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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Desperately Seeking . . . Witching Hour Advice

I think most families have a "witching hour" during which the kids become rather unmanageable. And for most families, the witching hour seems to be before dinner, and much of the advice on the topic involves getting dinner on the table faster.

In our case, however, the witching hour happens after dinner, when I'm cleaning the kitchen and the kids are bursting with energy. No matter what Marc does to engage them, we always seem to end up with two little boys who won't follow a single instruction. Unfortunately, we live in a townhouse and don't have a yard, otherwise it would probably be a simple matter of opening the back door and letting them loose.

We have considered putting the dishes off until the boys are in bed, but that would mean that by the time I have washed the dishes, prepped food for the next day, and exercised, it would be after 9:00. I'd still have blogging-related work to do, and even the bare minimum takes 20 to 30 minutes. And since I like to shower at night, it would after 10:00 by the time I got in bed. The alarm goes off at 5:00, so this schedule leaves absolutely no couple time for Marc and me, which is unacceptable.

Does anyone have any suggestions? I love my two little boys, but they more than a handful sometimes! Thanks!



  • At 8/20/08, 9:17 AM, Blogger Aaron said…

    I think that getting dinner on the table sooner could possibly still help your situation depending on what your schedule is. It would perhaps give you extra time to exercise before bed but after dinner is done. Other than that but short of duct tape and the closet, I'm not really sure what to offer. Good luck!

  • At 8/20/08, 9:42 AM, Blogger FunkyFrum said…

    My kids are the same way, and it is very "arghy" to say the least. I gave my son (18 months) a job to do. I give him his own little sponge and he sits at his own little table and wipes it down. Then I give him the basket for the dishwasher with all the silverware and let him put all the silverware into the basket. I give my daughter a little hand broom and pan and she "Sweeps" my floor. My husband then bathes both kids while I prep for the next day and by the time bath time is over, all is done.

  • At 8/20/08, 10:11 AM, Blogger Wendy said…

    Play kids music and sing/dance. I sing and dance while I clean and the little ones dance all around. Also, we get out the crayons and they color . My husband also plays the guitar and takes request from the kids while I clean. Also, I limit the TV in the afternoon so as to save it for after dinner. While they are winding down I will let them watch an episode of Barney and I will clean.

  • At 8/20/08, 10:14 AM, Blogger Jackie said…

    Oh I love Wendy's ideas! They are great.... also the bathtime while you get stuff done, or exercise is also a great idea. I am going to remember these when I need them too.

  • At 8/20/08, 11:50 AM, Blogger Dr. Mom said…

    On a day when I need a break or want to actually have an adult conversation with my husband, I will stop at a used movie store or Goodwill on the way home and buy several kid movies. While I love to see my kids playing and being creative, sometimes I need to not be the entertainer/referee. Also, my kids love water and I can just pop them in the shower with toys for a break. I just wash them up when I get them out. No chance of drowning (ages 3.5, 5 and 7) and they have a good clean time.

