There are times when parents should watch their child's every move like the rodeo clown watches the bull. And, there are times when they should allow, even encourage, a little independence.
The problem is, who actually knows when to do which?
Facing a Monday without child care, I decided that getting some work done was better than none at all, so I loaded the girls, the VCR, games, toys, snacks and blankets in the car.
They thought we were going on a trip.
Optimistically, I was hoping to get a half-day of work in before having a 6-year-old and an almost-5-year-old in the office started driving co-workers away.
Boy was I wrong. We made it all the way to closing time. I was amazed at how well the girls behaved. I set them up in their own little room and made sure they had plenty of distractions. Every now and then, we'd go outside to run off some excess energy (by "we," I mean, "they." I have no excess energy). We took a long lunch break (that "we" is for real) and went home after a productive day.
I had no reason to believe that such behavior couldn't be duplicated, so when I needed some time at the office on a Sunday, it was a simple matter of loading up (simple because I have yet to take the VCR and several of the games home).
I set the girls loose in their room and I headed for the computer. A few hours later, we headed home -- a trip during which I was full of praise for my two little angels and how well-behaved they were. They even got ice cream as a reward for being so good.
It wasn't until late the next day, when I heard "have you seen the conference room?" that the illusion shattered.
I almost can't describe it, it's so embarrassing. My little heathens gathered a mixed selection of about 100 business cards and layered them on the floor. On top, they sprinkled nearly every leaf, and several of the stems, from a 5-foot tall plant that decorates the room.
The woman who babies that plant is never going to speak to me again.
Add that pile to the crayons, cracker remnants and articles of clothing that normal play leaves behind and ...
I could hardly speak. Neither could anyone else in the office. Me because of fury, everyone else was trying to swallow their laughter.
I left the office then, with strict orders that no one touch that disaster, and went to pick up the girls.
The ride back to the office was long. And silent.
My instructions were simple: "Don't talk. Don't smile. JUST CLEAN. You're lucky I'm still letting you breathe."
They marched into the office, little heads hanging, and went straight into the conference room. Not only were they required to pick up the cards, they had to organize them into piles according to business and return them to the place they were found.
It actually seemed like the exercise was fairly educational.
I didn't tell them to, but evidently they took the initiative of apologizing for the mess. I didn't think to make them apologize to those I worked with, though I did make them tell the plant that they were sorry.
The next day, I took out the vacuum cleaner to finish the job. I discovered that they didn't actually throw the leaves away, they just put them back in the planter.
Other than that, they didn't do too badly and I only had to contend with a few chuckles from co-workers.
Given that just about anything can happen when you're dealing with kids, it wasn't a surprise when, on the first day of school I walked Katie into her classroom, met her at the door when school ended and walked her to her bus and then followed the bus to her stop and escorted her out.
On day two, I snuck over to her school and hid behind a tree to make sure she remembered which bus was hers (I'd already made arrangements for someone else to do the same thing on the other end).
She did so well that I blew my cover and jumped on the bus to give her a hug.
So much for covert.
Then I thought about it. You know, I don't really have a problem leading her to believe that she's being watched.
After all, you never know when adult supervision -- real or assumed -- will be needed.