What, no TV?

It’s summertime, and our kids have more free time on their hands. They are in camps during the week, but when they are not at camp all they want to do is watch TV.

When I was a kid, I wanted to watch TV 24×7 if my parents would allow it. I can remember one particular summer my mom told me that my sisters and I that our TV time would be limited to three hours a day. Three hours a day, that’s outrageous! There’s so much we’ll be missing! I thought. I can remember discussing this decision with my neighbor friend whose mom was trying something similar with he and his sister. “It’s not fair,” we both agreed. I can’t recall how closely the TV time was held to, but do recall we were prompted to play outside more, and it was okay to be bored.

With my own kids, my husband and I were noticing a trend…if allowed, our sons would watch TV 24×7. The TV seemed to be on any time we were inside the house. It was becoming a problem. While I hated the idea of restricting my kids TV time to three hours (because I could remember how much I hated it as a kid), I knew it was what we were ultimately going to have to do.

My husband and I sat down our kids and talked to them about limiting their TV time. Our conversation was met with “What?” “That’s not fair!” “You’re so mean!” “We’re going to be so bored!” This was expected, but still not easy to hear. “Guys, we’re not doing you any favors by letting you sit around and watch TV all the time, there is too much life to live, and you’re not living it if you sitting on a couch.” My sons may not have liked our message, but they understood it. “What are we going to do to pass the time?” my son asked. “You’ll have to figure that out. You can ride your bike, play out in the backyard, create something with your Lego, there’s all sorts of things you can do, it’s really up to you.”

We started our new schedule, and it was hard for everyone. It took some getting used to. It’s still taking some getting used to, but what I found was when my husband and I were firm with what would be allowed (e.g. if you watch three hours of TV first thing in the morning, that’s it.) we saw that our boys could adjust…it might be done begrudgingly, but they could do it.

I’ve seen them be more creative with their time since we implemented the change. There have been days when the three hours have been exceeded, but it’s been the exception. With summer vacation here, our timing feels right — there is so much to do, explore and see, it would be a shame if it were mostly spent inside.

Have you ever had to limit screen time? What worked for you? What helped your child make the adjustment?

Happy Fourth! I’ll be taking time off with the family and will be back following.

Counting on a Few Good (Dads) Men

Have you ever struggled to find an appropriate Father’s Day card for your Dad?  I have. There seem to be two varieties that exist: cards that imply Dad needs time away golfing, fishing or BBQ’ing; or Dad can’t control his bodily functions and loves the TV remote more than anything else. There is a third variety and it’s the sentimental kind. I usually gravitate towards these, because the other two don’t seem to fit.

My parents celebrated a milestone anniversary this year, and I was fortunate enough to be in attendance. They had most of their original wedding party and friends from high school attend. It was a joy to see so many people who loved my parents and had such fond memories of them.

After the celebration there was an informal reception, where the guests came together and we shared food and stories. I got to hear new stories of them growing up. I learned a lot about my dad that afternoon. He loved to fish–he used to do it almost everyday in the summer with his high school buddies growing up (I had no idea, the only time I saw my dad fish growing up was when he took my sisters and I out to a local lake a handful of times); and he used to be a bit more ‘wild’ than I would have ever guessed. The person I knew was my dad–a man who has always been intentional in his parenting, and actions. As a father, he was more serious than fun (I never saw him do anything even remotely wild), but loving and giving of his time with my sisters and I. I never got the feeling from my dad that he needed (or yearned) for time away from us–though he certainly could have. He was always present. He would push us to be our best, and coach, support, encourage and praise us along the way. He was (and still is) a great dad.

This year I found a card that made me smile. It said, “Dad in Chief” and had a fancy patch that looked similar to a presidential seal with an eagle and stars (the eagle is holding a small remote control in one talon, and spatula in the other, but oh well). My dad is tops in my book. He continues to be a great model of what being a dad is all about. My husband is the same with our sons. He’s present, he’s invested, he cares, and it shows. I love him dearly for it.

I feel very fortunate to have such good men in my life.

How are you honoring your dad today? How are you being the parent you want to be for your child?

Happy Father’s Day!

When I Grow Up I Want to Be…

Did you know what you wanted your profession to be when you were a kid?  When did you figure it out or are you (like me and) still trying to?

