I never dreamed I’d be here. Just yesterday I was writing about potty-training my firstborn, and now my last baby has started Kindergarten. I have TWO (2) Elementary-aged kids.
Cue the tears and the hallelujahs!
So now that my kids are basically driving and applying for college, I’m sharing the BIG THREE mom hacks we’ve established in our grand 9 1/2 years. Hacks that are specific to the independence-fostering, confidence-building years of Elementary school. These tricks have either helped us get some sleep or helped get mom some sanity…Either way, they are life-changing.
Elementary kids are the best.
Hack One: Fifteen Minutes?
Growing up does funny things to a child, not the least of which is messing with their perception of sleep and time.
A few years ago, my daughter found that she was having trouble falling asleep. I couldn’t even be mad, y’all, I swear I lived half my childhood with insomnia. Turns out I was just dramatic and my brain was overactive. She would come into our room every two to three minutes, whining because she couldn’t sleep (even though it had only been two or three minutes). And every two to three minutes I would walk her back to her room, tuck her back in bed, and tell her to close her eyes and JUST GO TO SLEEP ALREADY!!!
Finally, one night I got the brilliant idea to tell her that I would set an alarm and come check on her in fifteen minutes. (Because in Elementary School they begin comprehending time and sequence!) I would assure her that if she was not asleep before I came back, we would talk and pray and I’d rub her back or WHATEVER we needed to do to reset bedtime, but she was NOT to get out of bed. She just needed to wait for me.
Moms. This magic worked. It comforted her knowing that I was coming back to check in. It gave her the time to actually fall asleep without worrying that she was an “insomniac” (that was usually at about minute 4). And it bought my husband and me fifteen precious minutes of uninterrupted…Facebook scrolling? Showering? Whatever. Now, every night before they go to sleep my kids ask, “Fifteen minutes?” and Mommy happily chirps, “Yes, dear. Fifteen minutes!” And I go into my bedroom, lay my head on the pillow, and don’t think another thing of it. They always. Fall. Asleep.
Hack Two: Small Appliances
I strongly urge you, my sisters, in light of chaotic school mornings and exhausting afternoons, to teach your Elementary-aged children to use at least one small appliance all by themselves without any assistance from you.
I don’t care if it’s the toaster, a mini waffle-maker, a blender, the microwave…whatever. Do yourself this favor. You’ve never known freedom until you’re putting your makeup on and just have to say, “Would you please make yourselves some waffles?” Or it’s snack time and you flip to the next page of your book cooing, “There are bags of smoothie ingredients in the freezer!” Small appliances, when properly taught and practiced, can give Elementary-aged kids a sense of accomplishment, independence, and freedom that they are so here for. It builds trust, it gives them some responsibility, and it gains back a little bit of your life that you lost when they were toddlers. (Plus, if you’re lucky, they might make you some toast!)
A few years ago I bought my daughter a mini-waffle maker for her birthday. We have all created wonderful memories around that little appliance, but at the end of the day, she knows it’s hers. And every sleepover, every Saturday, every chance she gets, you can bet she is in there measuring out the flour and cracking the eggs so she can make “HER” waffles. As COVID sent us into 4th grade on a hybrid schedule, I broke down and bought a powdered waffle mix. The simple two-step batter was easy enough that she felt confident to do it without me in the next room, now she is truly free to make waffles any time she wants!
Hack Three: Laundry Day
I’m not going to toot my own horn or anything, but my five-year-old taught my nine-year-old how to do her laundry.
He had shown an interest in helping me in the laundry room years ago. (Mostly he just loved climbing up on the washer and pushing the buttons for me.) He got so good at it, however, that I taught him how to open the lid, pour the proper amount of soap into the dispenser, and turn it on. After a few times of letting him do it without help I thought to myself, “Why not?” So I added it to the chore chart.
First, I bought them their own cute little laundry baskets at the Dollar Tree. Then I made sure there was a step stool, because…little people. They only have to wash their own clothes. They know how to use both machines. They can sort, fold, and put away. (Not perfectly, but hellooo…I don’t care!) And, this is ground-breaking, they are beginning to NOTICE when they are getting low on socks or shorts or pajamas. (A-MEN!)
Not only does doing laundry build a vast number of life-skills, it is ONE LESS THING that Mommy has to do. Please, please take the time to teach the whole laundry process to your kids. (And it does take time!) But week by week they will get surprisingly more independent, and you will never be blamed for a dirty uniform ever again!