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Do-Nothing Day

Last weekend, a friend asked if Cee and I would like to go for a hike with her on Sunday morning. I would have loved to go. It was perfect Oregon summer weather, and this friend is one of my favorite people in the world. But, I said no.

I said no because Cee needed a Do-Nothing Day – or at least Do-Nothing Morning. Five days per week, she goes to daycare for the morning. She has a great time there, and I get my work time in. It’s a nearly perfect arrangement. The only thing that’s hard about it is actually getting there.

Cee likes to do things herself, and she likes to do them at her own pace. She does not do well under pressure, and she does not like deadlines and ultimatums.

It is vitally important to her to choose the right underwear for her day. And sometimes she can’t decide on the right pair, so she settles on two pairs instead. (And once, six pairs at a time, which made potty time quite a production.) And then the right pants, sometimes two pairs of those, too (or one pants, one shorts, since we’re on the verge of shorts season). And then a shirt. Maybe it is one particular favorite shirt that she really needs, and if it’s in the dirty laundry, we have to talk about how we wear clean clothes to school. Sometimes we don’t make it to socks – I just carry her to the car barefoot with a pair of socks in my pocket.

Cee enjoys this process, and she sees right through my efforts to shorten it. If I put two pairs of pants in front of her and ask her to choose the blue ones or the grey ones, she thinks about it for what feels like a long time and then says, “Hmmm, where are my red pants?” and starts digging through her drawer. For now, I have accepted that getting dressed just takes some time. But usually, around the time that she has her undies on and one leg in her pants, one leg out, I glance at the clock and realize that we running late. I end up rushing her (with mixed success), and we’re often both a little frazzled by the time we get in the car.

This snail-paced getting-dressed routine is annoying to me, but lately I’ve also been noticing just how stressful it can be to Cee. She doesn’t like to be rushed, and I don’t think she likes seeing me get impatient either. She slows down, shuts down, and falls apart, and that’s a rough way to start the day.

Every day, I work at being better at this process, but it’s a work in progress. It feels like a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t kind of situation. And I know it will get better. Soon enough, she’ll be bored with the getting-dressed challenge; at least, I can hope.

But anyway, back to last Sunday. I declared Sunday morning a Do-Nothing-Morning, and I let Cee know that we were in no hurry. I poured myself a cup of coffee and settled into her room. She could take as long as she wanted to get dressed. And how long did it take? About 90 minutes, most of it spent like this:

do nothing dayThen she got dressed fast because she realized she was famished and cold.

It was nice. With a busy week schedule and fun summer activities, it’s hard to find Do-Nothing Mornings. But my girl needs one every once in a while, so I’m vowing to find more Do-Nothing time this summer.

Do you make time for Do-Nothing time? Have any set aside for this weekend?

P.S. – One small solution to Cee’s difficult underwear decision has been the purchase of undies labeled with the days of the week (found them at Old Navy), at least for this week.

26 Comments
  1. I’m laughing. I would be sorely tempted to buy multiple copies of only one outfit!

    Like

    June 14, 2013
    • It’s not a bad idea, but she might freak out about it. She has such a good memory – I’m pretty sure she’d ask about her red pants for weeks. Last week, we were clothes shopping, and she picked out some hot pink shorts that were on sale. I said we should also get a pair in denim since they were nice, inexpensive shorts. She said she didn’t want the denim ones, but I snuck them in the cart. They were washed and folded in her drawer the next day, and she pulled them out, wrinkled her nose, and said, “Mom, I said I didn’t want to buy these!”

      Like

      June 14, 2013
  2. I will definitely have a do-nothing-morning or even day… or a day where my daughter can choose what we’re doing and when we’re doing it… 🙂 and to the rushed morning thing… I don’t know how early you guys get up already, but maybe it would be possible to get up an hour earlier, just so the both of you have even more time and not to worry about being late?!

