Monday, July 7, 2014

The Gifts I Intend to Give My Kids This Summer

"Get out of my house," I said very seriously and sternly.  He had been harassing me since his feet hit the floor that morning with an incessant demand to be entertained and served.  His entitlement was saturated with disrespect and I had had enough.  His blank stare told me he was taken back and confused by my instruction, so I told him to go get shorts on and play outside until lunch was ready.

The whine came immediately and it took every ounce of self control I could muster to walk over to the back door, open it, and silently point to the back yard. "Go," I repeated.

He has the misconception that it is my job to keep him entertained.  As a stay at home mom, I give him a lot of attention, but there comes a point when a child needs to be stretched.  What I want to give my kids most this summer is not an expensive vacation or a membership to the Y.  What I want to give them is Independence and Imagination.

I cannot allow the TV, Wii, or Nabi to fabricate brain activity for my kids.  I will not allow them to survive the summer on a steady screen diet of Dora the Explorer.  In fact, I don't want to hear Dora call the Map until at least September.  There will be days that I will have to fight to keep the TV off all day, but fight I will.  Because I want to see my kids hide out in the sunflower garden and pretend they are on a safari.  I want them to make sock puppets, have a race, and make an intricate city out of legos.  Dirt, sweat, and the occasional not-such-a-big-deal bruise are what make life memorable.

Our kids won't remember their favorite episode of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.  They will remember jumping from the top of the slide and feeling like Superman.  They will remember the smell of fresh cut grass and how there was more grass in the baby pool than water.  They will remember squishing mud between their toes.

They also don't need me holding their hand while they do it.  The mind grows when you encounter a problem you have to work to unpack.  If I rush in at every adversity, when will they learn to problem solve?  For the girls, it could be figuring out how to successfully climb in and out of the baby pool without having me right there at their elbow.  For Jonah, it could be figuring out how to get that pack of bubbles open instead of having me lay out every bubble wand and tray for him in traditional OCD fashion.

My children are not old enough to be left unattended, but there is a difference between protecting and smothering.  I have a tendency to stretch "mother" into "smother."  So this summer I will be making a conscious effort to contribute to their Independence and Imagination.  The foundations we set today give them a steady foothold to becoming resourceful and creative adults tomorrow.

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