Just prior to sitting to write my post, the following event happened exactly as described:
I was standing in the kitchen pondering what to make for lunch when my sweet eight-year-old son came into the room. He asks me, in his rapid fire excited way, “Mom, can you play one more game of chess with me?”
I reply, “No buddy, I’m making lunch. Do hotdogs sound good?”
He doesn’t answer my question but replies with, “Oh yeah and mom? Since we picked up that cream of tartar last night now we can make the cake we were going to make for dad. I’ll get out the bowls.”
I explain, “No we won’t be making a cake right now since I’m making lunch. Thankyouverymuch.”
He retorts while skipping around the kitchen island, “Okay, then can you make chili since we’re having hotdogs? I like chili dogs better.”
“No, I can’t just whip up a batch of chili on a whim. Chili takes time,” I explain with clenched teeth.
“Mom, can I have a piggyback ride? Just bend over and I’ll hop on,” he throws at me from left field.
“Bear! I am making lunch! I can’t make a cake, chili, or give you a piggyback ride right now. And go ask your brother to play chess!” I offer in exasperation.
Now, I will admit my situation is partially self-inflicted. My husband and I decided to homeschool our kids four years ago which means I am with them all day long, every day. This, in turn, requires someone to figure out what my kids are to do after school is done. The little kids are usually done at lunchtime or not too long after, and, oftentimes, they’re BORRRRED.
So, because of this afternoon’s entertainment issue, I’ve lazily allowed them WAAAAY more time in front of screens and devices than I care to admit. It’s convenient for me, they’re generally happy and quiet, and I can accomplish MY goals for the afternoon, like writing a blog post.
However, after weeks of glazed expressions it was evident to me that I was doing a disservice to my kids. They were content to play video games all afternoon, watch movies or stare at their devices… aaaaaand that was about it. They were not driven to try other things. They weren’t self motivated to practice their instruments, improve their artistic abilities, or increase their knowledge of a subject. So, we knew it was time to make some changes.
After much discussion, my husband and I came up with a plan we felt comfortable with for our family, and with some pain and hesitation (on my part), we implemented it. Pain. Gnashing of teeth. Biting, crying, and moaning ensued. And then I pulled up my mommy pants and realized it was for everyone’s benefit and I trudged onward.
However, since implementing our “plan” I’ve had to be much more involved with their afternoon activities. Shocker, I know! Like I mentioned above, my kids weren’t necessarily self motivated and this didn’t magically change when we took away the screens. It got worse.
I became the Entertainment Committee.
“Mom, wanna play cards?”
“Mom, wanna make cookies?”
“Mom, can we go ice skating?”
“Mom, let’s go for a drive.”
Mom, mom, mom, mom, mooooooooooooom!
Get the point?
So, we’ve been spending our afternoons trying to find a balance between self-entertaining and mom-led entertaining. Self-motivated activity and mom-participating events. It’s a struggle to be honest. And, by 2 p.m. they’re literally writhing on the floor going through screen withdrawal. It’s ugly.
I know this is the best thing for them, and me, but navigating the upcoming weeks of adjustment are going to be rough.
What about you?
Do you have any suggestions for getting over the hump? Any tips your family has implemented with your kids to get them moving on the path of self-directed entertainment and contentment?
– With love from the trenches