Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Better Mommy, One Step at a Time

I am not sure where to start with this one.  I don't know how to say some of it without seeming like a jerk, but let me just say that I always did well in school. It came easy to me, and I never really had to work hard until I chose a ridiculously hard major.  Even then, I didn't work that hard, because I didn't know how to work that hard.  I did okay, I complain but really I shouldn't and life is fine. And most people consider me to be among their smarter friends, and please don't condemn me as cocky for saying that.

I attribute much of this not to some innate ability -- although my almost-photographic memory does help -- but to my parents, who always read to me, encouraged me to read, and always modeled reading.  Seriously, you can go to my parents' house today and you'll still find piles of books in the bathrooms, nevermind the overflowing wall of gorgeous bookcases in the den.

I always thought I would do that with my kids, but I've been realizing lately that I just don't.  I was reading at age 4; CAM has no interest to even practice sight words.

My parents always read to me before bed.  I probably read to the kids about every other night.

But what they do see is that Mommy and Daddy are always attached to our phones (well, for Mick, it's more his iPad than his phone, and for me it's the other way around). Mick and I had an argument about that a few months ago, where I said that it's not engaging with the kids to be in the same room with them but playing on the iPad ... and for a while, he was much better about it. But we all fade away, right?  The fact is we're both pretty intent on constantly checking email.  He's always researching something for his business, or watching videos -- many of them valid reasons to be on the iPad, not just playing around -- but we're doing that stuff and letting the kids just play with each other.  I'm all for parent time, but we also need to play with our kids, not just let them play.  I have struggled to find this balance.  I read, about half the time on my nookColor and other times magazines, etc., but it's not the same as always having a book in my hand the way I used to -- the way I thought I would when I had kids, so they would see what it is like to love to read.  I don't read as much as I used to, and I find myself playing Scrabble on the iPad more than reading novels lately.  (Which is something that also makes me quite sad for myself, and which I've been trying to remedy on a personal level.)

A while ago -- six months ago, maybe longer, it's been that long -- I decided that I would try to do one "thing" with the kids each day above and beyond what we'd normally do.  I was tutoring and that was taking a big chunk of time away from our evenings and family time, and I thought that every day after school, we'd do a craft, or play a game, or do something other than run errands and put on the tv.  (I have said this before: I really try to NOT let the tv watch my kids, but if Mick's not home and I am tutoring, I have to give somewhere and it is more often than not, there.)  I still try to do this, but I'm not always diligent about it.

So yesterday, CAM was in school and WHM and I went to Target, and I bought a new game for the kids.  You know, because what they need is a new game:

See those baskets?  Each one of those is the largest size they sell at Pottery Barn.  The two on the ends are filled with games and the middle one is filled with instruments and Kindermusik stuff.  As you can tell, we've flowed over to the floor and the shelves.  And the bedrooms.  We seriously have games everywhere.  I LOVE games, but Mick doesn't enjoy them quite as much, so I try to play with the kids -- but again, I'm not as good about it as I want to be. 

It's called S'Match! and I love it, and so did they!

It's very similar to the traditional Memory game, and comes with 30 cards. Each card is either red, blue, green, purple, or orange, and has either one or two items on it, from the categories of transportation, musical instruments, animals or ... I can't remember.  In any case, you spin a giant spinner

with a big old stopper that you push down, and it will land on "category, color," or "number."  Then you play Memory the way you know, but you have to match based on what you landed on.  So you might match one orange guitar with one red boat, if you land on number; or one orange bunny with two orange monkeys, for animal.

I really love this game.  It's good for critical thinking and of course all of the countless other skills Memory helps to grow.  Even WHM, who won't be three until June, was able to figure out from the stopper what he needed to match, and the stopper kept his attention (whereas regular Memory is not as exciting for him).

Anyway, just wanted to let you know that I'm trying.  This is a real goal for me and something I have been working on -- with highs and lows, for sure.  It can be frustrating (I have friends whose kids are reading and CAM has no real desire; for now she enjoys being read to and making up stories to go with her books) ... but I am going to be modeling more reading, and less "tech-ing" from now on, and we're going to keep practicing our sight words and playing games and making crafts, and next time I check in like this, hopefully I'll have something more awesome to say.


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