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I am resisting hands on stuff

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 

My kids are 4 and 7. For over a year we have had a LOT of stressors. The last month is the first time I have actually not been stressed. I have time for my kids. We could now start doing hands on activities.


The thing is, I don’t want to. It may be that I am still recovering from the last year. It may be that before our daughter was born I did TONS of stuff with our son and I now feel like I’ve got the t-shirt so don’t want to keep doing that.


We are on the unschooling spectrum. Our son is doing well with that. He uses the computer a lot to explore the world and that’s all good. I just don’t think a 4 year old should have much screen time. (If he’s doing ooka island or happy scientist she wants to as well.)


She sometimes gets tired of his screen time, and goes and plays by herself, but I feel like I should be offering her more opportunities. It’s all complicated because our daughter’s dietary restrictions means I’m cooking a lot. We eat very little processed food so I either cook or we eat pasta (one of the few processed things she can eat.) This means less time to do stuff with her. And the only thing we haven’t set up in the new house is the craft area. We have lots of stuff, but we’ve run out of money to get shelves or a dresser to make the supplies accessible.


We have weekly park day and open gym, monthly craft and nature group, plus we’re doing a small farm group right now. Still there’s LOTS of open time in our schedule.


Then there’s play dates for my son. My daughter is shy and pretty much never plays with anyone but her brother or me.


I also think it’s important to do these activities because she didn’t crawl so doesn’t “cross” her hands and she’s got a speech delay and needs more attention from me.


So, how do I get myself interested in doing hands on stuff with her—stringing beads, making crafts, doing experiments, counting, etc. (The way we unschool we believe in offering opportunities.)

post #2 of 14

If you set it all up for her, can she do it by herself?  That is what I generally do.  I make it easy to do things and then let them take over while I go do the cooking etc.  Otherwise, I would burn out right quick.  Does she like drawing? For a while, my daughter loved doing step by step drawing.  We had an ipad app and some books: she just used the instructions to draw all on her own.  She also went through a strong phase of polymer clay sculpting.  She still makes all sorts of things with that.  I bake select ones for her so that her creations become permanent.  


As for the craft supplies, maybe you could just pull out a few things and put them in a small bin or a shoebox for her so that they are available at her whim.  I know you said you are waiting to get shelves but in the meantime maybe this can be a stop gap measure.  


Cutting and gluing different colored papers was huge around here too but it seems to have passed.  Just give her scissors, paper and glue and let her make whatever she wants while you go do your thing.  This scene where everyone is doing their own thing, but side by side, is common in our household.  We talk, laugh, check out what the others are doing but we mainly focus on whatever it is we are individually working on at the time. It is really useful for parts of the day where our energy (patience) is running low.

post #3 of 14

Just wanted to say, two kids is different to one. Its very normal IMO for a second child to basically experience benign neglect, in contrast to the slightly frenetic schedules oldest kids can be treated to. 


I also hear you on the finding it a bit harder to motivate yourself second time around. Stringing pasta and so forth...its hard to get excited about it twice really.


What I found was that four can be a hard age. They often don't have their own strong desire to do a particular thing, which can be useful as a guide. They often don't have that much of a concentration span. I found with mine too that they were normally often quite clingy still. All that changed, almost magically, for mine at almost exactly age 5-they suddenly craved classes with other kids their age without parents, they could concentrate for long stretches and they all really got into their own interests. I'm seeing this process unfolding with my just-5 year old.


Second kids tend to lose out on our attention a bit but they gain in other ways. They gain by being part of a settled family and a community. Mine certainly gained by having parents who kind of knew what they were doing. And, yk, I look at my oldest and I look at my middle and youngest and I don't see that the younger ones have missed out. 


So partly I am saying hang in there, and partly I am saying, this is normal for a second kid. My tip would be to find something you'd like to do with her. What do you enjoy that she might like too? And do that. What she probably needs and wants is the time with you, not time stringing pasta, honestly. I bet she spends time with you cooking already? If not, that's where I'd start.                                                                          

post #4 of 14

For me, a pretty easy way to provide a "hands-on" learning opportunity is to take the kids outside to some natural area.  It could just be the woods and fields on our own property, or it could be a local trail or my sister's pond.  Is there some natural area close to your house where you could take the kids for a walk or just sit down in one spot while they play?  Pretty much every time we get outside, the kids end up seeing something interesting.  Wildflowers, berries, tadpoles, newts, salamander eggs, holes woodpeckers made in trees, bird nests, interesting insects, weird larvae, dead animals, animal tracks, beaver dams . . . There's a lot to be learned from all of that, especially if you're all curious about what you see and you take the time to look up more information about the things that make you curious.  But even if you just sit and read a book and ignore your kids while they play in a creek (an activity I highly recommend), they can't help seeing and investigating things and they can learn from that even if you never talk about it with them at all.

post #5 of 14
Thread Starter 

Thanks all. I am a big "yes, but..."er so excuse me if I end up doing that. No matter how much I yes but, what I'll do is take your good words and stew on them until they turn into an action plan (I hope that's what I do this time. I'm a bit afraid an action plan is currently out of my reach.)


