My friend Kristan gave me one of the best parenting ideas I’ve ever come across: Daddy’s Box of Magic. The idea is to gather a few dollar-store items in a shoebox to occupy the children during the “arsenic hour” – the time when they cut up the worst as I’m trying to fix supper between 5 and 6 p.m.
I started with a few cans of play-doh, crayons or colored pencils (not markers – too messy), coloring books, stickers, scissors, construction paper and a glue stick. Nothing extraordinary, but new items they hadn’t played with before. Maybe it was more my tone of voice, building curiosity about what’s inside. A two-level island divides our kitchen from the dining room, and I would put the kids at the bar level – easy to keep an eye on them, but they’re not getting in the way during supper prep.
Eventually, it all grew into four shoebox-sized plastic tubs, including one just for craft supplies such as corks, popsicle sticks and felt. Our son built more “sculptures” with this stuff than I ever imagined. What had grown into Daddy’s Magic Center dispersed after we finished the basement last year, and now they trash the whole room instead – safely out of view from the kitchen.
Incidentally, I survived my Lovely Bride’s four-day weekend business trip and didn’t holler at the children too much or drown my sorrows every night. Just tried to keep busy: went to church (twice), son to soccer, daughter to music class and play date, both for jaunt on railroad track turned bike path, school for kiddos on two days and dinner at Denny’s ($17 for one grownup nd two kids — I didn’t have the nerve to use my 20% off coupon). We made it.
And I actually got curtains hung.