Since writing my last blog (where I shared how I was finding it particularly difficult to parent in the last few months of the pandemic), I’ve been trying to do things that help me feel productive and grounded. One of the most noticeable changes I’ve experienced in my own behavior has been my low tolerance for waiting to get things done. Do I need groceries? I’ll get them today and not wait until tomorrow. Is there a doctor’s appointment due in the next month? I’ll schedule it today for as soon as possible. Is the dog halfway through her box of treats? I’ll re-order this afternoon. I’m staying on top of what I can both as a means of exerting control and to make sure that, when the next quarantine call comes, I’m reasonably ready. That’s why I had everything I needed for Valentine’s Day for both of my sons by the second week of January. I didn’t delay in getting cards, candy, or the small trinkets that seem to comprise Valentine’s Day treat bags (something I don’t remember from when I was a kid).
About a week before the holiday, I was able to sign up for our contribution to each classroom’s party, and I felt particularly happy that I grabbed the “cookies” line item, so I didn’t need to prepare two separate snacks. I asked my younger son’s teachers how many I needed to provide, and they told me that, if it made it easier, they always break the cookies in half because no two-year-old needs that much (particularly when accounting for the cupcakes, fruit, chips, and chocolate they would also be sharing). I had already been planning to make heart sugar cookies with frosted swirls on them when I thought to ask if I shouldn’t frost them. The teachers took a pause; one said that no parent had ever asked them that before but that their strong preference was for something plain. I felt a little sad that I wouldn’t get to decorate cookies like the plan I’d already made in my head, but I understood. No one needs 11 two-year-olds to have frosting on their cupcakes AND their cookies.
This interaction stuck with me, and I found myself thinking about the comment that no parent had asked them what they wanted with a food item before. Granted, I’d never asked a teacher that, but it made me start thinking about the small things we don’t do that would be easy for us and make a difference for a teacher or caregiver on the other end. With that in mind, I figured I’d cut the cookies in half, so they didn’t need to spend any time on it.
When I brought the cookies in, they were genuinely touched that I thought to do a very small part of the work for them. They effusively thanked me, I told them it was the least I could do and shared how much we appreciated them and their work with our son. It was a lovely interaction based on a detail, but I’m sure that we all left it feeling warmer. I spent the rest of the day mulling over what I can do or what kinds of questions I might be able to ask to do this kind of work in other spheres. I don’t have a list yet (but I’ll share them once I do), but here are the things I’m going to do in the meantime:
-Ask the front office if they need tissues or paper or paper plates (the kinds of things that I don’t need to make a special trip to get);
-Ask the teachers if there’s anything on their wishlist that they know they can’t get through the front office;
-Listen for embedded requests (the kinds of things that teachers say offhand but clue me in)
-Bring in more coffee for the break room;
-Ask teachers if there is any special way I can prepare something that I’ll be bringing in, or if there’s any helpful information about how something will be utilized that I can account for in purchasing an item.
If I can bring in plain cookies, cut in half and make a teacher feel better heard, what else can I do?
If you have ideas, share them in the comments!
Image courtesy of Sara Bailey