  • At 8/20/08, 4:56 PM, Blogger Twice Blessed China Mom said…

    Both my daughters have helped with chores since they could pull a toy out of a basket. They were folding laundry at ages 2 and 3, and helping to carry laundry to the right places (in very small loads) at that age. I purposely keep laundry folding for my younger daughter. At 2 and 3, they were helping with sweeping, with a small broom and pan, carrying their plates, utensils, and cup to the sink, picking up anything that fell on the floor, wiping their area, being my personal "runner" by taking little things to different locations, shaking light rugs, carrying dirty laundry from upstairs to the laundry room ( in small amounts), etc. I have never picked up toys. I wondered when I could expect my child to pick up toys, and when she was able to pull something from a basket, I knew she had the skill to put it back. I have organized toys so that specific types of toys are contained in special baskets. Thus, they practice categorizing by putting toys where they belong. Our family joined a farm coop this summer, and I have taught my girls to wash the vegetables, and to prepare the vegetables in the way that I will use them. My older daughter is able to use a knife, but my 5 year old, is only allowed to tear and cut kale, Swiss chard, herbs, etc. She then puts the vegetables into the proper freezer bags. Both my girls help to make snack bags. They put in popcorn, grapes, carrots, slices of apples, etc. into small snack bags. Of course, teaching my children to do these jobs caused additional work for me, initially. I also needed to support them, and praise their approximations. Of course, initially, their quality of work was less than desirable, but I praised their wonderful efforts. I now have a 10 year old, who can do almost any cleaning, except things related to chemicals, in our home. She is an awesome cook, and anything that she wants to learn to cook, I support. She was breaking eggs at two, stirring things that needed to be stirred, and learning the importance of washing hands after working with raw eggs. My younger child is a challenge and NEEDS to be involved in constructive activities where she learns how to be part of a family. Both my daughters were adopted; my older daughter at 12 months, and my younger daughter at 32 months. It takes time to teach my children, and it takes thought to be conscious in my planning: what new tasks can I be teaching my daughters? What responsibility can I introduce to them? My plan is to continue to teach them to take on every possible responsibility that is developmentally appropriate for them. They will be proud, confident, and capable when they are independent, and they know they are contributors to our family. I also praise them and thank them for their assistance. I make sure that they know the fun things that we are able to do BECAUSE they step up and help out.

  • At 8/20/08, 6:56 PM, Blogger Gina said…

    A couple of ideas, depending on whether your boys get worked up or more relaxed by them:

    have dad give them a bath while you do dishes

    have dad take them for a walk (in SoCal he can still go out at this time of night for a 20-30 min walk and tire them out)

    We do these two things often to tame the wild beasts (2, 2, and 4) and it helps them transition to quiet time afterwards. I usually get the cleaning done AND a little alone time that way.

  • At 8/21/08, 6:34 AM, Blogger Stacee said…

    We have 5 (11, 10, 9, 6 and 3) - so these days I have the benefit of having the older ones entertain the younger two after dinner if need be. All of them help w/ dinner cleanup though (clearing and wiping down the table, putting the dirty linens away, etc), and while I do the dishes, they do a quick pickup in the living room and go brush their teeth.

    We have a weekly menu posted on the fridge, so after dinner they check the menu to see if there is anything they can help with to prepare for the next day.

    In past years (when I only had little ones), I tried to incorporate any game I could into my chores. Some nights I'd stand at the sink doing dishes and we'd play red light green light - I could get my job done. I also would do things like have the little ones color at the kitchen table so I could see them, and we were all spending time together, but still getting the chores done.

    I agree w/ the pp who mentioned letting the kids help w/ the dishes adn chores, in the beginning it will take more time, but once they get the hang of it - it's great!

  • At 8/21/08, 9:07 AM, Blogger CE said…

    My husband isn't yet home from work for dinner/bath/bedtime, so I don't get the chance to clean up or put the food away ( I leave it out for him to eat and then put away when he's finished). We usually save playing on the deck for after dinner (when the heat is more bearable) or taking a long bath with lots of tub activities (foam soap all over the walls and each kid gets a spray bottle of water to wash the walls down). I do know that unsupervised "free play" after dinner usually means fighting and screaming in our house.

  • At 8/22/08, 11:35 AM, Anonymous Julie said…

    Toward the end of dinner, I mention a fun activity that the kids can do -- and if you have dad there to help them do it, that's even better! We paint, pull out the playdoh in the basement or water the herbs (don't know why, but they LOVE that one). Sometimes just having a "goal" in mind helps them get through the rest of dinner nicely and gives them some direction once they clear their plates.

  • At 8/23/08, 1:17 PM, Blogger Chief Family Officer said…

    Thanks for the great ideas, everyone! I am SO impressed by those of you who patiently teach your kids. I'll have to work on that more with the boys.


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