When the Children Are Underfoot

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The other day I was trying to pack for our trip and the children were just underfoot. Over and over I said “Go play.” and over and over every time I turned around there they were again. I couldn’t understand it. Usually they do chores and go play for a bit, we do school and off they go to play, lunch and naps, and then they go play together until evening chore time. I bet you are seeing the pattern here? They never have unlimited play time, and most of the interesting things I do, they do with me. By structuring their day as much as I do and by including them in so much of what I do I have trained them to be underfoot. Woops!

I’ve kind of suspected this for a while. When I talk to my sister and sister-in-law (both have children very close in age to mine) I get the distinct impression that their children go off and play for long periods, while they get things done. My children last about 45 minutes and then they want to know what I’m doing and whether they can help. Nap time is a struggle because I’m asking them to spend two hours alone (without even each other) and play or read quietly.

Really I’m not complaining. They do a tremendous amount of work around here and I’m generally glad of their help. It’s just that sometimes the things I have to do aren’t things where I can use their help and sometimes it’s actively counter-productive. It is extremely frustrating to be focusing on a task while at the same time trying to keep the children from undoing your previous efforts through their eagerness to help.

That’s how packing was the other day. I carefully collected things and checked them off my list while W went around and took things out of cases, F collected things he thought we might need (he really is a Border Collie) and Su worried about why we were packing, where we were going, and when (questions that we had been discussing for over a week) and my head started to spin…

Now when my head spins I get confused and when I get confused I get cross. So I tried to send them off to play and they did go, but they were soon back because they were too hot to play outside. So I sent the two older children off to play with Legoes in their room, and they were soon back because F had clobbered his sister with a Lego. So she was sent off to play with Legoes (“but I don’t like to play by myself”) while he spent some time in a chair and was given a restriction (and by the way restricting your child from playing with the one thing that will absorb his attention is not a good way to be able to concentrate yourself).

Finally I just stopped the packing and decided I would finish it after they went to bed. Things were a bit calmer. Su got the cuddling and reassurance she needed and I realized that I need to work on teaching them not to be underfoot.? Any ideas anyone?

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