When my kids were young, I was thrilled when the last day of school rolled around. After all, I wouldn’t have to wake up early and throw lunches together or run around trying to find a lost shoe or their half-finished homework. Mornings were going to be a breath of fresh air. I’d have my coffee and relax a little.
Then my kids became old enough to speak.
What are we doing today? Can I watch TV? Will you take me to my friend’s house? I want to go swimming! She got to watch her show already, I want to watch mine. Log me into the computer! Puhleease log me into the computer! Mama I want to play my game. When are we leaving this house?! Can you pick up my friend and bring him over? Why? When does camp start? When are we going? I’m hot. I’m hungry. I want a snack.
Or, my all-time favorite: I’m BORED!
One summer morning, when my two oldest were in grammar school, they started in with these kinds of questions and these questions soon turned into arguing with one another. They were tired of playing together so why not throw in a little MMA ringside action?
To make things worse, they woke the baby. Que the freakishly angry mom face…in her robe…without her coffee.
Instead of screaming and shouting, or tapping in to their MMA action, I decided I was done. I’d had enough. I mean I was seriously done.
At just shy of 7:30am I got their attention. “Get back to bed. We’ll start again tomorrow. I love you. Good night.” I walked each back into their bedrooms after telling them I’d bring them breakfast, lunch and dinner. “You’ll be dining alone today.”
Yep, I did a terrible awful thing and sent my kids back to bed 20 minutes after they woke up.
And, I don’t regret it.
I didn’t send them to Siberia–I sent them to their room for the rest of the morning, the rest of the afternoon and the rest of the evening. That place where they have their own bed and their own books and a bazillion other toys to keep them busy. Yeah, that’s where I sent them–all day long.
That terrible awful morning taught me a lot. Here’s the amazing part.
Within 30 minutes something magical started to happen. The same two kids who wanted to scratch each others eyes out like ferrell alley cats now yearned to be together. I’d peek down the hall to see them sitting in the doorway of their room, arms outstretched and trying to communicate to one another. More like whispering through a bull-horn, but it was cute nonetheless.
By the afternoon, squiggly notes were being written “in code” and tossed to one another. Loud whispers grew into hours of giggles. Their morning hatred of me was being replaced by an unbelievable love for one another. As a matter of fact, my oldest married girl saved one of the notes her little brother tossed her down the hall while incarcerated all those years ago. (I just love that.)
So, mom, if you’re wondering what to do to fill your kids time, I say don’t.
Let yourself off the hook. You don’t have to fill their every waking minute. And, please, STOP reading Pinterest articles about the 10,000 perfect things perfectly perfect moms do with their perfectly perfect kids in the summer. For the love of monkeys–just love your kids. Do what makes YOU happy. Because when you’re happy your kids are happy.
If you are happy going to the library, then take them to the library. If it makes you feel joy to garden in the backyard, then garden in the backyard, kids can lend a hand–or go to Siberia. If it’s packing a lunch and throwing a blanket in the backyard for a homegrown picnic, then do it! Or, do the unthinkable, unimaginable, and insane thing. Stay in the house and send them outside.
Kids have been playing for thousands of years without any assistance from iPads or television. They can figure things out. Don’t you dare shrink back when they flip a lid. The angrier they are – the more they need to unplug. Remember, you’re NOT their summertime social director. That’s not part of a mom’s job description.
Now, go and turn up your favorite music to drown out those kids raising holy hell and demanding to come back in.
Then enjoy that cup of coffee.
Joanne Kraft is the mom of four almost-grown people and the author of The Mean Mom’s Guide to Raising Great Kids