Why I Kicked My Kids Out Of The House
Today, I was the meanest mom in the world.
I kicked my kids out of the house.
My 6 and almost 9 year old, out - to the curb. Or the driveway. Or wherever was out the door.
We are nearly 4 weeks into summer vacation, and the kids have found a new routine at home that includes far too much "electronic time" (i.e. Netflix, Nintendo DS, computer games...). Even though we limit scheduled time, they slip in a show or a game here or there while I'm showering or folding laundry. My son even gets upset if he doesn't wake up before me because he likes watching t.v. before we get the day started.
I'm not happy with all of this, but I also am fine with them having some zone-out time. (The DS and computer games are often educational, but the t.v. shows they watch - including Transformers? Definitely "zone-out" time.)
This morning started the usual way - my husband off to work, the kids parked in front of the t.v. until I had breakfast ready. We went through our eating, dressing, brushing teeth. I did my yoga while they lurked ever closer to the t.v. ... like little vultures.
Eventually, I'd had it.
I sent them outside. No scheduled events or crafts waiting, no sprinkler set up for them to do out there - just kicked them out. I grew up in a time where we spent almost every summer day outside, coming up with random games and tents and shows. I trust that my kids have at least half the imagination that I did during that time.
I went in my room to do just 10 minutes of meditation and, during that time, heard them sneaking back in. When my final chime rung, I walked quietly out to the living room where my son was trying to sneak the laptop lid shut. (The "DONG" noise the computer makes when it is turning off gave him away.)
I once again told them that unless they were hurt, had to pee, or needed water, they were to get out and stay out. Reluctantly, both kids headed back outside. (Can you even imagine? Kids, not wanting to play outside? Sad.)
I went to take my shower and, sure enough, by the time I was done, both kids are back in the house. They are now at least in their rooms, sans electronics, using their imaginations to create alleyways for cars and choosing colors to draw dragons.
I didn't write this for parenting advice. I'll keep screwing up my kids in my own way, thanks - just like my parents thankfully did for me, and their parents did for them.
I didn't write it to complain. I'm actually feeling quite blessed at the way my life - and their lives - are going.
I write this because it boggles my mind (and frightens me a bit) how much my kids are like me. When left to their own imaginations, they aren't quite sure what to do. The computer (for me, Facebook) is a quick answer that takes us out of that void.
When given a reason (either kicked out by a mean mom or encouraged by a class assignment), we can tap into a deeply creative source.
We become excited once again about the possibilities that the day holds and interested in exploring what is presented to us in this moment.
I do not control my children, nor do I want to. They will often choose electronics just like I will often choose Facebook. There is value in those choices! What I do not want any of us to do is to choose these things unconsciously, that is, without full awareness of our other choices and the possible consequences of a decision or non-decision.
When I tell the kids to go outside, or present them with a random time of unstructured activity (no trips to the library, no electronics, just....this), I invite them into their own minds. I ask them to decide for themselves what they will do - not what someone else is telling them needs to be done. No parent telling them where to go, no flashing game telling them which button to press, no t.v. character lulling them into another story.
Once again, I'm not looking for celebrations or criticism of my parenting methods or reasons. I write this for me....and for you.
How often do we kick ourselves out of the house?
How often do we present ourselves with random, unstructured time...with no electronics nearby?
How often do we enter our own minds and, as much as possible, do with our time what our imagination leads us to do, not what someone or something else has told us needs to be done?
Perhaps more importantly, how often are we present for whatever it is that we are doing - structured time or not - and creatively and consciously engaged with what is happening?
It is something rather important for us to consider.