I was an intentional mother—I knew what I wanted to have happen and I thought of ways to make it happen. Here's one of my success stories:
Twice a week I hung a sign on our front door that said Halverson Hero Happening! It was a family after-school party—because it was named, it was special. Then, I acted excited! "Hi guys! Did you remember we're having a Happening?" They were caught up by my enthusiasm.
I directed them to hang up their coats, give me their papers, etc. "Quick! We have activities planned!" First we'd go to the Treat Cafe (normal after-school snacks served by a waitress. I'd recite the menu and they'd place their orders, sitting at the counter like customers.) With the phone off the hook and a "We're busy today," sign on the door, we had time to chat.
Next we played games—naming them made all the difference.
Minute Reports—the timer was set for one minute and each kid had a turn to tell as many things as they could about their day. Someone watched the timer and someone kept track.
Story Time—We'd sit on the floor in a circle and I'd tell an ancestor story, or one about an upcoming holiday, or a story with a moral, or a funny poem, or just a knock-knock joke. Something fun.
Homework Hop—each kid had to hop on one foot for as long as it took to tell what their homework was.
Laundry Prize—each kid put away their laundry and would find a piece of bubble gum, or a lollipop at the bottom of their individual basket. It was a race to get back to the family room first.
Chore Challenge—each kid drew a chore from a hat and had five minutes to do it well, and return and sit down. Then we'd all inspect each chore and decide if it passed inspection. If it did, the kid got a star on the job chart.
Talent Showoff—each kid performed something they were supposed to practice (a piano piece, a violin solo, a gymnastics trick, a multiplication table) and we all clapped.
Free Time—I assigned partners or trios of kids to invent an activity, which they could play together as long as they didn't bother another partnership. When the inevitable melt-down came, I'd gather the group again and they'd all report on their activity. By then the magic of the Happening had dissipated and we'd break up into homework, practicing, TV, whatever til dinner time.
Happenings met our needs. The kids wanted my full attention after school. When they got it, they behaved. I wanted their full attention after school and when I got it, I behaved. The whole afternoon went smoother. (To be totally honest, this did not work all the time. But it worked enough of the time for me to call it successful.)
The kids had to deal with peer pressure—telling friends they couldn't play was embarrassing. I had my own peer pressure: telling friends "I've reserved this time for my kids," was hard for me. But this was valuable time and I didn't want to give it away. I consolidated lessons as much as possible so we'd have a couple of un-pressured afternoons a week; sometimes I bagged lessons altogether for a season in favor of a less chaotic home life.
Motherhood was a career choice for me, not something on the side. Because I viewed it this way, I could excuse the parts I wasn't thrilled about—every career has its downsides—and concentrate my efforts where my personal talents and interests lay.
"The greatest aid to adult education is children."
—Charlie T. Jones