing…basically cars and airplanes. Boys collect small cars like women collect shoes. They have tons of them. Even though we have about 50 small cars there is a decent amount of contention as to who has what car. By ensuring that the cars are all in 2 bins, there are no longer “missing” cars because the cars are at the bottom of one of the large bin of toys. Moreover, the large bin is no longer dumped over to attempt to locate “missing” cars.
The boys are playing more frequently with their trains and train tracks in addition to their blocks all because they do not have to “hunt” for all of the components. Clean up has never been easier. Each child is only allowed to play with one bin at a time. Therefore when it is time to pick up toys, it is very clear to each child the toys that he is responsible for cleaning up.
So my attempt to generate some more time during my day to keep up with the laundry has produced greater rewards–a deepened friendship, more completed housework, happier kids and a quicker evening toy cleaning up ritual. I am really grateful for all these accomplishments and “free childcare” became the highlight of my summer.
What was the highlight of your summer?
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