Last night was Back to School Night at my school. Our principal always gives an incredibly motivating speech to kick it off, and this year was no exception. She talked about how parenting is truly so much more difficult now than it ever has been and some of the reasons behind it. She also exhorted us to not overschedule our kids and to give them plenty of downtime to enjoy themselves, to engage in imaginative play, to spend time together as a family.
As the wee ones are getting older, this is becoming more and more of a challenge for us. Little Miss has gymnastics after school three days a week for hours on end. Mister Man has tae kwon do, which is many fewer hours but still three days. And we are only in one sport per child. Little Miss had been pushing back against gymnastics since her hours increased, partly because she doesn’t want to miss out on anything. The good news is that her gymnastics schedule doesn’t conflict with the after school chess club she wants to do, but she still feels as though she’s missing out.
My goal this year is to ensure that she doesn’t feel that way. Wednesdays are are true down day, where I have cleared everything from the calendar. It generally isn’t too heavy a homework night, and I’ve told Little Miss that because she is so busy the other nights that we will do something special on the nights when she doesn’t have gymnastics just for her. Telling her that because she’s doing gymnastics she now gets to do something special has reignited her interest in gymnastics, and we seem to be faring pretty well these first few weeks of school.
Part of making Wednesdays special means that we don’t just do something we wouldn’t ordinarily do but that we do different things so that it doesn’t become routine even on Wednesdays. To that end, I’ve been wracking my brains trying to come up with new and different things each week. So far, so good!
The first week, we had a playdate. A playdate for us during the week doesn’t usually happen because of those activities coupled with the requirement of homework. As long as they get their homework done, however, I’m willing to bend the rules for the wee ones to give them some extra fun and enjoyment. When I told her that a friend was going to come home with her after school, Little Miss was overjoyed. She and her friend quickly did their homework and then had plenty of time to play before the boy left.
The next week, we baked. Yes, I bake on a regular basis, but I don’t tend to bake during the week, and the wee ones definitely don’t get free reign on choosing what to make on the nights when we do bake in general. The race to finish homework so they could make cookies as big as their head was a complete win. For whatever reason, they didn’t think I knew how to make chocolate chip cookies. And they’d never seen giant cookies made at home. Once again, our special Wednesday worked its magic.
Another special tradition is Movie Night with Mommy (yes, it gets capitalized). This happens only on a Friday or Saturday night when we have no other plans. And it doesn’t happen that often because we’re usually … doing something. Watching a movie during the week? Now that’s crazy talk – which is what made it perfect for my next special Wednesday.
The thing with movies is that they are a big chunk of time, generally over 2 hours since they like to watch all the credits and the extra features. And they like to walk to our local library to choose the movie they want to watch. (I adore that our library has just about every movie ever made that you can check out for free!)
Couple that with the need to do homework and still have a reasonable bedtime, and I need to be able to feed them relatively quickly. So yes, I need to plan this special Wednesday in advance just a little more. The good news is that Mister Man’s tae kwon do happens to be just down the street from our Walmart, and I have 50 minutes free to run errands on Tuesdays if I drop him off.
Knowing that I wanted something quick and easy, I opted for a Tombstone Pizza that I could bake while still supervising homework. They’re easy enough to find in the frozen section, and the freezer bags I keep in my car ensure that it doesn’t melt before I get home.
While I was in the freezer section, I had another brainstorm to pick up some Outshine Fruit and Veggie Bars. They are dairy free, and Little Miss adores them (ok, so does Mister Man). Bonus? They have fruits and veggies in them, and they aren’t messy like cookies and other desserts. Our rule is that you can only eat in the kitchen or dining room, but for special Wednesday, how fun if we made an exception? Into the cart they went with the variety pack so everyone could choose a flavor.
Since I kept them in my freezer bag, no one had any idea what was up for special Wednesday, which made it all the more fun when I called Mister Man into the kitchen from his homework and told him that I needed him to decorate his pizza. The child loves pineapple on his pizza, and he thought it was oh so cool that he could add them to this one.
I think he did an awesome job. And I appreciate that he was thoughtful enough not to cover the entire pizza with pineapple since that isn’t exactly my favorite! It took just a few minutes for him to fix the pizza, but he was so proud of himself and absolutely tickled that I let him do something special with his pizza.
Pop the pizza in the oven, and I’m back to monitoring homework until my timer goes off and we’re ready to eat. Because it takes just over ten minute to bake, I can easily time it to be ready just before they finish homework so we don’t waste any time before starting the movie.
And when I told them that they could each have an Outshine Fruit bar as a snack while watching the movie, you would have thought I’d told them that we were heading on a surprise vacation. Their eyes went wide, and they did a great job not just with not making a mess but also politely asking me to pause the movie when they’d finished their Outshine Fruit Bars so they could throw away their sticks and wrappers. I was a proud momma.
I loved how easy this movie night was. I got everything I needed while Mister Man was at tae kwon do, so no one knew it was coming. It was quick and easy to prepare, and everyone loved it. And it was a special treat in the middle of the week, which is keeping Little Miss from complaining that she’s missing out on anything.
Now I just have to come up with something for next week. What do you do for special nights with your family?