Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Read-A-Thon Turned Fight-A-Thon

There are few days in my life as a mother that I can really say I'm pretty much "The Bomb," but when such a day occurs, it's definitely something to write about. At least that's what I was thinking while I was busy patting myself on the back after sitting my children down on the couch and explaining to them my brilliant idea of holding a Read-A-Thon one dismal day during Christmas Break.

Yes, my children were losing their holiday jovialness (is that jovialness a word? I don't think so. But since it so perfectly describes what I'm trying to portray, I'm hoping you'll forgive it this time), the anticipation of Christmas having long faded, the joy of new treasures having lost their novelty already. And yes, I was losing my Holiday Smile as well, the incessant whining, tattling, begging and overall negativity affecting my usual upbeat, infectious aura (okay, so I might be exaggerating slightly, but since I'm the writer I deserve taking such liberties:). And yes, it seemed World War III was just around the corner unless a brilliant plan was put into effect--immediately.

That's when I got an idea from a neighbor to encourage my children to do some reading. I came up with an absolutely fabulous idea that would not only make up for all the days my children hadn't read during the holiday break BUT it would also keep them from fighting, too--two birds killed with one stone! I was amazing! I was clever! I was . . . naive.

It's not that my battle plan wasn't good; and it's not that I didn't allow for enough time to accomplish the said plan; it's not even that my children weren't more than mildly excited about the day's prospects; it's just that even good plans lose their effectiveness after a while, and I found that after two and a half hours of reading, my children had definitely forgotten we had a plan at all!

Here's how it went down.

1-Mother excitedly calls her children together to lay out amazingly brilliant plan and enraptures each child with her bright smile and infectious positivism (again, may not be a word. Work with me here).

2- Mother loads up children in van and off they go to the local library to explore the wonderful world of books and choose an unlimited number to spend the day reading.

3- Mother already runs into unexpected barrier when oldest child can't find the one book she is determined to read for the day and leaves library pouting and protesting the plan before it's even really began.

4- Mother thinks quickly, and determined to not be affected by this negative turn of events, happily explains that she is willing to drive to yet another library to pick up said item.

5- Mother drives to two different places to buy rewards for whomever decided to follow said plan. She leaves each store as if walking on air, sure she is bound to be up for Mother of the Year after she pulls off this amazing day.

6- Mother walks into living room to find children have set up "camp" in the one place in the house Mother wishes to remain clean. Each child has laboriously claimed every pillow, blanket, unused mattress and stuffed pet to accompany them during their reading times. Mother wants to shake her head and demand an immediate clean-up of the area. Her face turns red. She takes a deep breath. Then, unwilling yet to give into the urge to abandon her brilliant plan, simply smiles and verbally praises each child for their ingenious and dedicated effort to make themselves comfortable while reading. Mother sets the timer for 20 minutes.

7- Mother praises herself inwardly for how well The Plan is being executed. Even her four-year-old is reading a chapter book, skimming and turning each page right on cue with his older siblings who actually know how to read. Mother rewards all four children with a new coloring/activity book she purchased for only 25 cents each on an after-Christmas clearance. Mother is smiling clear to her toes. Not only are her children reading but she was able to bribe all four of them for only $1.

8- After an hour break, Mother calls children into their "places" once again for the second round of the Read-A-Thon. She sets the timer for 30 minutes this time and relaxes on the couch for some much-needed reading time herself. Mother has to remind children off and on to actually read their books. Mother again rewards all four children with a piece of candy--again bought for 25 cents each on an after-Christmas sale (never mind the candy was so hard the children wouldn't eat it). Mother's smile still reaches from ear to ear.

9- After another break, Mother and children settle in for Round Three--45 minutes of reading. After the tenth time of answering the question, "How much longer do we have to do this?" Mother's smile is fading a bit. The fun is slipping away as the whining begins to take over. Still, there's one more round to go, and Mother is determined to conquer. Four children get a reward that only two children deserve since Mother is not feeling up to a tantrum and is losing her confidence that she is a brilliant, strong, amazing mother.

10- After one final break that wasn't nearly long enough, Mother gathers children for the final round--60 straight minutes of reading (or at least pretending to). The four-year-old has abandoned his chapter book for play time at the neighbors, so there are only three children left to accomplish the daunting task.

That's when the nit-picking, teasing, taunting, pestering, fighting begins . . . and never stops. Never mind the best reward of the day is hanging over their heads (is it possible they think Mother will give it to them anyway since she faltered after Round III?)--a bottle of blue, liquid sugar that makes their eyes pop just thinking of it. Never mind that Mother never buys such drinks due to the fact that, well, they're about the worst thing you can buy your kids to drink. And never mind that Mother is quickly losing her perma-grim and is beginning to come unglued one piece at a time.

The Read-A-Thon officially turned into a Fight-A-Thon, and when the buzzer beeped signalling the end of Round IV, not only was Mother sure she was the stupidest, most ridiculous mother around, but she was also could care less about how many minutes her children read over the holidays.

So, the next time said Mother comes up with a brilliant plan that she's sure will win her accolades on every level . . .

She's handing it over to Father to carry it out!!

(The kids BEFORE the fights broke out. The four-year-old has jumped ship by this time. Yes, this is my living room/entrance way. Don't you think the plant adds a nice, homey effect to their cozy, individually designed reading coves?)