Today is my baby’s birthday. And I was lying in bed at the wee hours of the morning (where I do all my best thinking when I’m not in the bathroom) and I was thinking about what kind of upbringing he and the other two are getting.
I was reminded of a show my mother- in-law told me about called something like, ‘The Lost Joy of Childhood.’ I can’t remember if those are the exact words, and I would attach a link to some information for the show, but of course being a technological-butt-head, I can’t figure that out (let alone find the show on the net)!! And while I didn’t catch the first half of the show, which she said was the best part, I did see the last bit where they talked about how important play is for children, etc., etc and I did find it very interesting.
We’re not talking about video games and TV here. And I think pretty much all parents know that screen time isn’t the best thing for a kid anyway. But I just gotta say, whoever said don’t use your TV as a babysitter didn’t have kids!
And it is a powerful tool in our house. I like to think of my kids as pitching in around here because they’re part of the family and respect our home and want it to look nice once in a blue moon and just get their chores done without complaining. But that doesn’t happen in this household. If you want video game time (which is limited to 30 min. a day during the week), you better get your homework done. And if there’s laundry on your bed, I want it put away. On the weekends you’d better be helping out with sweeping and dusting and cleaning up all those toys you don’t play with in the playroom. Oh yah, and the popcorn you spilled on the floor during our movie night. And brush your teeth because lord knows that’s the only thing that will get the toothbrush in your mouth. And if you are still wearing PJs at 11 in the morning, video games are lost to you until clothes are on your boy frame.
And once all my wishes are fulfilled, and the mean old ogre is appeased, they disappear. And sometimes when they’re really good or if it’s the weekend – or I’m just really busy and need extra time to clean up the rest of the crap in the house – they play for longer.
I digress. I really didn’t want to talk about video games and my children’s’ addiction to it. But it is great currency in our household. At least for two of them. The other one is obsessed with Lego. And that I love. This is more of what I’m talking about here.
The first part of that show I was talking about oh so long ago focused on how kids don’t have the luxury we used to have as kids. Such as heading outside, playing all day in the yard and in the street, heading to your friends and basically not coming home until your mom was yelling at you that it was dinner time.
Now we live on a quiet cul-de-sac and the exact reason we bought on a quiet street was so the kids could play out there like I used to as a kid.
But it’s different now. I’m on the paranoid-parent-team. I’m a typical parent listening to reports of child abduction and abuse and car accidents and dog bites and bullying all that stuff bombarding me in the paper and on TV everyday where I’m scared to let my kids out of my sight for five minutes.
Unless they’re misbehaving.
Then go away for longer, kids, mommy needs a rest!
But seriously, I think the only time they go riding on a bike by themselves is just around this block. In a circle. Over and over. Thrilling.
Is it really that bad in this neighbourhood? It’s not like the people around here are packing heat and there are chicken wire fences everywhere and the sirens go off all times of the night.
Am I overreacting? I think so.
When do I loosen the apron strings? Then again, I have three boys under the age of ten. Should the strings really be that loose?
That’s why I’m so glad we have our camping site. These guys might be shackled to us during the school year in terms of never really being out and about in the world without us being semi-close-by. But thank goodness for our camp site.
We go there as much as we can during the camping season. We were thinking about heading out for Easter weekend, but with the 10 cm of snow that fell yesterday and with more expected in the next week, Mommy is not going anywhere near that mudhole where we don’t have running water, electricity or plumbing. Great during the summer. Anything below zero degrees, not so much.
But when we are out there in the summer, the boys are gone. Gone!
Uh oh… I think I hear that choir of angels again in the distance… yep, I think that’s them! Sing it people – hallelujah! Amen, hallelujah, yadda yadda!
Yep. They are free, which means mommy is free…ish…
And each year, the older they get, the better it is. People used to tell me that it would improve down the road. This was when we camped with a baby, a toddler and a preschooler. I couldn’t see that far into the distance. I think I was probably too tired to even think straight at that time.
Back to camping. I see my boys for food and drinks. Otherwise most days they are on their bikes, playing, exploring – it is blissful to see these kids acting as boys and not worried about mom freaking out that they’re dirty or wild or loud.
And dare I say it? They have guns. We head to the wonderful dollar store close by and load up on cap guns (because they make that annoying loud sound that boys drool over and that drives every adult to drink buckets of frosty beer within a five mile radius!), and we get swords and any other weapon-like toys the boys can spot and they go off and play war and battle each other and create strategies and pick up stray kids and head to the park and take sides and fight and jump and run. It is awesome! We pick up glow sticks and water balloons and face paint and they go at it. On occasion I remember to bring walkie-talkies for these guys and then I can basically go a couple of days without seeing them! Okay, that was a bit of an exaggeration…
I’m so excited just writing this! I can’t wait for camping.
So why don’t we do that here? Isn’t it a bit more dangerous at the campsite? We have fires at the site. And gravel roads. And strangers absolutely everywhere outside of our little circle!
At home we have nicely paved roads – and paved alleyways. We know our neighbours on either side of us and while there aren’t any kids on our street, there are tonnes in the neighbourhood. And we live across the street from an adult-only complex. These people in their apartments are quite nosey I hear and are always watching the goings-on in this street. Which in my mind sounds like a mix of block parent/block watch, don’t you think?
And can’t they play with guns and such here? No, not really. I don’t pack guns to the soccer field and I don’t bring swords to the lake.
Of course the boys pick up sticks and start fighting each other with those. And sometimes I’m just mortified watching them fight with these deadly, sharp, pokey branches. What must the other moms think? What kind of wild children am I raising? Shouldn’t I be teaching love, not war?
I remember last year or maybe the year before I was at the lake with the boys and they had picked up sticks and were battling each other. It was an epic war. Serious stuff. They were entertained for quite a while making elaborate plans and different fight sequences.
And then a mom came over after watching her son join the group. She marched over to me and I thought, ‘oh crap, here we go. This broad is going to give me a hard time about my hooligan children playing swords when they should be quietly making sand castles instead’.
She came over and asked if those were my boys. I was tempted to say no. But I bucked up and said yep, they were. And she said it was so great to see boys being boys where they are allowed to play with swords and guns – because seriously, they’re going to do it anyway. Not all of them, but if they want to have a certain something in their game, their imagination will make it happen. It was so nice talking to someone else who thought the same way as I did. Let them play, let them do what comes naturally.
And I’m trying to loosen my grip on them. I don’t watch them constantly when they’re outside. I have to trust sooner or later that my almost-nine-year old has a brain in his head and will once in a while use it for good rather than evil and actually look both ways before crossing the street and maybe even keep an eye on his brothers once in a blue moon if they’re outside playing with him. Ditto for the other two, but maybe not to the same extent as the oldest child.
And I think I’m going to make a trip to the dollar store today. It’s supposed to be pretty nice weather this weekend and all that snow out there is just begging to be made into a fort. Some swords would go nicely with that whole scenario, I’m thinking…
But I’ll still keep an eye on them.