Disconnected

Does your child have an electronic device that they enjoy using for fun?

Everyone in my family has an electronic device. We held off on our boys getting smart phones until they were 13 (and rules apply, break a rule they lose the device). We decided for Spring Break we’d head out to a more remote part of our state to disconnect and unwind. A change of scenery would do us all some good. My husband tried warning our kids in these places access to the internet (WiFi or cellular) would be sparse and to be prepared (meaning bring a book, puzzle or game we can play, or download content to your device so you can access it while we’re there).

By day 3 of our trip we came to our first location where internet access was no where to be found. Our oldest had downloaded some music and podcasts, so he was fine. My youngest downloaded nothing and brought nothing to keep himself entertained. You would have thought something major had happened by the way he broke down. “This is the worst trip ever. It’s going to be so boring.” It went on and on. Being on the spectrum he had to explain to me how he was feeling. There were many thoughts that went through my mind as he complained about being bored (such as — how ungrateful, and doesn’t he understand others would kill to be able to go on trips like this?). I heard him out, patted him on the leg and said, “I get that this is hard for you, but this will happen sometimes in life. You might get bored and you have to make the best of it. I’m going to go sit over in those chairs overlooking the beach. Come join me when you’re feeling better.” I walked away.

He joined 30 minutes later. “It took me a while to feel better,” he said, “do you think we could go down to the beach?” “Sure,” I said, and off we headed. The beach was great. My son had a great time and admitted later in the day that the trip wasn’t so bad after all. The next day we were at another location with no connectivity. He had another meltdown and again we found another activity and we made it through another day. When we got home, both boys were grateful to be home and have full access to the internet again.

At dinner that first night back, we talked about the trip and what we enjoyed. We talked about sites we saw, hikes we took, and seeing wildlife. “Okay,” my youngest said when it was his turn, “I had a good time. I know I didn’t handle it well, and I’m sorry. I’ll be prepared next time.” We are heading out later this summer on another trip that will take us to remote areas (again limited to no cellular or WiFi coverage). My hope is that my son will be ready next time with activities to keep himself occupied and allowing himself the time to truly disconnect and enjoy the beauty (nature) around him.

How do you and your family disconnect? How does your child handle situations where they have to be disconnected from their device(s)?

Vacation Dreams

How did your vacation plans change this year?

We, like most, scrapped our vacation plans (that were supposed to start in April) once COVID hit. We were hoping we’d be able to travel in the summer, but as the pandemic has lingered our plans have changed. Staying closer to home, trying to come up with things to do.

Planning and the anticipation of an upcoming trip is half the fun of going on vacation in our house. Now even local trips outside the city are tempered with hope that COVID infection rates won’t rise causing state to shutdown again. Instead of anticipation it can be nerve racking.

We all need time away, a break, an opportunity to rest and just be. We’ve had a lot of time to be together, but crave a different landscape. We desperately want to be able to move about like we could before.

In our family, we’ll occasionally ask each other, “What are you most looking forward to?” The response is usually trip related, or about a pending activity or celebration. Almost all take place away from our home. If you ask that question now you’ll hear, “Being able to see my friends”, “Playing sports”, or “Getting out of here.”

We’re dreaming of vacation and being able to move freely (and safely) again.

What are you and your child dreaming of doing post-COVID?

Tween Vacation

How does child effect your household?

My oldest son went on a week-long trip, leaving my younger son home with my husband and I. My oldest is a bit of a force in our house. He’s passionate about his interests, thoughts and ideas. He challenges others when he is in disagreement. He is curious, thoughtful, empathetic and self-aware (more so than I was at his age). He loves testing the waters with his father and I in what he can get away with (say, do, watch…you get the idea). He loves messing with his younger brother. He is a typical tween, nearing full-on teenager status.

My youngest is mild-mannered and fun-loving for the most part. He is passionate about his interests, thoughts and ideas and when needed, he will defend himself and stand up to his brother. He doesn’t proactively start a fight. He doesn’t like ‘drama.’ He is my Zen kid.

With my oldest being away, it has created a bit of a void in the house. You could say it is calmer and somewhat less chaotic (I haven’t had to yell at anyone about keeping their hands to themselves this week once — amazing!), but there is an energy that is missing. A crazy, hard-to-explain, even-though-it-makes-me-want-to-pull-my-hair-out-I-still-miss-it feeling created in his absence.

I think about how different my kids are. How much individually and together they bring to our family. How, when one of them is away, it changes who we are as a family in a significant way. My son is missed, in all his tween glory, and we can’t wait to have him back with us.

How does your family change when your child is away?

 

I Don’t Wanna

I don’t know about you, but the evening of January 2nd in our house wasn’t pretty. After some time off to rest and recharge, including a visit with family and playing in the snow, we had reached the eve of needing to go back to work and school, and we were all collectively bummed out about it.

“I don’t wanna go back to school,” said my oldest. “Me either,” chimed in my youngest. I’m not particularly excited myself, I thought. It’s hard to let go of the joy you feel from vacation, from experiencing something new (location, activity), or anew (like reconnecting with family and friends). I had to remind myself several times over break to stay in the moment and not let my thoughts drift too far into what awaited for me to pick back up on January 3rd.

On Tuesday morning, we started getting back into our old schedule. While it would have been nice to sleep in later, or have free time to do what we wanted, there was a peace to getting back into our daily routine. I could even see my kids coming to the same conclusion as they started thinking about gifts they had received over break and how they couldn’t wait to show them off. There was anticipation over seeing friends they hadn’t seen in a few weeks. Tuesday morning was turning out to be not that bad.  While we had been dreading going back, the dread was wearing off.

