Phoebe is an extrovert. I am an introvert. It’s complicated, staying at home with my little extrovert. We are around each other all day, every day. I’m trying to find balance, a way to meet both our needs, while still completing housework, finding time to work, and investing in Phoebe’s education. Here are some things I’m learning, and some areas where I am struggling…
Phoebe hates doing chores by herself. If I ask her to pick up a mess or put away a stack of clothes, she never will do it. I’d hoped I could set a chore in front of her and walk away, for 5 minutes of peace while she worked. But this just doesn’t work.
If, however, we do chores, side-by-side, she loves it. If I ask her to wash dishes WITH ME or bake bread WITH ME, she is 100% on board. She is a social learner. She wants to be with me and learn directly from my example. Even if it’s a chore she knows how to do all by herself, she still wants to do it by my side.
Since we use a chore chart, and pay her for work around the house, I have adapted my expectations to suit her personality. For example, when we started the chore chart, if she folded and put away napkins by herself, she got a sticker. But she never does it, and she will distract me from doing it. So, instead, if she helps me sort, fold and put away 3 baskets of laundry, without goofing off, then she gets a sticker. It’s about the same amount of work that she completes, but she gets her social outlet, and I get a lot more done than I would if she was distracting me.
This morning, while I was cooking stir fry, she took mushrooms out of the fridge, got out her green knife (it’s a lettuce knife, not very sharp), pushed her stool to the counter, asked for a cutting board (because they were all up in the dish strainer) and got to work. I gave her a bowl to put the mushroom pieces in. She was having trouble cutting the mushrooms, because the knife is not sharp, so I gave her a paring knife. I reminded her to be careful. She was.
After the mushrooms were all cut up, she pushed her stool over to the stove, and, under my supervision, she dumped the mushrooms in the skillet. We took turns stirring. Then she fetched spices for me out of the yard: mint and thyme. I chopped them up, and she stirred them in.
Phoebe hates Quiet Time. However, I need a break.
I try to bribe her with videogames on the iPad. She is only allowed to play on the iPad each day during “Quiet Time.” I want Quiet Time to last 2 hours, but she lasts maybe 30 minutes. She hates being alone. She wanders out of her room, with big puppy dog eyes, and pleads, “I just want to be wiiiith you, Maaaaamaaaa.”
If I were to sit down with her and play games with her, taking turns, or simply watching her play, she could play videogames for hours. She loves playing games: videogames, puzzles, board games; she just wants a game to be a group activity.
I don’t really know how to convince her I need a break without her feeling like it’s a punishment. If she sees me painting, she’ll want to paint with me. If she sees me writing, she’ll try talking to me, which interrupts my train of thought. If she sees me napping, she’ll crawl into bed and press her cold little feet into the warm corners of my belly. “I just want to beeeee with you, Mama!”
People have suggested egg timers, firmness, different activities, special toys that are only available during Quiet Time.
My gut tells me that the only thing that will work is communication, kindness, and consistency. Maybe Phoebe only accepts 30 minutes of Quiet Time right now because this is a new thing. And, maybe I should be grateful for the 30 minutes. I will keep talking to her about why we have this new Quiet Time, how Mama needs time to recharge and get work done, and I will believe that she will eventually respond to my needs. If I expect her to be empathetic and compassionate to me, I first need to set the example and be empathetic and compassionate to her, even when she wakes me up with cold little feet. Right now, she needs to be with me after 30 minutes of alone time. Maybe, in a few weeks, she’ll give me an hour. Who knows?
This morning, Phoebe and I created a game. We got a piece of paper, drew a 5 x 5 grid, and started thinking of things we might find in our yard: mint, ants, bluebirds, flowers. I thought of some of the items, but I waited and gave her space to think up things on her own. She surprised me with: parsley, blueberries, and bumblebees. I drew pictures of each item as we thought it up, writing the name underneath it. Phoebe helped me color the pictures.
We went out to the yard to play Bingo.
I brought gold stars, so we could mark off items as we found them. I also had my phone, so we could take pictures of each discovery. We took photos together. Sometimes we picked the items, sometimes we let them be. I let Phoebe lead us and decide what item we were going to hunt for next.
I loved this activity for a lot of reasons. It forced Phoebe to remember what was in the yard and recall the names of things. It showed Phoebe how names were written out and spelled. It gave Phoebe the opportunity to use color and creativity. Involving her in creating the game gave her a sense of ownership and pride that you just don’t get with games bought from the store. The game was personal, cheap and easy. Phoebe and I had to work together and be patient with each other while taking photos. Also, Phoebe learned about new things that were growing in the yard that she did not remember from last year and had not expected to find.
I realize now: Phoebe will thrive if she can learn alongside mentors. When I say I want to homeschool and unschool my daughter, this is the kind of preview that gives me hope that Real Learning can truly occur in our home. The more I understand my daughter’s needs, the better I will be able to teach and guide her. This might seems like a silly little thing, but, for me, holding onto this truth about Phoebe will help me better understand how to guide and teach my little extrovert in the years to come.
I must admit, I can’t help but thinking: if I fill up her mornings with engaging Together-Time, perhaps it will be like making deposits into her “extrovert” piggy bank. And maybe…just maybe…this will help me get more Quiet Time in the afternoons so I can recharge.