One Step at a Time

How are you keeping your child busy during the summer?

Our summer is sprinkled with trips, camps and hanging out with friends. When our kids have time that isn’t scheduled, my husband and I feared our boys would be glued to the screen all day long, so we came up with a plan. We got the kids pedometers (very basic ones) and told them all screens go off at 10 a.m., and that they have to get 10,000 steps before any screens come back on. We empowered them to be creative in how they get their steps, but they have to get the steps in.

I was traveling the first few days my boys had to follow our plan. I called my sons at lunch to check in on them. “Did you get your steps in?” I asked. “Yea, Mom,” my oldest shared. “We walked around the park and then went to the coffee shop and got a snack.” They went to the park and then to the coffee shop, I thought. Okay — honestly I thought they’d stay around our house — the park isn’t far, but still. “Whose money did you use at the coffee shop?” I asked. I thought perhaps my husband had given them some money, but that was not the case. “We took our allowance,” he said. “Wow, okay. And you guys are doing okay?” I finished. “Yea, Mom, we’re fine.” We ended the call shortly after. I was impressed my boys had taken the initiative to not only find an interesting place to walk, but then had the forethought to bring their own money to get a snack.

The next day when I returned from my trip I checked in with them. “Where did you go today?” I asked. “We walked to the grocery store. We were out of a few things. We were a little short on money, so we couldn’t get everything we wanted,” my son finished. “Wow,” I responded. “You went to the grocery store?” My son piped in, “Yea, I felt pretty stupid that we didn’t have enough money, but we misunderstood one of the things Dad asked us to get.” Hmmm, okay, Dad sent you to the grocery store — I’ll have to talk to him about that, but clearly the kids were able to handle the challenge. “There is no reason to be embarrassed, “I told him, “it’s a great lesson to learn. That’s why it’s important to know how much money you have and budget for what you can afford.” I thought back to the previous day, “You didn’t want to go back to the park and the coffee store today?” “Nah,” my son said, “We figured we’d run out of our allowance soon if we went there all the time, so we’ll probably just go there every once in a while.” This is one of those moments where you think maybe we’re doing okay as a parent. I tentatively say that, because it only takes a smart remark or a roll of one of my sons eyes to remind me that parenting is a journey — and feeling like maybe we are doing some things right can be fleeting.

I’m glad my sons are getting out this summer and not just glued to the TV, computer or tablet all day long. I’m glad they are together and being creative in how they spend their time. I’m impressed by the adult things they are doing — buying things on their own, learning fiscal lessons they’ll remember in the future. It’s another step towards them being independent. We still have a ways to go, but I’m proud of the steps they are taking — literally.

How is your child showing you their independence?

I will be off for the next several weeks spending time with family and will return later in August.

Pokémon Go Will Save Us?

Are you competitive? Is your child?

I learned about competition when I joined my neighborhood swim team when I was in elementary school. It only took one meet for me to recognize that if I was going to enjoy being on the team I needed to be competitive. The transition from not being aware of the benefits of being competitive to understanding them was quick. By the next meet, I was in it to win it. I was going to swim my fastest, I wanted to win!

My oldest son has also embraced his competitive side. He enjoys sports and is always looking to try something new to test his skills and capabilities. He is passionate about winning and struggles with defeat.  I have questioned why we place such a high value on competition based on seeing the highs and lows my son has experienced, and I have in competitive situations.

I came across the documentary, I Am, several years ago thanks to Oprah.  Tom Shadyac was exploring happiness after experiencing great success (winning!) but not feeling happy. He invited scientists and other subject matter experts to explore the topic with him and the output was the documentary. One idea that emerged was that the long-term survival of species (ants, for example) depended largely on cooperation. In these species cooperation is highly valued and competition has low/no value. Being a competitive ant doesn’t serve the colony well. It would in fact, be counter to a colony’s survival. Humans still have a ways to go. Our children aspire to be elite athletics, movie starts, singer or someone ‘famous.’ Competition to be number 1 is still fierce, but what if cooperation became more highly valued and easy (or easier) to achieve?

My oldest son loves Pokémon Go. It’s become something he and I have connected over. We take walks together so he can play, and I play Pokémon Go when I travel so he and I can stay connected. He asked me to take him to a local park that is known for having lots of Pokémon. When we got to the park, I was amazed. There were literally hundreds of people–mainly kids but also teens and adults, of all shapes and sizes, colors and creeds–all working together to catch Pokémon. Pokémon present themselves to you on your device, if you and other Pokémon players are in the same location, it presents the same Pokémon to all, not a select few. So instead of people fighting over who is going to catch the Pokémon, everyone has an equal chance. It then becomes a matter of what technique you use (candy, great ball, ultimate ball, etc.) to catch the Pokémon. In the park, not only were the players sharing information about where the Pokémon were that they were finding, but what techniques they were using to catch the Pokémon so others could catch them to. It was cooperation at it’s finest. Observing everyone working together was really inspiring. While I was reluctant to embrace Pokémon Go when it first launched based on some of the initial press the game was getting, I’ve become a fan. And after seeing what I did at the park, I’m an even bigger fan. If something like this game can bring people together, just think of the possibilities for the human race.

Where have you seen people working together in an unexpected place? Where have you, or your child, found cooperation outdo competition?

Pokémon Go(ing for a Walk)

You’ve heard of the Pokémon Go craze, right? The game allows people to hunt for Pokémon in real life using their smart devices.

I learned about the craze early on. Not because I’m a super fan (though my oldest likes the card game and cartoons), or I’m generally in the know on these kinds of things, but because I happened to be in a store the Saturday following it’s launch and the person I was working with shared the news. “Have you seen people walking around outside that can’t look up from their phones? They’re playing Pokémon Go. It’s everywhere,” he shared. How true it was, people inside and outside the store literally couldn’t take their eyes off their phones.

After learning of this game, my son really wanted me to download it. I had my reservations (particularly since you have to turn on your phone’s camera and location-based services to play the game), and I wasn’t sure I wanted my son to play another video game where he was ultra-focused on the screen and not on his surroundings. Then the news stories started coming out — people using Pokémon Go to rob people (frightening), people walking off cliffs and driving their car into trees. There were lots of reasons to say “no” to my son, yet, I could see the appeal of the game for him. How cool would it be for a game you like to come to life? Pokémon Go is the closest I’ve ever seen. My husband and I discussed and decided our son could play Pokémon Go if he could follow certain rules. 1) Pokémon Go can only be done with one of us accompanying him and only for a limited amount of time each day, 2) He would have to look up from the phone when crossing the street, if he can’t, he’ll lose privileges for a day (and if he does this repetitively he’ll lose them for good), and 3) Pokémon Go will not dictate where we go. Our son agreed to our terms, and he began to play.

What I wasn’t expecting was all the walking. In order to catch Pokémon you have to find them out in the real world, which means you’ve got to move. It’s become a ritual for us each night to go for a walk around the neighborhood to find Pokémon. It actually is fun for all of us. We get to walk and enjoy the nicer weather, see new parts of the neighborhood (or local park) that we haven’t been to in a while, point out things going on around us, catch up on how our days were, and catch Pokémon. My husband and I have talked in the past about walking more after dinner but didn’t have anything that really motivated us to get out of the house. Pokémon Go is motivating the kids, which is motivating us. I never would have thought this game could bring us together the way it has, but am grateful for this very unexpected benefit.

What games (board, card, video, etc.) connect you and your family? How are you enjoying time together this summer?