“I know what will help,” my son shared as we were driving to school, “we should plan another trip!” The idea of getting to plan another vacation (even a short one) seemed to put us over the top — we were happy and January 3rd was going to be a fine day (and it was).

How do you help your child transition between something they are enjoying and something they dread?

Happy New Year!

The Return of the Pause Button. Thanks Summer!

What are your best memories of the last day of school? About summer vacation?

Memories flood back for me: the excitement of the last day, field day activities, leaving school, starting swim team practice, riding bikes and hanging out with my friends. My kids are excited about school being over and things being more relaxed. There always seems to be a flurry of activity leading up to the end of school, it can be overwhelming to any parent trying to keep it all straight. I always take a deep breath and think ah, we made it when I pick up my kids on the last day of school.

We’re looking forward to warmer weather, more sunshine, and time to rest and just be. In our fast paced world, we sometimes need to hit the pause button. Summer is the pause button for our family.

How do you and your family relax during summer break?

I will be taking some time off to relax with family over the holidays and will be back in July. Happy Fourth!

Hawaiian Rainbow

Have you ever sang a silly song with your child?

My son was in a music concert a few months ago. His class sang the song, “Hawaiian Rainbow.” It had a catchy tune, and told my son when he was finished, “We’re going to sing this song the next time we see a rainbow!” He looked at me like, oh, mom!

Sure enough when we were on Spring Break, we saw a rainbow and I burst into song, only I couldn’t remember the lyrics, so I improvised.

Here is how the song is supposed to go:

Hawaiian rainbows white clouds roll by
I see your colors against the sky
Hawaiian rainbows it seems to me
Come from the mountains down to the sea

And here is how I sang it:

Hawaiian rainbows white clouds roll by
You show your colors against the sky
Hawaiian rainbows it seems to me
That I’ve got two boys who are very wiggly

My boys squealed with delight. “Mom, that’s not how the song goes!” “It isn’t?,” I protested. They knew I was kidding. That was the beginning of singing Hawaiian Rainbow numerous times over the next several days. Every time getting the lyrics just slightly wrong. It always made us laugh, and it made the trip that much more memorable and enjoyable. I know I’ll think of it every time I see a rainbow.

How do you make your family trips more memorable?

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.

Spring Breakin’

How are you recharging your batteries during Spring Break?

I look forward to Spring each year. Not only do we exit the cold weather months, and have all the lovely Spring colors, but it’s the entry point for many of us into vacation time. After many months of working hard, we finally start to think about taking a break; doing something out of the ordinary; maybe even going someplace different or new. There’s something about planning a vacation that’s so much fun–having something to look forward to can do wonders when you are tired or in need of a change from the daily grind.

Camping trips, visits with family, fun with the kids are all on the horizon. I anxiously await when our next trip will be: whether it’s a long weekend or more time away.

How are you and your family breaking away from the ordinary to enjoy yourself?

Relax and Rest, Repeat

How are you relaxing this summer? Have you been able to get away on vacation, or find some ways to rest at home?

The school year always feels like a busy time. There is always something to plan for, something to remember to have your child bring, or not bring. It seems like you always have to be somewhere (and you have to remember where, because it changes). And there are always lots of activities: after school activities, homework, etc. It’s enough to make anyone long for the summer break. But summers don’t seem as relaxing as I remember them.

When I was a kid, I couldn’t wait for the summer and the time off. Summer meant swim team practice, riding bikes with my friends in the neighbor and playing at each other’s house. Summer took on a different meeting when I entered the workforce. The long stretches of time off went away and were replaced with 8+ hours/day of work with an occasional vacation day sprinkled in.

As a parent, there never seems to be enough time off. There are the demands of the job, and getting your child to where they need to be (camps, friends, etc.). Taking time off to spend it together as a family is something we do each summer: taking a trip to visit family and seeing different parts of the country. There never seem to be enough vacation days or time to do all the things we’d like to do. And there never seems like there is enough time to rest.

I was reminded by the directions on a shampoo bottle, that I might need to re-tweak my formula for how to spend my time during the summer. The shampoo direction said, “Lather. Rinse. Repeat.” I thought, they are onto something here…it’s simple to follow and yields results. My new phrase for how I spend my summer time is: Rest. Relax. Repeat. It will take some effort on my part, but the summer is a great time to enjoy the good things going on in your life: the warm weather, your family’s health and all the great adventures we can have at home and wherever we spend our time off.

How will you spend your summer? How do you rest and relax during this time of the year?

Speaking of resting…I’ll be taking a break from writing for the next few weeks and will return following the Labor Day weekend. Enjoy the rest of your summer!

Sum-Sum-Summertime

We have officially entered summertime. School is out, the weather is warming and thoughts of vacation are top of mind. There is a lot to look forward to.

I heard Surfing U.S.A. by the Beach Boys playing on television this past week. It took me back to my childhood, reminding me of all the memorable songs I associated with summer vacation and enjoyed during the summer months. The images it brought up were so vivid, and good:  BBQs, fireworks, trips (camping, or traveling by car or air) to spend time with family and friends. The memories remain strong, much like Christmas or holiday memories, I crave to have new memories as good as the past, maybe even better. But there’s no guarantee of that, and all I can do is look for the opportunities to enjoy the summer and actually enjoy them.

It shouldn’t be so hard, especially if I’m humming or singing a little tune. Summertime, summertime, sum-sum-summertime, summertime.

How do you plan to enjoy the summer with you family?