Thursday, April 12, 2012

Sitting at my computer, waiting for my Mom of the year award

Here I sit, lazily poking around Facebook, Pinterest, various blogs and message boards. It is about 5:00 pm. We recently got home from spending the day at Grandma's house. Upon returning home, I got my kids a snack, told them to pick 2 pieces of Easter candy, and promptly hauled my butt upstairs, sat down at my computer and have been more or less ignoring them for the last 30 minutes.

Mom of the year, my friends.

Actually, I'm only half kidding. To be completely honest, I'm feeling a little bit awesome right about now. After downing some strawberries and cheese, my kids wandered outside into the backyard (I can see them from where I'm sitting) and are digging in the rocks. They didn't beg me to turn on the TV, they didn't ask for computer time, they didn't assume they could play XBOX games. They found something to do and they are more than happy to entertain themselves for a while.

Things weren't always like that around here.

A while back, my husband and I decided to institute a no electronics before dinner rule. I wasn't happy with how much TV I was letting them watch, and they were starting to ask for the TV to be on CONSTANTLY. I mean good grief, every time we transition to a new activity or the day comes to a natural lull, we don't need to sit down and watch cartoons. It was totally my fault for letting it get to that point, and I was having a hard time being consistent with screen time. Some days I'd let them watch after lunch, some days not. Some days they could watch while I cooked dinner, some days not. With no consistent boundaries, they kept pushing, asking for TV more often. And my tendency towards being lazy often took over and I'd think, "Well, I don't really want them watching TV all day, but man it sure would be nice because they'd be quiet and leave me alone for a little bit..." So I'd give in. Too often.

Despite my son's exclamation that our new electronics rule was the "worst idea we'd ever had," the transition was rather smooth. After the first day, they quit pouting about it and just figured out other stuff to do. Amazing how that works - take away the mindless entertainment and they have to fend for themselves - and they do.

See, that's the thing - they do. I'm no supermom and I don't have magical, perfect children. But I also don't have kids that complain of boredom very often. Almost never, really. That wasn't always the case. I think their level of boredom complaining is directly related to their amount of TV watching - the more TV, the more they complain about being bored when the TV is not on.

I think it also helps that I have an expectation that they'll go off and play by themselves sometimes. I don't even attempt to keep them busy all day. The afternoons are often open, free, playtime. I don't orchestrate too much, I don't schedule too much. In fact, I kick them outside whenever possible, or at least kick them upstairs if outside isn't an option. "Go play!" And they do.

So as I sit here, relishing in a few uninterrupted moments of time before I cook dinner (granted, this doesn't always happen quite so nicely - they aren't even fighting and that isn't always the case!), I am feeling like I did something right. They should be able to go off on their own and find things to do some of the time. And even if I'm not exactly using this time in the most productive way possible (although I would also argue that a bit of downtime is necessary and good for anyone), I'm a little proud of the fact that my kids are more than capable of that unstructured free play that some kids seem to find so elusive.

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