It's almost time for school to begin again at the Neal household and I can feel myself gearing up for the new year. Before I get into school mode though I want to take my mind back over the time I spent with my grandchildren recently. Children are one of the delights of my life and spending time with grandchildren is one of the joys of getting older!
I just got to spend time at Jimmy and Alicia's helping her after the birth of their sixth child--Elisha. Because of medical complications Alicia was in the hospital eight days and my stay was a little longer than usual. That just gave me more time to be around and get to know their children.
I still have three of my own at home and the two youngest went with me. They thoroughly enjoyed time with family as much as I did.
After I came home I jotted down things that my grandchildren had taught me while I was with them. I already knew each of these things but being by myself with a large group of kids (8 part of the time and 9 when I had Brian and Niki's Halle) reminded me of things that you sometimes forget.
One of the first things that I was reminded of was that children love to work if it is at your side. The younger they are the more important this is. If you send a 3 year old alone in their room to clean it up they are miserable but if you go in the room with them and say, "Well, let's see if we can make this place pretty!" they're happy to do it with you.
At the beginning of the week the kids and I talked about how God made a family a team and I gave them each their part of the team"work". Briley, Cierra and I got putting a meal on the table and cleaning it up down to a science by the end of the week. One of the girls set the napkins and silverware on and the other one set the plates and the cups. I did the food. At the end of the meal one of them cleared the table and the other one swept the floor while I washed dishes.
One day Audrey (who is 3) wanted to do her part so I handed her a dishrag and told her she could scrub down the benches. She wanted to be in on the work and I thought that was great! What amazed me was how good a job she did and how thorough she was. She even washed down the lower part of the benches.
If I'd sent her in there to do the job alone she would have been miserable. But because we were all working together and laughing and talking she wanted to be a part of it.
Another reminder that came back to me was that side-by-side time with children makes precious memories. So many times we think that we have to spend a lot of money or do something really big for children to be happy but when I think of my precious childhood memories it's not the big events but the personal time I spent with my grandparents. Things like my grandfather peeling apples and feeding them to us as he told stories. I remember baking with my grandmother and sitting at the table with her after that just talking.
Because I was doing a lot of meal preparation I made sure the kids were involved in it with me. Because there were lots of children I had Helper #1 (my main helper) and then they had helpers.
(#2, #3, etc.) The children learned to break eggs, flip pancakes, etc. and I don't know about them but I sure enjoyed our time together. Audrey and I made up a new little song for flipping pancakes and Isaiah and I had a wonderful heart-to-heart talk while washing dishes. I hope their memories are as sweet as mine.
Being with the kids reminded me that children are so easily motivated. At the beginning of the stay it was almost overwhelming to think of fixing three meals and a snack, doing laundry, keeping the house clean and making it to church with my brood I was watching! I am definitely feeling all of my 54 years since my illness last year. I knew I was going to have to enlist the children's help!
I talked to them about having a "We-Can-Do-It Club" to help us through this time with their mama's illness. (See Alicia's blog-http://reaganhome.blogspot.com/2009/08/where-does-time-go.html) We made up a chore sheet of morning, afternoon and evening chores and I put them in a notebook. It was so cute watching Caleb faithfully check his sheet each morning to make sure he'd done all his work!
I set up a point system (good and bad) and monitored them for incentive, attitude, willingness, obedience, etc. Nine bad points in a day required a talk with dad when he got home (no one had to have that, by the way!) but the good points went toward a reward when I left. The children amazed me with their desire to get good points and avoid bad ones.
Isaiah taught me a lesson in how much children can understand if we communicate with them at their own level. He'd had a day with some problems and was really frustrated. His frustration was coming out! At the end of the day I got alone with him and explained to him what I'd seen and gave him some thoughts on how he could keep from being so frustrated. As we were walking up the driveway to the house he slipped his hand in mine. I could tell he was just happy I understood and had talked to him. Later, when he got really frustrated again he came in with a chair where I was doing dishes and said, "I decided instead of getting mad I'd just come in here and help you." And that made both of us happy!
Another reminder was how children that have routine and schedule in their life are contented children. I learned this early in my mothering. Children like to know what's happening next and that they can count on it! I've had kids get very upset with me when we ate a brunch and missed a meal in their day.
Children fall into routine so smoothly. Breakfast at a certain time, lunch at a certain time, rest time, supper, bedtime snack. It is time to.... When they have a pattern and routine it creates a feeling of safety. Knowing where things go and what is expected of them each time will be the same--all that creates a happy child.
Each night I read out of a book called "Tucket's Travels" to the children. I think every single child except the two little ones asked me some time during the day--"Grandma, we are going to read tonight aren't we?" Just another reminder that children like a pattern to their lives.
Last of all, (but not least--I could name many more) I was reminded that a little full attention given to a child goes a long way. After supper I would go outside and watch the children play. I would get a cup of coffee and sit on the glider and watch them skate, ride bikes and play on the swing set. The truth was I was so tired I couldn't do anything else!
If I got up to go get more coffee one of them would say, "Grandma, where are you going? You're not going in, are you?"
I enjoyed the "Watch this Grandma." "Look at what I can do!"
It didn't take any energy, just a willingness to sit there and watch them.
What a time I had with the children. How wonderful to watch these children developing and their personalities blooming. Each one so different and so precious.
Briley--creative, a leader, always willing to help Grandma find her way in the Reagan household! Briley deserves a crown for being the wonderful big sister and little homemaker that she is!
Caleb- the artist, sensitive and detailed, painfully honest about himself whenever I asked him a question. Caleb's earnest desire to do what is right and to do it right is a joy.
Isaiah- cheerful, quick-witted, third born that has much to say if you stop and talk to him. He was a delight to watch as he went from his full military outfit to a cowboy with all the "fixins". Kept me laughing and kept me company at times when all the other kids were playing.
Audrey- My bedmate at night, my fellow cook, (her first question is "Grandma can we cook together?" when we talk on the phone), she is patient and kind. (and spunky too!:)
Macey- The most pleasant toddler I can ever remember, quick and willing to obey and gave me a baby to love on. I enjoyed having a little one to get up and check on in the night to make sure she was covered and pat her little head.
Elisha- I look forward to getting to know you!
Reagan babies--thank you for being patient with your grandma and for being such a wonderful blessing in my life! I enjoyed our walks to the soda fountain, reading together, bedtime snacks, watching you work so hard at earning points and trying to please me, making and eating lots of cookies, and everything else we did together during my stay. Thanks for reminding me how wonderful children are in our lives!