Winter Break: A Providers-Eye View

Any provider knows school vacation weeks are extra challenging. In my case, it’s the usual number of little kids plus my two boys plus my after-schooler, and various friends dropping by here and there.

On top of an unusually warm and sick winter. Every child has had some illness, and I’ve had them all. So I’m at the end of my energy. Wait, maybe if we could use the amount of germs to convince people that global warming is a problem! You don’t want to be sick? Vote for wind power.

While I was making lunch…wait. While I was making lunches: one for the smaller kids, one modified for the after-schooler (Miss S) who didn’t like the first choice, one each for Older and Younger Son, who will never eat the same meal, one for the visiting friend who didn’t like any of the other choices, and one for me – I got tired of being pestered for seconds by Miss S. I said “You’ll have to wait. I’m making lunch for nine people here.”

She looked around herself at the day care table and said, “No, only five people.”

I said, “There are nine people in this house and they all have to eat.”

She counted all the kids again and said, “Oh, you mean eight.”

So that about sums up my feelings during a week like this. No, I don’t actually exist or have needs, I am simply here to meet yours.

The weather’s been mild enough to get outside a bit, but still cold enough to chase us back in after a few minutes. I can’t do a proper circle because Miss S wants to be me, my sons continue everything they’re doing regardless of my circle (i.e. Wii games, wrestling, and interrupting me to ask for second breakfasts), and I can’t really read or sing anyway because of my sore throat.

So in an effort to entertain all the kids I did one of our fairly easy but fun crafts – I Spy jars (old water bottles filled with rice and fun little things to find). While I gathered the supplies I opened the giant box of rice to let the kids play with it (this is an awesome tactile activity btw).

I can predict what happens with these projects as easily as I can predict that – well, that I’ll be sick in February. Every child is ecstatically thrilled with the rice for about four minutes. They are engaged and enthralled, freeing me up to gather all the fun little things that go in the jars. Then the giggles get louder and the rice starts flying around the room. Miss S is following me while I gather the supplies, asking 100 questions and starting the project without me by filling her bottle, which is still wet on the inside.

Mr. R, after tossing some rice, is done with the project and is banging on the glass French doors in the living room. After I bring him back to the project, he dumps what I’ve put in his bottle all over the middle of the table and everyone’s work. While I recover from this disaster, he heads over to the desk and starts touching my computer.

By the end of the activity, it’s been over an hour of impatience, pestering, fighting over who gets the kitty cat or the purple flower, and my “helpers” abandoning me. The morning is summed up when I look under the table and find the entire dumped-out box of pom poms which I left out of reach. I’m cleaning rice from every surface in the room and trying to re-sort all the pieces back into their homes while the kids are using their now-complete I Spy jars as weapons.

And Miss D is sobbing and screaming because when she wailed Younger Son in the back with her bottle, it split open and everything poured out.

Yippee!!!!!

Still, the jars came out awesome. And I look to next week with mixed feelings. I’m happy to know I’ll have my quiet time back without having to entertain big kids who don’t nap. And not having to drag everyone back and forth to school is heaven. But other than that, I’ll miss my boys. They were nice to have around, despite the trail of food wrappers and dirty clothes that they leave in their wake. They were considerate and helpful, and they’re at the point where I can yell out “Older – get Mr. R away from the French doors,” and – he’ll do it! That’s a miracle right there.

As always, the stress of the week is balanced with something nice, which happened Friday morning around the snack table. Everybody was getting wound up: our newest big sister is having a hard time adjusting to life with a baby. Someone touched someone else’s snack. Another was crying because no one would give her a chance to talk uninterrupted. I said, “I think everyone is just in a cranky mood today.”

Miss D looked at me and said, “That’s OK, because Amy’s here.”

My heart melted, as it always does when one of the littles looks me in the eye and gives me back some of that love. So maybe I do more than just meet everybody else’s needs after all. I am a calming presence. A leader who sets the tone. Or as Dave would say, “Yeah yeah everyone knows you’re a saint. What’s for dinner?”

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