Working full time means I have less than three hours to spend with my boys on any given weekday. I find it's best not to dwell on this calculation but I do need to find a way to maximize this quality time.* The clock is ticking as soon as I pick up the boys. We stumble in the door with jackets waving, shoes flying and bags dropping. The tote bags are filled with remnants of our day: empty cups, Liam's blanket, daycare journal, Henry's coloring pages, lunch containers, student papers to grade, to do lists and the junk mail I collected at the curb. Usually the answering machine is blinking, one or both of the boys are literally screaming for attention while the dogs scratch furiously at the door and/or try their darndest to trip the rest of us with their frantic pacing.
It is amidst this chaos that I need to reconnect with my family.
If I work backward from Liam's 7:15 bedtime, dinner needs to be on the table by 6:15 at the latest or 6 pm if it's a bath night. That means I must decide on and start preparing our simple dinner no later than 5:45. So, if I'm lucky, there's one hour of free time for us to share. I need to engage the family in an activity that transitions us from our separate days and gives us a sense of belonging to one another again.
My boys love their GeoTrax. Some afternoons we simply take off our jackets and shoes and play trains for an hour. Henry and I disagree about track design, Liam can't understand that the white diesel train does not work no matter how many times he places it in my lap and I am constantly noticing the stains on the carpet, but all in all, it's a pleasant way to spend the time.
Henry loves to do puzzles but, no pun intended, this is not a connecting activity. Liam cannot do Henry's jigsaws and he absolutely refuses to work age-appropriate, chunky wooden puzzles alongside his brother and me. Tantrums abound.