Saturday, July 31, 2010

Children (Part 1): Did you know?

(Context: I was called by one of the women in my church and she asked me if I had found a summer job yet. I said no, I was unemployed but still looking. She promptly asked me if I would babysit two of her sons for two and a half days while she took her daughter to girls' camp. After saying that I was looking for employment, how was I supposed to say no? How do you explain to someone's ear (since we were on the phone it wasn't really to her face) that you never, ever, in a thousand years ever, babysit? Ever. Then she said she would pay me a hundred dollars a day and I was suddenly much less anxious. I accepted the job. I told the Teacher, who had been not-so-subtly hinting that I should find a job. I expected her to be ecstatic and congratulate me on my bravery and determination to Do Hard Things. She did not. She told me they would bake me in the oven and gnaw on my bones. In not exactly those words. I told her they couldn't possibly have an oven big enough for me (I'm six feet two inches) and I'd be fine. In not exactly those words.)

Did you know that kids aren't capable of processing detailed instructions? You can't say "Pick up the towels, wipe down the table, and sweep the floor, and you'll be done." They just look at you like you're Miss Hitler and say "But that will take forever!" However, if you say "Pick up the towels," and wait, "Wipe down the table," and wait, and "Sweep the floor," by amazing chance they've cleaned the entire room all by themselves and- shocker!- it didn't take more than half an hour!

I think children are like robots. They will do what you want them to do, but you have to explain it in extremely simple language that cannot be misunderstood or misinterpreted. And they have no long term memory, so you have to give them one instruction at a time.

Of course, they have an extremely good memory for things like "You can have a snow cone after lunch."

Did you know that children measure things in minutes? I do not have the patience to support and encourage this habit. Whenever they asked me how many minutes until their mom came home, after I had already said tomorrow, I told them "Lots."

Did you know that even though they're in middle school and you're a college freshman, you're actually extremely stupid? And if their mother clearly told you the day she left that they are allowed ONE half hour EACH on the computer, you won't notice when someone who already had their one half hour charges up the stairs to the computer like a rampaging elephant when they hear that the other boy finished his turn. And if you do happen to notice this, and remind him that he already had his half hour, he will assure you that what his mother really meant was that they were allowed unlimited turns on the computer, and each turn was half an hour long. And you're so stupid that you won't wonder why it slipped both their minds to mention it for the last two days. It would have been insulting if it hadn't been funny.

Did you know that even though kids ask you to be mediator, they don't actually need a mediator? They are fully capable of figuring it out themselves. Case in point: I was watching them swim. They kept coming and telling on each other: He's shoving me. He's cheating. He's winning too much. And each time I reminded them that they were thinking creatures with the agency to choose to walk away whenever they wanted to. Okay, not really. What I actually said was "When you stop having fun, you can get out of the pool. Are you still having fun?" They didn't get out of the pool.

1 comment:

  1. What valuable lessons you're learning for motherhood! Those are all lessons I didn't learn until I was already in the trenches, so you're ahead of where I was. (: