Cutting the Cord on the Electronic Babysitter; Family Bonding is Better by Heidi Baxley
Babysitter for Hire: Will Work for Free!
Do you need a babysitter? Well look no further than Stevie McScreenface. I’ll keep those kids placated, entertained, and quiet for hours. Did I mention quiet? Soooo blissfully quiet. Now I’ll just need you to ignore the information regarding a link between time spent staring at me during their formative years, and depression. But just think of all the character I’ll help them build... That is, if they make it through my grueling social media course. Oh, and as a bonus I’ll do my best to stamp things like social etiquette and empathy out of them, because well-adjusted, caring members of society are just the worst, right? Well, I’m available for the position. Ready to hire me?
No? I should hope not!
I think we can all agree that none of us would hire a child care provider like that, and yet, this is essentially who is raising our children when they are placed in front of a screen for a large portion of time during some of the most crucial developmental years in their lives. The internet and technology are amazing tools that have enriched and enhanced our lives. But they are just that, “tools”. They have to be used correctly and on the right task. Our children will never know the struggle that was homework pre-Google. I sound like the old man walking both ways uphill when I regale them with tales of what going to the library and flipping through encyclopedias was like. But, this new way of sharing information has also exposed our children to an unfiltered view of the world. Please understand, this isn’t an attack, but rather, a warning cry and a call to action.
I am, and have been, guilty of the above more often than not. Dudes, I get it. Parenting is super hard. Grown-upping is super hard. Now combine both...insanity. I have two kids and sometimes at the end of the work day it’s all I can do to shove a warm meal in front of them and grunt. We’ve had to work harder and longer, many of us at multiple jobs, to make things go as far as previous generations. It is often a struggle to try and put together family time at the end of a long day, especially with how expensive family outings can be, or as much complaining as our kids do. Take a deep breath. Rome wasn’t built in a day. A journey of a thousand miles. Or, insert whatever cliché inspirational metaphor you like. The important part is, you start. This can be done! You are mighty! You are a parent!
Our children are desperate to spend time with us. Now I know this, more often than not, doesn’t appear to be the case. But they are. Starting something new and making a change in your family routine is the most challenging part but if you make it through, then the reward is worth it. Don’t think you have to go 0 to 60. Take it slow. Build up to it. You wouldn’t hit the gym for the first time and try all of the equipment at max settings, would you? There is also no set amount of time or frequency. Start small and increase as you get used to it. There is no right or wrong. Maybe, you start every two weeks. Maybe once a week. The important part is that you do. Find what works with your family’s needs and schedules. You make the rules. We have a tendency to want to dive right in and keep up with the Jones’ and when it all comes crashing down we give up. I’m guilty of this too. My own kids typically start each family activity by whining like we’ve just told them we’re shipping them overseas to work in a chocolate factory for a living. But once we’re spending the time together and they see that we genuinely want to be doing whatever it is we’re doing, the transformation in their attitudes is nothing short of miraculous.
And speaking of miracles, you don’t need old money levels of inheritance to have a good time or to spend quality time together as a family either. There is a tendency to think that the more money we spend the better the time. I’m guilty of this one too. I was unprepared for how much a family outing sets you back. Movies? For a family of four you’re lucky at $60.00. Don’t even get me started on the black-market organ selling levels of cash you need for a theme park. This only exponentially increases when you add more to the family. And they rarely seem to appreciate the small fortune you just dropped on this together time. Now, that’s not to say those types of activities are bad and can’t be great but they are just one of the many options available to a family. Just like the schedule, there are choices and you are free to find what works best for yours. One of our family’s favorite activities is glow-stick tag. It involves less than five-dollars’ worth of glow sticks from the dollar store, a relatively obstruction free home, no lights, and a lot of fun.
Remember the big scary technology mentioned above? Here is an application that it excels at. If you have a device, the Google (or whatever search engine you prefer), and some imagination, the possibilities for family time, in the immortal words of Buzz Lightyear, reach “to infinity...and beyond!” You can even turn these family times into learning experiences. And the best part is they don’t even realize that the activity is educational. Because, at least in my experience, they tend to react like vampires who’ve just been exposed to holy water. Here’s an example: you give each family member a very limited budget and task them with selecting and preparing an item for the family’s evening meal. Granted, this will result in dinner being like something from the tea party in Alice in Wonderland but the tradeoff is worth it. They learn about budgeting, an appreciation for the cost of things, and meal preparation. Oh, and there is that whole mushy family togetherness thing. Because that’s what is really important and did you know kids who regularly eat meals with their family (at least five times per week) are 33% less likely to use alcohol? It’s true.
What really matters is that you spend time together as a family. The what and the cost don’t matter. It’s going to be a challenge. It’s going to be a struggle. You’re going to fail more often than you succeed. But the point is that you keep trying. You want what is best for your family and your children. And what’s best for your family is togetherness. And what’s best for your children is you. Do what you can as often as you can. You can do this. Because if you don’t then who will? Remember, you are a parent! Remember, you are empowered! For more information on the importance of bonding with your family visit www.parentsempowered.org.
By Heidi Baxley