My son was sharing a fictional story one of his friends had shared. The main character was Bill Gates, but not like we know him. In this story, there was a war and Bill Gates was ridding the world of bad people and getting paid money to do so. In a time when super heroes, and good guys and bad guys run rampant, these kind of stories don’t shock me like they used to. I asked my son if he knew who Bill Gates was. He said, “Sorta?” with an uplift in tone that indicated he clearly did not. I explained that Bill Gates did make a lot of money, but it wasn’t from getting rid of bad people, it was from inventing (along with many others) the personal computer. He happened to have a passion for learning about computers, and was visionary in how people could use them. I continued that while he had made a lot of money, he had started a foundation that was focused on giving most of his money away to help others through education and healthcare; and that he was so passionate about this work, that he was encouraging other wealthy people to do the same thing (give their money away towards helping others).

My son was curious about a man making so much money, and instead of spending it all or giving it to his children, he would give it away. “Well, you can’t take it with you when you die. And the money would be more than his kids would ever need,” I explained. I decided to explore with both my sons what they were interested in doing when they grew up. My oldest quickly chimed in that he wanted to build a robot–like Iron Man, or Baemax from Big Hero 6, but for real, not pretend. Or maybe he’d create a new Pokémon card. You could see his creative wheels turning. My youngest chimed in. “I want to do construction. Maybe build things. Or maybe paint cars.” I reiterated that they could do whatever they wanted to do when they got older…the only one that would prevent them from doing it was them. I noticed my oldest looked a bit concerned. “But I don’t really know what I want to be when I grow up.” He was clearly upset at knowing for certain what he would be when he grew up, “What am I going to do?” I was not expecting him to feel this pressure to know what he wanted to do. I certainly had some ideas when I was his age, but that was all they were ideas, or fantasies. I reminded both boys that my husband’s and my job is to teach them things, including exposing them to new things and encouraging them to try them so they can know if it’s something that is a passion or interest for them, “Without trying, you’ll never know,and that no one expects you to know what you want to be or do at such a young age,” I finished. That seemed to suffice for my boys and we went on to talk of other things.

Life is precious, and goes by so quickly. What would the world be like if we all followed our passion? Pretty good, right?  When you are enthusiastic about something it’s natural to want to share it with others. While not everyone has money to share, everyone has the ability to share what they are passionate about.

How are you helping your child find what they are passionate about? How are you helping them figure out what they want to be when they grow up?

Our Town?

Have you experienced a moment where your child made you rethink or appreciate life a little more after seeing it through their eyes?

My husband and I went to pick my son up from a lesson. He finished his lesson early and had free time prior to our arrival, and had decided to build a town with multi-colored triangular blocks. Some buildings were tall and round. Others were short and flat. One stood out. It was encased in a plastic holder that lifted it off the ground a few inches. I asked my son to explain all the things in his town. He pointed to the tall and round buildings. “This is a movie theater and this is a grocery store.” He moved over to the short and flat buildings. “This is where the poor people live.” And then he moved to the building that was on the plastic base off the ground. “This is where the rich people live.” I asked him what made the rich people live off the ground vs. the poor people. He replied, “The rich people have a force field around them to keep the poor people out.” He paused, probably because my mouth had dropped open in disbelief at his sage observation. “You know, so people can’t get their stuff. They really don’t like people to get their stuff.” I asked, “And where do we live?” He pointed back over to the poor section. “We’re over here. This is the poor to medium section. We live in the medium section house.” “Okay,” I said, “Where do you want to live?” He said, without hesitation, “Over here.” He pointed to the same poor-medium section but one house over. “I would be close to the movie theater and grocery store, and, I’d be close to you.” It made me smile, but also made me think. How would I have answered the same questions when I was his age? Did I have the same awareness of the ‘have’s’ and the ‘have-not’s’ back then? Where did he get this insight from? He seemed wise beyond his years.

The conversation made my husband and I realize that once again our children are noticing things–even things we think they shouldn’t until they are much older. We were reminded that when we’re fortunate enough to have our kids share their insights with us, it’s an opportunity for us to teach them (explain our take on the situation, or how others might think); and get their ideas for what can be done to make things better. I always learn when my children share their ideas–either about them (how they think, what’s important to them, etc.) or from them (sometimes their simple yet smart ideas come are way better than anything I (or I dare say most adults) could come up with). I see things in a new, fresh way.

What have you learned from, or about, your child from their observations?