autumn days

Sunday, September 2, 2012

the child-driven list

I am blessed with a one-hour bath each weekend, one which I look forward to all week.  This is my sacred one hour to use the bathroom alone, to journal, and to get into the hot water and attempt to shed layers of emotional crud so I can once again do my best to be kind, patient, and loving.  That's a lot to fit into one hour, but that is what I attempt to squeeze in before my dear partner races off to work again.  Last weekend, I followed my thoughts to minimize one source of my stress: running late.

Even as a full-time mom without an outside job, my life sometimes feels like an endless relay race.  Parenting is an incredible juggling challenge regardless of circumstance.  There is such a rush rush rush element in our culture and in our lives.  My point of stress has recently been running out of patience and grace as we leave the house late again.  Noticing this consistent time of stress had me looking for solutions.

Settling into the hot water, I remembered a story my mom tells of my childhood.  The morning after a parenting workshop, my mother sat down the next morning to relax and drink her cup of coffee without her usual nagging and prodding.  My adolescent brother and I quickly realized it was our responsibility to get ourselves out the door and onto the bus on time.  That was an incredibly simple lesson for my mother and me.  Now a mother and in my hot bath, I recalled another lesson I never mastered as a teacher: let the children do more work than the adult.  Kids learn by pitching in and taking responsibility.  Our family's newest solution: child-centered lists.

My daughter Hannah now helps me write up a list of what she needs to accomplish before she can leave the house with us.  Instead of her depending on my nagging to get her ready for her day, she focuses on checking things off her own list.  She also enjoys making and checking off lists for her brother and me.  This simple list has increased Hannah's independence and responsibility and seriously decreased my frantic stress.

Hannah's List
Clear table
Brush teeth
Change clothes
Brush hair
Pack snack and jacket
Put away toys and clothes

Now I can settle into my sacred one hour alone to relax and contemplate my many blessings.  Blessing number one: I am grateful for these beautiful strong children who keep me learning and growing each moment of the day.


  1. We've been experimenting with lists, too. Both of my kids find lists to be a great comfort. In addition to action lists, rules lists are very popular with my kids. The "Table Rules" list has helped make mealtimes much more peaceful.

  2. What kinds of rules have your boys created for mealtimes? We will be creating a list of regular responsibilities soon. Hannah's excited about helping out, especially with meals. Lists help me to be more productive with my time as well as bring me comfort. Thanks for sharing, Sharon!