K put off her viola practice until late this evening. Then she spent a lot of time huffing, whining, and saying “I can’t.”
Normally I’d try to talk her through it, on the theory that I can help her learn how to reframe her frustration. Tonight I did a bit of that, but then I looked at my phone’s clock: 8:22, eight minutes to E’s bedtime.
(Yes, I know that’s a tad late for a six-year-old. Believe me, when K was that age she went to bed at seven thirty every night and we had a few hours of child-free time at the end of the day. But with older siblings, that’s just not happening for E.)
Where was I? Oh, yeah. Almost E’s bedtime, and we hadn’t even had the bubble tea I promised for bedtime snack. Frustrated at having spent 20 minutes with K and her having played maybe two notes in all that time, I decided that I was done coddling her.
“Listen,” I said, “I don’t have any more time for this—I have to give the others their bubble tea. You can keep practicing by yourself and then later I’ll come listen to what you’ve done… or don’t. Your choice.”
“Don’t?” She echoed, “Is not doing it even a choice? Can I just not do it?”
I nodded. “Sure. If you want to not do it, just hand over your phone tonight before bed. You’ll get it back the day after tomorrow.”
K grumbled. I left the room.
The kids begged me to read to them while they drank their bubble tea. I did. But the story was very long, and it was way past bedtime at this point. When I asked N to see what time it was he said, “Uh, it’s 8:40.” He’s not a very good liar when it comes to realizing that there’s actual evidence to the contrary.
“Sorry guys, it’s almost nine. We’re out of time for tonight. We’ll stop here and pick it up again tomorrow.”
“NOOOOOOOOO!!! NONONONO!!!! NOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!” The four of them howled in concert.
“Can’t you please keep going? We all want you to!”
“Nope. I’m sorry. Sleep is important.”
I kind of enjoyed the howling, actually. My kids were complaining because I refused to finish the Greek myth we were reading. It’s not that I’m a magical unicorn who makes children want to learn stuff, it’s that Rick Riordan is laugh-out-loud funny. But their eagerness to learn from his book tickles me anyway.
I tucked in N, R, and E, vaguely aware of the sounds of a viola wafting up from the library. When I (finally) finished with the tuck-ins I went back downstairs and checked on K.
“Want to show me what you’ve been working on?” I asked.
She did—and she had made some small but noticeable progress on her own. This time when I offered some instruction she accepted it eagerly; she learned a few more bars of the song she was playing and practiced them until she had the correct notes and bowings. By the end, she was feeling pretty good about the work she’d done.
So twice today I had to stop things because I’d run out of time. In the case of K’s viola practice, it was the kick in the butt she needed to actually sit down and do some work on her own. In the case of the book, the kids went to sleep just dying to know what happened on Psyche’s quest to the underworld. Maybe I should run out of time more often.
Speaking of which, it’s 10:19 and Mr. December just asked, “How did it get so late?”
Isn’t the answer obvious? We’ve run out of time.