GOOD OLD FASHIONED FUN
Life is hectic. Don’t you feel this daily? That the struggle is real and the juggle is the real deal. That we are living life in this constant state as a trapeze artist, trying to balance so many pieces of our lives that we feel like we are forever on the precipice and one thing more thing could tip us over!
What I have been trying to work out lately is the why? Why are we just so busy, so hectic, and so constantly busy that we struggle to breath? Busy has become this buzz word.
Everything in children’s lives are so organised and ordered, soccer is on a Tuesday, swimming is on a Thursday, Kumon on a Friday, tennis on a Saturday, all because we want what is best for our children which isn’t so bad in itself, as I do remember a similar schedule growing up.
I have been trying to work out what is missing in our children’s childhood and I have wondered if it is boredom. Or perhaps is it is something more…
Everything in their life is so scheduled, so ordered that when there is nothing to do, they whinge, they whine, they carry on. I am guilty, sometimes I will say, “Just turn the television on then!” (I tend to choose the idiot box over the iPad as that just causes too many arguments!) Hey presto, boredom stops and they stop whining! #mumwin
We were away last month on a last minute trip to Melbourne and we naturally had dinner out each night as we were staying in a hotel (thanks hubby’s work!). Going out to dinner with children is a balancing act or it is for us, you have to get the right timing, not too hangry or tired and you have to give them something to entertain them, so that they are not too bored. Our boys are so full of energy; it can be hard work to maintain a dignified decorum in a public setting! I usually pack some books, a few Hot Wheels cars, colouring or even a small travel game just to get us through the evening.
However, usually after a while the kids get bored (30 mins or so) and invariably our arms get twisted and a phone is given to them. They then sit their quietly, watching, zoned out into another world. Seen but not heard as the saying used to be.
I have asked my mum how she did it and she said she never used to go out to dinner with young children. It wasn’t worth the meal out to sit through four kids bored and bickering at a restaurant. They didn’t have “kid friendly” restaurants back then either. This was the 80’s, I know, so old right!!
But maybe that is the trick, not to go out with kids until they are much older? But we were on holiday and staying in a hotel, so the only option for dinner each evening was to eat out.
After a few nights of using various methods to entertain the kids at dinner in Melbourne (building lego sets, colouring in, books), the husband gave the kids a phone to keep them quiet, straight up, whilst we ordered our meal. I was a bit like, really!? Already? We haven’t even been here 2 minutes. Surely they can cope. Surely, we can cope?
Then I looked across at the other table, and there sat 2 teenagers with iPad’s. They were both engrossed in a game and not interacting with their parents on any level. Just in their zone. I know managing teenagers these days is hard work with phones, iPad’s and the like and they just want to be on their screens 24/7. I totally get it.
As I sat watching them and their parents enjoying a conversation with their dinner guests, I wondered was the iPad any different from letting them play a game at the dinner table or colouring in?
I looked across at my two boys watching a program on the phone and thought I could continue to let them watch it for the whole time we had dinner. I could then enjoy a nice meal with my husband. They could sit engrossed in their program, totally disengaged from us. We would have a wonderful conversation and enjoy a nice glass of wine. Ahh bliss!
But something just didn’t feel right…
But something just didn't feel right... I wondered was this really what modern parenting was meant to be about? Letting our kids disengage from the real world into the world of the screen because we want a nice meal, free of bickering, free of whining, free of well, being a kid! We don’t want them to be bored because then we have to deal with the tantrums. And oh, can my boys have tantrums!!
But taking in the scene on a cold winter’s night in Melbourne, was a reality check for me and one that I needed.
My boys are no longer babes; they are growing up so fast! Soon they might be those teenagers on a screen, not chatting to us, at all. It scared me a little. Ok, it scared me a lot.
The husband could see I was a little perturbed, even disturbed and was seriously wondering why I would want to throw away a quiet dinner with no distractions. He thought I was just having a bad day.
Now what happened next, I will warn you, it won’t always work, but this night it did and it was truly sublime!
I pulled out our travel “Connect 4” game that I had stashed in my handbag (I am a toy blogger ;) ) and I placed it in the middle of the table. I let the kids know that once the program had finished on the phone in a few minutes time (I am not stupid, c’mon!), we would play this game with them as a family. Or rather Parents vs Kids!
So we had a family tournament of “Connect 4” in between eating, drinking and chatting together. The kids ended up winning 4 games to 3 and I have to admit hubby and I were seriously trying to beat them for the last 2 games. But they got us! So much so, they got a Nutella pizza and ice-cream out of us as their reward for winning! We placed a bet on the last game to up the stakes!
It was one of the best dinners out we have enjoyed with the kids in a long time. We laughed, we smiled, we talked, and we giggled. They loved playing the game but most importantly they loved the interaction with us. They had us both, fully focused and giving them the attention they craved.
And I guess that made me realise, that sometimes the reason why kids get bored is because they just want our attention. They just want to hang out with us. We schedule so many things in their lives when in actual fact; they just want to be with their parents.
In six years’ time, my eldest will be a teenager and he definitely won’t want to hang with his parents; we will no doubt be the most uncool, unhip parents on the planet.
I realised that six years isn’t long, it will fly by, as the last seven years have. I should then enjoy this small window I have with them; when they do still want to hang with their parents, when they still think we are the most amazing people in the world.
Time travels too fast to let them sit and watch screens. They get sucked in and we enjoy the peace and quiet. There is a time and place for it but that night; the screens were ditched for some good old fashioned family fun.