Tag Archives: screen time

My vision

Weekends are always nice, aren’t they? The pressure was off for a couple of days and it gave me some time to recharge.

This is week three and I’m thinking that it’s time to really kick it into gear. Despite having a plan each day and doing small things that are keeping us on track, I mostly feel like we’ve wasted the last two weeks. I recognized that this weekend when my very motivated husband finished installing the baseboards in our laundry room in a matter of hours.

I asked myself how whole days could go by with no visible accomplishments (besides my work, because that has to get done and nothing has really changed for me whether I’m working at the office or at home).

So, with the pending announcement from the school board that they are trying to set up ways to keep school going virtually, my goal this week is to get my kids back on track.

They’ve been doing some school work each day and keeping up with their reading and some writing projects they had, but I haven’t been good at keeping them focused on those things and I’ve been lenient about internet access and what they are doing on the internet (some math and logic games for sure, lots of chatting with friends , and watching lots of random YouTube videos). And I think the time they spend doing these screen activities is wearing them down.

So this morning we will have a meeting at 9:30 to discuss the new plan. On our whiteboard, I’ve outlined the rules for screens and the expectations for school work, chores and skill practice (soccer drills, rehearsing lines/songs for spring play).

The key to sticking to this plan is for me to set the right example and keep a cool head. My daily walk with help with that.

The next thing I have to do with my family is work out what our goal is for this time of social isolation. My vision is for us to come out the other side as a team who works hard and works together and treats each other with respect and understanding.

We’ve been a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of family since the beginning, with me holding us together by pure will and digital scheduling know-how. That might have worked when the kids were little and they couldn’t be responsible for themselves. But I felt like I was falling apart for many years.

At Christmas this year, on our way to my parent’s house, my husband asked if I was okay (I guess I looked shell shocked [I certainly felt shell shocked]). I jokingly replied that I felt like I was falling apart. He laughed and said that I couldn’t do that because I was the only thing holding us all together. It made me cry. He was right. And we’d all come to expect it. But I didn’t know how to do it any other way.

I’ve thought a lot about that little exchange since then and I’ve realized over and over again that nothing has changed…and nothing will unless I change.

And with the social isolation imposed by COVID-19, I might have that chance. The extras in our lives that were keeping me so busy and away from doing the hard work of changing have been subtracted from our lives. There is nothing but time right now to do that hard work.

I’ve been here before.

Some years ago, I had a surgery on my foot. I was as busy then as I am now, and I remember my doctor telling me that I would have to be off my feet for 4-6 months. I had a 5-year-old and an 8-year-old. I had put the surgery off for two years already, but I couldn’t put it off any longer. Leading up to the date of the surgery, my doctor told me that I should start giving up some of my activities so that after I had the surgery, I wouldn’t be hit with so much emptiness in my life at having nothing to do. There’s a huge component of mental health to consider when you take yourself out of the life you’re used to living.

So I started to remove myself from committees and volunteering activities, and I enrolled my kids in fewer after-school activities. In time, I got used to having down time and much less stress. When I got back on my feet months later, I was hesitant to take on much of anything because I had come to appreciate and value my time. Eventually, as the kids got older, they got involved in more things and, as a family, we’re back to being about as busy as we were before my surgery. I have a better perspective of it all now, though, and it doesn’t drag me down as much. That could be because my kids are older and are better at managing themselves, so I’m not quite so hands-on.

But I’m still the glue and we can still do better as a family to support each other. And that’s my vision: work better together, work harder and smarter to reach personal and family goals, and treat each other with respect and understanding.

This social isolation time feels like that pre-surgery time years ago: where there is an expectation of change, but no one really knows what that will look like yet.

Today, I start to sketch that out for me and for my family.

How are you feeling heading into week three?

Too much screen time, and learning to forgive

To recap Day 1: I was swamped with work. Both kids spent almost all day on screens.

Should I give up now?

But seriously, the day started off great. Both my kids were on board for the plan we’d made. We set up the laptop, downloaded Libby and a bunch of audiobooks on an old phone for my son, had breakfast, kind of cleaned up, then went through the folder of work sent home by my son’s teacher. (Throughout this, my daughter slept. We’re test driving the later start time she has been begging for, given her tween brain.)

Turns out my son has a great project to work on and a bunch of other fantastic suggestions from his teacher. I set him up with his Google Classroom on the laptop and he did some work on a bunch of stories he’d written at school over the last few months. I can see this being a great opportunity for him to go deeper with writing and developing ideas.

I got back to work (because I had tons to edit). When my daughter woke up, she told me her plan was to work on the COVID-19 assignment her teacher had provided before school let out. (I’m thinking it’s a little too much focus on the disease that’s keeping us all at home, but we’ll see.) She also planned to read all day.

I’ll say one thing, as I got busier, the kids got quieter. They both stayed on screens almost all day, either on phones to listen to audiobooks or music or to chat with friends (which, as my daughter has pointed out, is important right now because they can’t see their friends) or on the laptop to play math games.

I forgave myself at the end of the day for not directing their learning more and insisting on less screen time. We talked about it at dinner and we have new plans for today. Screens will be a last resort. (I’ve also changed the wifi password so that I at least feel more in control of the digital situation in the house.) If screens are needed, here are the resources I’ll be guiding them to:

How was your Day 1? What are your plans for Day 2?

Childhood freedom

When I was a kid, I had freedom. There were days full of riding my bike with the other kids in the neighbourhood, evenings full of hangin’ out at the park and lots of time to figure out who I was in relation to the crowd I hung out with.

That doesn’t happen anymore IRL. That is an online thing now, where kids create personas of who they want to be seen as among their peers.

This scares me. I know it’s not new. It has been going on for a while. But now that I have two kids entering those years where I want them to have freedom to discover who they are, I wonder how they’ll do that while all of their friends are glued to their phones to create digital personas of who they want to be.

It is becoming more difficult, despite my persistence, to let my kids experience freedom and independence when the world around them is inside and staring at a screen.

My kids and I have had many talks about the benefits of technology and its downside. They are exposed to tablets and phones (though not their own), and they know how to use the technology for productive purposes (and unproductive purposes, because there is really no avoiding it). But when the sun is shining and the outdoors are calling, they are outside and away from screens. They are 11.75 and 9.5. Screens will come in due time. The longer I can put them off them, the better.

But what of their friends? How does one free-range parent in an age of fearful parenting where all their friends are encouraged to sit inside and play on screens so that they don’t worry their parents with their whereabouts?

My method is to send my kids outside anyway in the hopes that they will run into some other kid(s) who might have like-minded parents. And so far I’ve been lucky. Turns out there are parents out there who share my views on childhood freedom and my kids are having a great summer hanging out with new friends in the neighbourhood.