I am no parenting martyr. I love having househelp and “yayas.” But there are occasions when I intentionally leave all the yayas behind and take all the kids with me. A trip to the grocery or bookstore would be examples of such occasions. Today was the grocery.
It’s a little bit crazy when I have all four kids with me, but there are some great benefits to alone time with them.
First, the kids have to help out. There is just no way for me to manage four kids while going up and down the aisles of a grocery. I am bound to lose one or two of them if the older kids don’t assist me. The kids learn to be responsible for one another and get affirmed for their helpfulness. This morning, I put Tiana and Titus in one cart and let Elijah push them. Edan stayed beside me and read off the items on my list. And I pushed a separate cart for all the groceries. There’s a great sense of satisfaction from living the do-it-yourself lifestyle and teaching your kids do the same. (Okay, I sound like such a phony since most of the time I do have help. hee hee.)
The second reason why I leave all the help behind is because I want them to know that they aren’t indispensable. This sounds mean, but let me clarify. I do appreciate them and I encourage them often in their work, but I also want them to know that I can live without them. Edric and I can manage without househelp if we really wanted to but they are a great plus. And I would like them to understand that the Mendozas will not fall apart without househelp. This keeps them on their “toes” because they do live in our home, and they become part of our family, but we still have an employer-employee relationship.
My third reason is I like giving my househelp a break. I respect the hard work and effort they put into their jobs. But I know they also need their own space and down time…away from the kids. They deserve some peace and quiet. I have four children. They are all noisy. Enough said.
Fourth, being alone with the kids allows me to see the character “holes” in their personalities – the areas that they need to be trained in. For example, at the grocery, the kids all wanted snacks. As a treat, after they endured nearly two hours of going up and down the aisles, I said they could all pick out something. Everyone had their own snacks that they brought to the check-out. (By this time, Titus and Tiana were taken out of the cart and allowed to look at the snacks that were beside the check-out counter.) Titus and Tiana opened up their snack right away and started eating. Titus finished his, Tiana left hers half-eaten, but Edan and Elijah waited. After Titus finished his snack, he wanted to eat something else. I told him he had to wait. Five minutes later, he asked me again. And I said, “Wait.” Then five minutes after that he asked me again.
He is a persistent person — a great trait — but he obviously needs to be taught patience and self-denial. We are going to work on that.
Elijah, on the other hand, needs to work on appropriate behavior. He is a very energetic person and took off with the cart after I had paid for the groceries like he was riding a racecar. He zoomed towards the exit and nearly hit a couple of shoppers.
Fifth reason, I get to see their character strengths. Elijah and Edan very dependably and ably assisted me. Elijah was great at following me everywhere with the two young munchkins contained in his cart. Edan, who was in charge of the list was great at making sure that nothing was forgotten. (And it was my little homeschooling tactic to get him to practice reading by looking at the list and identifying the items we had to find in the aisles, which he did great at!)
Somewhere near the dairy section, Elijah saw a man’s cart lose its wheel and he wanted very much to help him. He came over to me to tell me and I said, “go ahead and ask him if he needs help.” So he tried looking for the man to help him but he had disappeared down another aisle. I appreciated seeing Elijah’s heroism (hmmm…sounds like something his dad would do…) Titus and Tiana stayed in their seats, until the cereal section, and then got back in the cart without complaining or fussing. They even started singing nursery rhymes together while we were going to the fruit section. It was such a delight to hear them.
Most of all, I just enjoy being with the kids. I love watching them and their mannerisms and the interplay of their personalities. I find them incredibly entertaining. When I am fully in charge of them because I don’t have help with me, I really pay attention to the details.
Children are really such a joy. There is a deep sense of satisfaction and delight that I get from being with my kids. It’s not just about taking them to the grocery without househelp, it’s about being around as they grow up and all the moments that make up the years. I will miss this stage someday, So if it means a couple of hours of taking on the stress of managing four young children at the same time, bring it on! It’s a pleasure I won’t always have. I mean, I can’t imagine that teenage boys will want to hang out with mom in the grocery. That probably won’t be a “cool” thing for them to do. Now it’s still “cool.” 😉