Wednesday, July 9, 2014
I swore that this summer would be different.
Last summer was really hard, but I had learned from my mistakes and vowed things wouldn't get out of hand. I was going to take the kids on a fun outing every morning, make them a healthy picnic lunch, and eat happily on a blanket outdoors. I bought a big stack of activities and workbooks from the dollar store to keep my oldest daughter quietly occupied while her sister napped, and then we would play outside for the rest of the day. It wouldn't just be effortless, it would be fun!
The last week of school my oldest daughter got really sick, so instead of spending those last precious days of freedom preparing for the upcoming months, I was washing barfy laundry and tending to a feverish child. Then the first day of holidays our basement flooded in two places- one with rainwater, one with sewage. My first day home alone with the kids our dishwasher broke. And then to top it off, I got sick with whatever my daughter had the week before, only I couldn't lay in my bed and recover the way she had, I had to drag myself around to make sure they didn't hurt themselves (which they did anyway).
Despite the best intentions, I was not following through. Instead of fun outings and picnics, my kids were eating potato chips for breakfast while watching Dora as I frantically tried to bail water out of our dishwasher or drag all of our possessions out of the basement before they were destroyed. Some days we didn't even leave the house, despite the shining sun and hyperactive children.
And oh, how social media made it worse, by reminding me of how much I was failing while everyone else was having a great time. "Look, we're having a fun day at the pool!" "We're doing crafts!" "We're on a bonding shopping trip!" "We're berry picking!" "We're baking!"
But after a few days, something strange happened. My children, out of sheer necessity, learned how to entertain themselves. Aside from keeping them fed, I really couldn't be at their beck and call, and told them so. They squawked at first, but eventually gave up and found something fun to do. Unless something was brand new, I don't think I have ever seen them so intently engaged in their toys before. Instead of just picking things up and tossing them moments later, they got involved. They colored several pictures rather than scribbling once and abandoning it. They played with each other. They stopped looking to me to take away their boredom.
When things were going well, we had fun together. I took my oldest hiking and on a picnic one morning while my youngest was at daycare for a few hours. We made a day trip up to a friend's cottage on Sunday to swim and canoe in the lake. We had a BBQ with friends, we went to their cousin's birthday party and one afternoon I took my eldest to the carnival to for unlimited rides. Both the kids and I had plenty of excitement when it flowed naturally, and we enjoyed it all the more for the rough days in between it all.
All of this has taught me that I am not, and shouldn't be my children's daily entertainment director. Yes I like to play with them, and I like to take them places, but on an ordinary day it shouldn't be a requirement. If I need a day to catch up on housework, or lay around being sick, or even just read a book because I want to, my children should not go crazy with boredom in a house full of toys with a backyard full of playground equipment because I haven't planned anything specific for them to do.
Creativity is often born out of boredom, and kids in this generation rarely get a chance to even brush the surface of it. The other day while I was upstairs doing something else, my daughter started drawing faces with her noodles, because she was left alone with her thoughts long enough to come up with the idea.
I am hoping that things run a lot more smoothly for the remainder of the summer, but at least I know now that if things go awry, my kids can handle it. If they don't goes as planned, the skills are still there, and that means my job just got a whole lot easier.