the little red schoolhouse

I think I created a tremendous amount of goodwill with my children this weekend. Bolstering myself for two days without Ralph’s strengths, his performance of helpmate, his adult conversation, I made damned sure to focus my energies on the home front. All I did this weekend was cook, clean, and play with my kids. This ended up including a lot of outdoor time in the sun, home cooking, and company to share meals. It also ended up including two days of calm Mama and calm, happy kiddos.

So after Ralph returns to work today the children awake just in love with me. At their request we play a game – that is lasting even now at 9:30 PM, as I clatter out these few words and the children finish their evening bath: the game is School. This is a simple game – I am “teacher”, they “students”. We do schoolwork, sure – but mostly we couch everything in terms as if we were performing a series of ordered tasks. The pets become “school cat” and “school dog”, the children happily clean their room (I am not kidding), Sophie thumbs through a cookbook to chose the “cafeteria” meals, we shop for those meals and we discuss the costs of the ingredients.

The children like the game because we are all in it together. I am not counting on them to play without making messes while I busy myself with this or that. Today I do not snap at them; I speak respectfully, and carefully. They do the same.

3 PM we head back out of the house to the quilt shop in Aberdeen. Nels has opted out of sewing the quilt he is half done with; Sophie volunteers to finish his when hers is done. With the help of the shop owner we decide he will make placemats instead – a more instantaneous gratification for a five year old. While Sophie sews my son joins me at the next door coffee shop and plays chess while I read the paper. Home and we must feed the chickens and pack for Sophie’s swimming class this evening.

It’s almost ten: I am summoned downstairs where my daughter has ordered the kids’ room into a restaurant, complete with a “meal” (actually, gummy candy) in the form of hot dogs, pizza, hamburgers, fries, and coke. Tomorrow Nels goes to one of his last days at his real “school” (the co-op preschool he spends 7.5 hours a week in). I count myself as happy I spent a day without shrieking like a harpy nor seeing my children fight like they are sometimes prone to.

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