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The day has arrived, my kids have gone back to school. I know some parents relish the time being at home with their kids over the summer, but I find it very difficult. My kids are 8, 6 and almost two, so finding activities to keep them entertained at their varying ages and interests was a challenge!
One of my biggest challenges this summer was getting my kids to play outside. After a lot of coaxing to get them out the door, they often only stayed outside for 10 minutes before announcing ‘I’M BORED’ and heading back inside. They were happy to play with lego, games or other toys when I set limits on screen time, but they wanted to be inside. I found this extremely frustrating, but it also made me so sad. Sad that they preferred to play inside than to explore the neighbourhood and meet other kids. Sad that they weren’t experiencing nature, breathing fresh air and running freely. Sad that childhood isn’t what it used to be and that my kids are part of the statistics saying kids are leading more sedentary lives and engaging in active play less than ever before.
I decided I had had enough, and pulled the plug on screens. I announced we were having a screen-free-day. There would be no tv, iPod or iPad for the entire day. I hid the remotes, and the computer mouse, and I put away the ipad. They weren’t happy about it, and there were tears and lots of anger. But we quickly got out the door and headed to the park and screens were forgotten.
I made a few observations throughout the day:
-They didn’t ask for screens. When I told them it wasn’t going to be an option for the whole day, they stopped asking.
-They got along! My older two kids fight constantly, but they actually played together nicely!
-They were less moody! There were no blow ups, and no one snapped or got angry like they usually do when screen time was over.
-They played outside!
-They fell asleep fast and hard! My 8 year old, who usually takes a long time to fall asleep crashed the minute his head hit the pillow!
As a child, I do remember spending days in front of the TV, but I also remember days spent running around in my neighbourhood and at the park. I remember running through sprinklers, biking with friends and exploring the little wooded area behind our neighbourhood. Part of me feels like technology is getting in the way of these childhood experiences. I understand it has it’s benefits, and we can do so much more and connect in so many ways now than ever before. But this summer, I had many moments of wanting to throw out each screen in the house if it meant my kids would just play outside!
So where does that leave me… I don’t feel like I can completely deprive them of technology, it’s not going anywhere. There are opportunities to engage and be social, opportunities to learn and be creative. Not everything online is a time suck and not everything offline is engaging and amazing. But what I need to do, and believe me it’s a constant struggle, is to find the balance between the two so that their childhood is full of all that is out there to experience.
We will be having more screen-free-days in our house, and I am trying to engage them in activities that I like to do and hope they’ll follow my lead.
How do you balance technology use and outside play in your home?
I play this game with Mieka where I get her to pretend to be a baby. I rock her in my arms and she says ‘wah wah wah I’m a baby’. It’s cute, and I love it because it means I can pretend she’s not growing up so fast for just a few minutes.
Tonight as I was putting her to bed, she asked for just one more huggle (a stand up hug/cuddle – it MUST be done standing, no sitting allowed.) My back got tired, so I swung her legs into my arm and craddled her like I used to do when she was a baby. She held her bunny with one arm, the other was draped behind my back. She nestled into my chest and closed her eyes. I rocked that 30lb girl back and forth back and forth while singing her the lullabies I used to sing when I nursed her.
For a brief moment in time, a Kairos moment, she was my 8 month old baby girl all over again. And I relished it.
I first heard of a Kairos moment in a fantastic blog post by this blogger “Our Life Better Together’. I just love how she captures it here…
“And then there’s Kairos time. Those moments straight out of a storybook, straight from God Himself, when we stop, look, and melt with happiness. The moments when you feel like the luckiest woman in the world, in the absolute best place of your life. And because these moments aren’t planned and aren’t predicted, it’s critical that you see and soak ’em up. “
I hope my children look back on today
And see a mother who had time to play.
There will be years for cleaning and cooking
For children grow up while we’re not looking.
I recently found this quote on Pinterest, although the link no longer worked so I can’t tell you where it originated. But regardless of where it came from, it resonated. Last night we measured the kids after their baths, Joel has grown an inch and a half since September. Mieka isn’t far behind. They are growing up so fast, too fast.
How many times have I said not right now I just need to make this call/check this message/answer this email/fold this laundry/put away these toys… Too many times, and I am sure you have too.
Those things can wait. Childhood, sadly cannot. It is fleeting. In a few years, Joel and Mieka won’t want me to pretend to be a restaurant patron while they are the chefs, or for me to chase them on my hands and knees around and around the coffee table, or to make up silly songs about froggies on pillows or to stay for just one more huggle before they drift off to sleep.
I do not want to look back and feel live I’ve missed the best parts; the parts when they’ve wanted ME to be a part of their worlds and their play.
I need to do a better job about giving them more of me that has fun, laughs and plays right beside them. When they are grown and look back, I will be that mother who had time to play.