Summer is bittersweet for most moms. Around April, we’re sick of school, tired of the projects, ready to be released from the chains of early mornings and reading logs. We long for the days of not setting our alarms and the flexibility of seeing where the day takes us. It sounds like a vacation without ever leaving the house.
The trouble is, if you don’t have back-to-back vacations planned, regular play dates scheduled, or endless amounts of money for daily outings; you’re over summer break about 3 days in. The excitement of sleeping in quickly turns to depression as you wake up to find your kids all vegged in front of the TV, asking you what’s for breakfast, even though, somehow, it’s already 10:30. The line between breakfast and lunch is pretty blurry, as you are faced with the reality that you are now expected to provide 3 meals a day for everyone.
In our house, summer started out strong this year. We skipped the last day of school so we could all head to Stevenson, WA where Andy was doing sound for a conference and I was leading worship. We stayed at a beautiful resort and were able to swim, explore trails, and all of our meals were provided for us. Pretty sweet gig. A great start to summer.
Once we returned home, we settled in to a comfortable routine of staying up late, sleeping in, and the kids pretty much watching show after show, movie after movie. In between, they were fighting over anything they could think of and I found that my mediating went from calmly asking them to knock it off, to practically joining in the wrestling match while yelling at them to calm down and just respect each other. Not my proudest parenting moment.
I was sick of it. Andy was out of town and I was desperate. After sitting all four kids down on the couch and calmly explaining what a mess we were, I told them things needed to change. Not just for an hour, or for the day, or even for a week. They were going to learn to get along, work together, help each other. And this is the part where I got all Mama Bear Berenstain on them.
“We need a break from all technology. This isn’t a punishment, but a break. You’re going to have to play with each other. You’re going to play outside, create things, play games, hang out together. You’re going to learn to help each other and respect each other. And we’re not going back to screens until things change. I don’t know when that will be, but we’ll just have to see.”
You can imagine how well that went over. Total devastation.
“So, we’re grounded until we can be nice to each other,” one of them said.
“No, we’re just changing how we spend our days and re-learning how to get along.”
“So, for how long?”
They still couldn’t quite wrap their little brains around the concept.
“Don’t ask me how long. I don’t know. Just focus on playing together and having fun together.”
Before anyone thinks I’m a total monster, they were still allowed to go to a movie with friends, if invited. They also played video games with their uncle when he was visiting from out of town.
I don’t know if kids realize that when a parent makes a decision like this, it’s just as painful for them, as it is for the kids. Honestly. When kids are staring at the TV, they’re quiet. They don’t bug you. You can get a lot done. But when you take that away, they want to do stuff with you. All of the sudden, they’re interested in playing cards with you and coloring with you. They want you to take them places. They actually want you to parent them. It’s pretty rough.
The days turned into a week, we took a trip to Tennessee (where they were allowed to watch shows with their cousins), a week turned into a couple weeks and then we broke the news.
“Guys, this has been really good for us. We’re going to stick with it for the rest of the summer.”
You know what’s amazing? They were fine. They didn’t freak out. They didn’t throw themselves on the floor in protest. And that’s when I knew. I knew our little experiment had changed something. They were getting used to it. They were learning to enjoy each other. Yes! It was worth it.
They were throwing the football back and forth. They were reading. They were creating a pulley system in the fort in the backyard. They were making a basketball hoop out of an old post, a wire hanger, and some duct tape. Dangerous? Maybe. But creative, nonetheless. They were doing all the things we used to do when we were kids, before there were endless amounts of shows and movies on Netflix.
I gotta say, I’m into it. Although, the house is much more messy with all of the kids’ creations and experiments. The Berenstain Bears knew what they were doing.
|Coleman is standing on a make-shift tight-rope. It wasn’t exactly tight, and it didn’t end well.|