Yes, we cook together and love it. Though boy is it hard work since she loves to add whatever she wants to the bowl/pot when my back is turned. I was teaching a friend to cook gluten free and we were careful to keep the counter empty. Except she loves to eat my frozen broth cubes and i'd given her a couple. I think when our backs were turned she dumped some melted broth into the pie crust. A lovely pear pie it was, it just tasted like vegetable broth. (You know you're telling too many cute stories about your child when she says to your husband, "I'm impetuous.")


And she (or actually I) has/have a HUGE case of second child syndrome. I just don't want to do the stuff.


We live on 4.3 acres of lush desert. Our neighborhood is surrounded on 2.5 sides by a preserve. We tried to get out this winter, when it was warm enough, but my 7 year old has decided he's tired of walks. Now it's warming up so if we don't get out in the morning (yeah, right) it gets too hot. Snakes are out now too so I always worry a bit that my 4 year old will come across one. Our walks usually include me, two kids, and three leashed dogs so my attention is rather taken up. Maybe I need to just go without dogs, but I'm not sure if my kids would agree to that.


I got on craigslist last night looking for a dresser or shelves or something to see if I can find an option for our craft supplies. They are currently in boxes in an empty room that the kids just play in and it's all so overwhelmingly messed up.


Please keep the suggestions coming. I always take little snippets from everyone and make it into a total. I'm just early in the stages and don't know how this will come out. Mainly I need to "just do it" but I have a huge case of "I don't want to."

post #6 of 14

Mine are only 5 and 2.5, but I totally get the "2nd child syndrome" :)  I think what sometimes helps is asking the older child to do something with the younger one.  As in "can you show dd how to string beads? Maybe you can make a present for Auntie XYZ".  It doesn't always work perfectly, and sometimes the older child really doesn't feel like participating, but sometimes he does.  And I think that's alright; when you have a 2nd kid, the 1st kid becomes the big brother/sister with all the rights AND responsibilities of being the older sibling.  And the younger child is then the younger sibling...meaning yes, they don't always have all your time like the 1st one did, but they have the privilege of having that older sibling be available...and that's really a wonderful thing.  So, maybe just look for ways your older child can do hands on stuff with the younger one.  I realize when electronics are around, it's hard to compete with that.  We do Starfall around here, and usually the older one will "drive" while the younger one watches, until the younger one is bored...but I usually ask the older one to "teach" the younger one or explain to him what he's doing (and he sometimes does, not always).  

post #7 of 14

It takes a while to get over the stresses of the past.  You can be tired and unmotivated.  I often feel tired and unmotivated and especially when an activity takes a lot of my work, I don't want to start.  In winter--all the clothes that go on and sure enough one girl wants to stay in, the other wants to go out and I'm going to get an earful no matter what I choose to do.


For some other activities that aren't as involved as getting out the door, I simply have to make myself do something and it breaks me out of my parental torpor for a while.  Something simple and fun, like playing a game.  I've made myself get in the habit of turning off the computer after dinner and asking if anyone wants to play Uno.  Nothing crafty-- nothing too involved.  It takes effort, and when I start I don't really want to start, but we have fun and everyone is glad for it.  That gives me just a little more motivation.  


My girls don't volunteer to cook dinner with me, so I try to make a point to ask them, even though I know it will take longer with their help.  Most of the time, they say "no", but I know that I've made the offer.  When they seem occupied and I get on with my chores, I try to let them know that what I'm doing can be interrupted if they need help or want to play a game.


Sometimes, I have to let the chores lie, and I sit down and pick up some knitting or mending.  That usually brings the girls over to talk about their games with me, or pick up a book to look through next to me and ask what words are.  They seem to like when I sit on the couch with a book or magazine or a project.  They like that more than when I'm on the computer or doing chores.  For some reason, that spot advertises "Interrupt me, I'm interested!"  Sometimes I will choose to ignore the pull of the internet and plop myself and my coffee on the couch to watch their morning videos with them.  They love that.  So, even though I am not doing something "hands-on" all the time, I am available to them, and that is more important than what we do.


It can be a hard balance in my house.  I have to really make an effort sometimes-- I'm often that tired.  It becomes habit, and once I start initiating activities again, I get back in the spirit.  For a while.  


Kids this age are exhausting.  They are so needy-- even if they can use the potty themselves, they often want your company in there.  Even if you don't mind doing it, it can still be a lot of work and tiring.  If you are with your kids 24/7, that feeling of torpor compounds, for me because I need to feel I have some downtime, even though it's not exactly a break.  So, I take it in the morning.  I do my stuff then because I need a slow morning.