    Like

    June 14, 2013
    • She usually wakes up around 6:45, plus or minus 15 minutes. Before getting out the door, we have to get dressed, potty, and brush teeth. That usually takes about 45 minutes, and we try to leave the house by 7:30. Sometimes I try waking her earlier, but then she usually wants to snuggle and wake up slowly in my arms anyway, so it doesn’t always give us a jump start. There is a noticeable difference to our morning on the days that she happens to wake up early on her own, though, so it’s a good suggestion! But right now, it’s hard to get to bed on time now that the days are so long, and I hate cutting her short on sleep! Everything is a trade-off:)

      Like

      June 14, 2013
  3. I have totally been there many times before. At 6, my daughter doesn’t do it quite as much, but still does it. We also had so many rough mornings full of shared frustration. Do-nothing day is a great idea!

    Like

    June 14, 2013
  4. maggie #

    I have settled into a routine with my (4 yr old) daughter that works for us. I offer her two choices and an additional option for any article of clothes, A or B or “Mommy chooses”. If she is in the mood to take her time, she is given a time frame, and then if she isn’t dressed, she goes out of the house in whatever state she is in and she has to put on the clothes I picked out when we get to daycare. I don’t have the option to be late for work and we already get up at 5:30. After going outside in just her diaper one cold winter morning when she was about 2.5, she has learned that time is important. She is also not allowed to eat unless she is dressed (Daddy’s rule, and he enforces it, including getting her dressed). However, when we are home and there are no non-family guests, she is allowed to go naked if she should so chose. Basically, the approach is “here are the boundaries, within them you have freedom, but they are non-negotiable”

    Like

    June 14, 2013
    • I like your approach of freedom within boundaries! Somehow, I just haven’t pulled off the limited choices thing, as I mentioned in the post. When I’ve tried to enforce the A or B choice without negotiation, it results in a big tantrum and me physically trying to put clothes on her (and then her taking them off). Cee’s daycare provider did just tell me that kids have arrived in PJs before with their day’s clothes in a bag, so it’s good to know that we could try your approach of a natural consequence. For a while, counting was working to help give her an idea of reasonable time frames for each task, but now she just gets annoyed with me: “Stop counting, mama!”

      Like

      June 14, 2013
      • maggie #

        Try taking the PJs off before discussing clothing. That’s what worked best for us. I found the A or B or Mommy chooses worked best. Mommy can chose some pretty uncomfortable outfits… 🙂

        Like

        June 17, 2013
    • Awesome approach. Back in my social work days this is exactly the sort of thing I would have told my parents of teens. This will serve you well for years to come!

      Like

      June 14, 2013
  5. carmel #

    we have a do-nothing every Sunday morning (for the most part) because we ALL need it. It’s the day we eat a later, heartier breakfast and video chat with the grandparents. We try to get everything done on Saturday (groceries, workouts, etc) and we even sometimes take turns sleeping in while the other parent gets the kiddos in the morning, makes breakfast, etc. It doesn’t always work out but we look forward to not having to be anywhere at a certain time on that one morning each week. It makes us feel human (while still having two small kids).

    Like

    June 14, 2013
  6. Luckily I’m a stay at home mom with an understanding husband. We have a do-nothing morning every couple of days. If we don’t, our incredibly flexible and easy-going son becomes incredibly unflexible and throws tantrums. He is just 2yrs and even on the “hurry up” days it takes us a good 2 to 2.5hrs to get out the door. We still breastfeed and do books in the mornings. And for some reason breakfast always takes an hour. On the do-nothing days we may not be ready to go until almost lunch. It is incredible how much time every-little-thing can take with a toddler. I feel very lucky to be able to indulge him.

    Like

    June 14, 2013
  7. My kiddo does pretty well with rushing. Do-nothing days are primarily for my benefit. They have been happening with increasing frequency as we near the end of this pregnancy. Let’s hope he stays so easy-going.

