That time of day when everything seems to break loose at once. That hour and half at the end of the day when the children are tired of their own amusements and ready at once for some Mama attention and some dinner. Only dinner isn’t ready yet and in fact is at the stage where every dish requires immediate attention!
For me this is one of the worst times of day. I’m tired and would love to talk to a grownup for five minutes but this is definitely not the time to get on the phone! Instead I need to be diligent to be involved with the children and help them stay helpful and cheerful as they wind down their day.
Intentionally planning our activities during this time is key. I need to know what I want each child to be doing. I need to think about which ones get along nicely and which two will definitely quarrel if I assign them to the same job or activity. Who needs to be near me and who can be sent to do something in another room? Who will dither and dawdle without direct supervision and what, oh what, is for dinner?
The dinner question is probably the easiest one to plan for. I try to sketch out a menu for the week when I do my planning so that I can just shuffle things around a little if life changes plans. I also try to do at least some of the dinner prep while I’m making lunch. Sometimes this involves starting something in the crockpot, or getting the chopping and sauteeing out of the way. I find this frees up some of my dinner time focus to assign someone as “kitchen helper” with the rest of the meal.
I’ve also gotten into a habit of putting Jack either on my back or in his playpen. This keeps him out of the way of the children doing tidying (nothing as frustrating as a toddler taking toys out as fast as you put them away!) and gives him a little space from them to play and explore on his own, or just snuggle and watch the cooking.
Reading or coloring are the order of the day for the children once they have done their chores. They tend to think they have enough energy for wild bouncing around the house, but that ends in tears more often than not as they really are “played out” by this time of the day.
We tend to eat late 6:30 or 7pm as S doesn’t get home until then. I have to make sure they have a good snack around 3 pm or the combination of tiredness and low blood sugar is devastating! And, oh yeah, that means I need to have a snack too- children aren’t the only ones who can get completely foggy and grumpy when they are hungry!
I try to remember to pray for grace and patience as the day winds down. Too speak calmly and softly. To continue to apply consequences as needed while also offering grace to tired, hungry children. It’s hard, but so worth it when S comes in and the downstairs is reasonably tidy, the children are calm and happy and we can sit down, eat together and pass the “talking stone” around the table so that everyone gets a chance to share about the highs and lows of their day!
It doesn’t happen everyday but on the days it does I consider that we have had a successful day.