I used to like the energy having dh take the girls for the day while I worked.  He is that active, engaging parent.  He is not as laissez-faire as I am, and the girls feel more restricted with the activities they invent (he's learning), but he is a genius at getting them outside and active and working (something I need to learn) and that infuses the rest of the week with the same spirit.  That once-a-week job is gone now, and I am actively trying to fill it.  Until then, I have to work harder to bring that spirit back.


Short answer, then:  make yourself do something little that you know will be welcome but you are resisting.  Don't aim for the big projects, yet.  


I say this not as someone who has figured it out, but as someone who struggles with it constantly.  I don't have the same struggles you have-- my girls are close in age, involved in the same activities and have the same friends, keep themselves busy most of the day, actively discourage my involvement much of the time.  I don't have any of the second-child guilt to deal with because they have played alongside each other for so long.  

post #8 of 14
Thread Starter 

Thanks SweetSilver.


I think getting past the stresses is part of it. Part of the stress was moving. We moved to paradise, but the move was precipitated by a negative change in our old neighborhood. So finding a house on a limited budget (I still don't know how we moved into paradise on a single income,) moving 15 years and 4 kids of stuff, then prepping the old house for renting AND finding a new tenant given the neighborhood changes. Building a predator proof chicken coop took a month. Then a dog with terminal cancer, a cat with feline leukemia, a new dog with issues, a car accident (not bad, but I still needed therapy for a couple weeks and you know how finding a sitter is...my parents drove 125 miles to babysit for half my PT sessions.) And my husband working 60 to 70 hours a week on a project that came behind schedule. It kept going on and on.


I have started sitting down at the computer with my little one in the mornings before her big brother wakes up. It's not much, but it's a start. 


I like the idea of playing Uno or something in the evenings as a family. But by then we are all so tired...(yes, but...lol)


I found some shelves on craigslist that would be ideal but the person hasn't emailed me back. I hope they do. I really want to get the craft stuff set up.


This thread is helping. Lots of ideas I can read over and over until they sink in.


And the reminder that I am not the only one that feels overwhelmed by 24/7 kids and second child guilt.

post #9 of 14
I am confused about the reference to not crawling in the original post.

As for the rest, perhaps if you allow yourself to simply enjoy where you are now, and replenish your *own* batteries right now, you will naturally give more time and attention to your daughter. Perhaps your well is currently dry, so to speak.
post #10 of 14
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by pek64 View Post

I am confused about the reference to not crawling in the original post.

As for the rest, perhaps if you allow yourself to simply enjoy where you are now, and replenish your *own* batteries right now, you will naturally give more time and attention to your daughter. Perhaps your well is currently dry, so to speak.


She was so focused on learning to walk that she didn't crawl. She didn't cruise. We walked through the house, me bent over with her holding onto fingers, or she would scream. Then she walked. She did actually learn to crawl a little bit after she could walk, but she only crawled when she was walking across the room and fell down. If she couldn't get to something to pull herself up, she would crawl to the couch or something. Crawling is really important to brain development. In hindsight I wish I had taught her to crawl rather than given in to her screaming to walk. That was another stressful time in our life. Our son was so distraught over her adoption that he expressed his unhappiness by taking it on her. It wasn't until 6 weeks after she could walk that we found the key to calming him.


Anyway, life is better here now. I do feel recovered from the last year. I've organized all our craft supplies into plastic shoe boxes and put them so the kids can get them. I'm doing more hands on stuff with the kids.


Me healing was a big step forward.

post #11 of 14
I am glad that things are better! What a relief!

I am still confused about the crawling and "crossed" hands. Your description of how your daughter learned to walk matches my son's experiences, only without the screaming. If he crawled five times (after being an accomplished walker), I'd be surprised. I never noticed any problem that created, though. What problems does your daughter have?
post #12 of 14
Thread Starter 

The exam at the eye doctor's was to have a puzzle with pieces spread around so that pieces for the right side were on the left side of the puzzle. Left-sided pieces were on the right side. Instead of reaching across the puzzle with her right arm, she picked up a piece with her left hand, placed it in her right hand, then put it in the puzzle. And vice-a-versa. When my son did that test he reached across the puzzle to get the piece he needed.


Also, she high fived and low fived and middle fived my kids. Wherever she put her hand my son always slapped her hand with his right hand. My daughter used the hand that was on the side of the body where the woman had her hand.


So, she cannot use her left hand (she's left-handed) to pick up stuff on the right side of her body and vice-a-versa.


I hope I'm able to be more clear now. If not, let me know and I'll see if I can figure a different way to explain it. 


Anyways, not being able to crossover is from not crawling. The brain didn't develop that ability. So today I was on the concrete patio with her playing doggies. I insisted she move one hand at a time to learn crawling. We also barked, panted, and wagged our tails because that's what dogs do.

post #13 of 14
Got it! Thanks! Sorry you have that to deal with. I guess you have special things you have to do to help her? I hope things continue to improve for all of you!
post #14 of 14
Thread Starter 

Thanks. But in the scheme of things it's not that big a deal. Except for crawling around on the concrete on my hands and knees. lol

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