Email Parenting

I fell in love with email before blogging came along; and it is hard to let her go.  I discovered that I could take time, on my own schedule, to measure my thoughts – like the process of writing a letter, but I could also send these thoughts to a group of selected people at once and receive responses quickly.  Seeing the re:[subject of my email] in my inbox gave me a jolt of excitement like receiving an unexpected present.  It still does.

As more of my friends acquired personal email addresses in the late 1990s, and I became more entrenched as a stay-at-home parent, I began to share my parenting stories and dilemmas with others via email as a coping strategy.  Without leaving my home and the demands of my children, I could share my struggles and receive feedback – both support and education.  I could also chronicle the accomplishments and personalities of my children as a historical record – much like keeping a detailed baby book or scrapbook of their evolving lives – but easier for me to do.  And I could acknowledge the lessons I learned, my own perceived personal growth, without demanding a response from the listener as face-to-face communication required.  It felt safer, less risky.  Only those who had thoughts they wanted to share need reply.

When I was writing “Everything In Its Own Time” (available through my website: www.rebeccafalco.com), I had to edit out many of those historical emails to keep the focus of the book on adoption and foster parenting. This blog gives me another opportunity to share some of those reflections anew.  Some are funny.  Some are painful. You may identify with parts of what I say.  Or, you may breathe a sigh of relief that you don’t!

(Emily is 6; K.J. is 4; Skye is 3; Journey is 6 months)

December 2000 – A Day in the Life of the Falcos

It all starts about 4:30 a.m. when K.J. bursts into our room – after turning on half the lights in the house to get to the bathroom – and wants to know if he can “watch a little TV before breakfast.” One of us sends him back to bed with instructions not to return until he sees sunlight.  Minutes later, Rebecca journeys downstairs to make coffee, to finish cleaning the kitchen from the night before, and to read and respond to emails during the only quiet part of her day.  K.J. and Skye will rise before 7 a.m.  (We begin feeding K.J. as soon as possible.  But no matter how much time he has to eat, he will be the last to finish.)  John will rise before 7 a.m. IF it is his day to run.  And pleas to Emily to get up for school will begin at 7 a.m., ending somewhere around 7:20 when she finally enters the kitchen to refuse breakfast and wonder aloud if she has to go to school AGAIN today.  Reading is so hard!  This is the same child who, when given a vacation day and time to just hang-out, immediately asks, “Can I go to [fill in the name of anybody who doesn’t live here]’s house?”

Getting ready for school would seem to be a pretty straight-forward operation.  You eat, dress, brush your teeth and hair, put on socks and shoes and appropriate outerwear, grab your backpack and lunch, and head for the door.  We have never had a morning where these things were accomplished by all without a lot of reminding, followed by coaxing, followed by threats of lost privileges (if not worse).  Nevertheless, at 8:15, Emily and K.J. have safely arrived at their respective first grade and pre-K classes at the elementary school.  And, by 9:00, Skye has arrived at the church preschool for her three-hour school day.  Skye is the youngest child in her class, but she has a fully developed mind-of-her-own.  When it comes to dressing, she may wear a tutu and dance shoes so that “Everyone will know how beautiful I am,” or a Batman costume and flowered sandals.  When it comes to potty training, she is also opinionated.  There are days when using a toilet is as routine as breathing and we are instructed, “Don’t be proud of me.” There are other days when Skye says; “I don’t feel like using the potty.”  This translates into wet and soiled clothes to clean, if not furniture.

Meanwhile, once the children are off to school, John can leave for his five-minute commute to work where he now manages an office with ten employees. When John isn’t in Atlanta, he is typically in New York, Dallas, Chicago, or Washington D.C. (if not London) to present projects or develop business.  Interestingly, John’s trips away from home have increased since the arrival of child #4 – or so it seems to Rebecca.

If there are no major errands to run, Rebecca and Journey can go to the YMCA for Mama’s exercise.  On the other hand, there is probably laundry to do, groceries to buy, other shopping, house cleaning, phone calls related to the children or house, etc.  At noon, it’s time to pick-up Skye, make lunch, and get the younger girls in bed for a nap.  Journey is still not sure she likes the regularity of these naps and often refuses to play along.

At 3:00 p.m., we pickup Emily and K.J. from school.  Depending on the day of the week, we may have karate (Emily and K.J.) or basketball (Emily) or soccer (Emily or K.J.) or Emily’s two-day-a-week tutoring program.  In the spring, Skye hopes to start a dance/creative movement class too.  K.J wants baseball.  Rebecca wants all three older children in swimming lessons before the summer.

On this day, Rebecca gives each child a package of peanut butter crackers and a juice box.  Emily opens her snack and asks Mama to sit with her while she eats it because she craves the company.  K.J. stares at his packages waiting for someone to open them because he thinks it’s too hard for him to do.  Skye rips open her packages, licks the peanut butter off the crackers, scatters the crumbs, spills the juice, and leaves to start another activity while K.J. is still staring at his unopened snack.

In addition to the scheduled activities, Emily has homework, dinner must be prepared –- usually with Journey on Rebecca’s back in the backpack — while at least half the toys in the house must be distributed on the floors of all three levels.  Other home-based activities include grinding Playdoh into the carpet, attaching stickers and spreading glue on furniture, painting bodies instead of paper with paint, and filling clothes and shoes with sand from the sandbox to bring into the house.

If we are lucky, John gets home just in time for the fight over who gets to say the blessing.  We try to eat together and not be TOO gross, whenever possible.  Journey is still gagging on most foods – an appetizing dinner show for the rest of us.

After dinner, it is time to run laps.  This is a ritual mutually developed by the three older Falco children.  It is possible to run a circle around our main floor from kitchen through dining and living areas and back.  And so it is that after every evening meal, they begin to run.  They run around and around until they start to collide into one another, and the crying starts.  That is the signal that the race is almost over – until the next day.

The kids now feed our two dogs, Joe and Mikayla, and the cat, Sammy.  Then it is time to clean up the toys.  Emily is suddenly “too tired.”  K.J. hides in one of two predictable places.  Skye simply refuses and dumps out another box of knick-knacks (our term for all those adorable McDonald’s Happy Meal toys).  Once the parents negotiate an assisted clean-up arrangement, it is time for baths, books, and bed.  Rest assured, we will see Skye three or four more times before she’s permanently nested in her bed with the requisite blankets and toys for the evening.  Emily needs her CD music and K.J. needs his personal lullaby sung.

It is now time for the parents to spend a few minutes alone – usually doing projects they could not get to during the day.  Rebecca collapses around 10 p.m., but John gets a second wind and pulls out the spreadsheets…


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