    Like

    June 14, 2013
  8. Do-nothing days are wonderful! My kids are 16 and 14 and we still “do nothing” on Sunday afternoons. It is so good for the soul. As far as your difficulties with getting dressed and out the door, my best advice is to trust your instincts! When I was dealing with a difficult behavior with one of my kids when they were younger, I would often look to parenting books. Sometimes they were helpful, sometimes they weren’t. Asking friends for advice didn’t always lead me to the best solutions. SO, when I would just slow down and notice the different aspects of the behavior, I would arrive at a solution (eventually) that made sense and ultimately was helpful. Other times, it was just a stage that passed. You sound like a great mom and want to do the best for your child. I applaud you!

    Like

    June 15, 2013
    • I forgot! I have been thinking about your dilemma all weekend. Must recommend Louise Bates Ames book for 2 year-olds: Your Two Year-Old: Terrible or Tender? I remember that the half-years were always the hardest. Your daughter will be 3 in November? She is in the half-year stage… This series saved my life when my first child was young.

      Like

      June 17, 2013
      • Cate, thank you! I think you’re right that the best place to look for a solution to this issue is within my own family, although it is great to see some suggestions here! The biggest thing I work on is patience – for my own sanity and for Cee. If I can stay patient and calm, I can often set the tone to keep the morning moving without either of us getting frustrated. And yes, she’s at a half-year stage! I am actually loving this age, but this is one of our little challenges. I will definitely check out that book!

        Like

        June 17, 2013
  9. mt #

    I laughed when I read this because at 32, I do the same thing Cee does when people try to rush me! (I did learn to respect deadlines and appointment times, though, so don’t worry…)

    Like

    June 16, 2013
    • You know, this is also ME! I can happily study a menu for 10 minutes, reading every option, before I make a choice. I don’t like to be pressured to make a choice before I’m ready. Thank you for this reminder – it does help me to remember this and be a bit more empathetic even when Cee is maddeningly slow. Isn’t it funny how we see these personality traits carried over to our children?!

      Like

      June 17, 2013
  10. Anon #

    Have you tried picking out clothes the evening before? It may give her the times she needs to choose when you actually have time.

    Like

    June 16, 2013
    • Yes, we do this sometimes, and it can be helpful. But more often than not, bedtime has also gone on too long, so finding the time to do it before bed might just delay bedtime:)

      Like

      June 17, 2013
  11. This is my son! It can be extremely frustrating so I feel your pain. Thankfully our mornings are not quite as pressed for time just yet. But no matter how much time we have he will still wait until the very last minute. Hopefully he’ll get past this stage by kindergarten! 🙂

    Like

    June 17, 2013
  12. I am almost 30 and still haven’t outgrown my need for the occasional do-nothing-day! I think it is important for children and adults to let their minds be free of to-do lists, schedules, and deadlines

    Like

    June 18, 2013
  13. So funny! Loving your blog, you have super interesting and humorous posts! It’s helpful to find a blog with parenting tips that are actually doable 🙂

    Like

    June 20, 2013
  14. Ro #

    I really find the visual timers to be helpful for this problem. Kids can see the red part getting smaller and smaller and it works better than a kitchen timer because of the visual piece. You can find them at educational stores. I think the are marketed to kids with Autism but they work great. Then you can have the ultimatum “You have 10 minutes to get dressed and then I will help you” but she has more control.

    Like

    June 20, 2013
  15. “This snail-paced getting-dressed routine is annoying to me”…..spoke volumes to me! 🙂 The middle of my three young children, a nine-year old girl, takes _forever_ to get ready/dressed etc. The other two young’uns are fairly brisk, but the middle one? Most certainly not. The other two can be dressed for school and ready for breakfast whilst the middle one is still putting her socks on. It frustrates me/my wife sometimes, but…it’s just a part of who she is. Anyway, she can certainly move quick enough if a tasty snack is in the offing! 🙂

    Nice blog by the way! 🙂

    Like

    June 21, 2013
  16. My 3.5-year-old daughter is an introvert. Since I’m a SAHM and we have a lot of flexibility with our time, I try to make sure about half of our week is do-nothing days. In an ideal week, we alternate do-something days and do-nothing days. If we have too many active days (playing with friends, open gym, music class), she will melt down. She just really seems to need to have a lot of time at home–often playing dolls or action figures by herself.

    Like

    July 25, 2013

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