Reducing Computer Time…Again

We’re conducting an experiment in our house…we’re reducing the kids’ computer time significantly.

Over the summer, things got out of hand. I was working a part time job from my home, and the kids had to be quiet for about 6 hours a day, 3 days a week. Add to that weekends, and having a mom that can’t drive (so can’t run them all over town), and we had a summer in front of the screen. Keep in mind my kids are 11 and 15. It’s harder to keep that age away from the technology. It’s their life! Especially for one of the kids…the teenager.

Then came the start of school, and their “screen time schedule” got uprooted. What?! Go to school for 7 hours a day or more?! That’s insane! What are the schools thinking demanding that of my poor kids! (Please note my sarcasm).

So, after first quarter grades came out…the hammer came down!

I should add that, though not catastrophic, the grades just weren’t up to the standards we require.

It seemed as if there was very little homework, or that it had “magically” gotten done in class at school. Yeah, well…my parents never believed that and neither do I.

The new rules are that no one goes on the computer, except for school-related homework or projects, until after dinner. Which, depending on the evening schedule, doesn’t leave a lot of time.

It’s only been a week, but already I see improvement. Kids aren’t exhibiting as much stress, they aren’t rushing through homework to get to their computer time, and they are all around nicer to be around. They even TALK TO ME now.

We are also re-instituting “family game night.”

I can tell you that this initially did NOT go over well with them. There was a lot of groaning and eye-rolling (again, mostly from the older one). But then I explained that I didn’t want the only time I talked to them to be “do your homework,” “come eat dinner,” “go take a shower,” and “get up for school!”

They, of course, disagreed that this was occurring, until I pointed out that by the time I get home from work, they have already done their homework (so they said), and had already gotten on the computer. Then I made dinner, they stopped the computer long enough to eat together (all of 20 minutes, if I was lucky), then go take showers and go back to the computer, then off to bed! No words! No talking! If I didn’t get them to talk between bites of food at the dinner table, we just didn’t talk!

As I’m writing this, it occurs to me how much judgment I am probably incurring from many parents reading this. I get it. But we all mess up. We all get lazy sometimes. And after working a full day (which I haven’t done for 15 years) I’ll admit it…I was tired! I almost welcomed the quiet. But it wasn’t good for any of us.

So, we’ll see how it goes. I’ll write a follow-up post to this in a few months. Hopefully, we won’t have gotten lost and fallen back into our old pattern. Hopefully, the semester grades will be stunning! Hopefully, we’ll even enjoy talking to each other.

What’s your rule for computer/technology use during the school year? Are you able to stay consistent?

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Too Tired

I just started a new job. For the first time in 15 years (since I had kids), I’m re-joining the full-time-employed.

It’s only been a week since I started. I’m not digging ditches, or building buildings, and I’m not a machinist or even an iron worker. All of which I have mad respect for. Heck, I’m not even waiting tables (also, mad respect).

But MAN, AM I POOPED!

Crazy, right?

Apparently, years of working a part time desk job out of my home, and being a SAHM has taken a toll on my stamina. That, and well…I’m 15 years older than the last time I worked full time.

But I love it! I’ve missed the independence and sense of accomplishment at the end of the day.

It’s a huge adjustment for the whole family…especially for my kids. And my husband too, but he’s a big boy, he can handle it.

My kids are suddenly going to have to take more responsibility, and it’s about time. So far, they’ve responded well. They’ve done their dishes, and done their homework without me (as much as they could), but it’s only been a week.

I wrote a post some time ago about trying to teach my kids basic life skills. I must admit, I didn’t do as well with following through as I wanted to. But maybe that’s about to change.

My husband could de-bone a chicken and have dinner in the oven before his parents got home from work by the time he was 11 years old, so they should be able to do it too, right? Hey, a girl can dream.

I think I’ve sold my kids short by not giving them opportunities to prove to themselves that they can do things on their own. I know they can do it, now THEY need to know they can do it.

I know once I get a rhythm going, I’ll feel much better, and have more energy (at least I hope I will), but for now…I’m tired.

It feels great to feel like I’m part of something again. Please understand, I’m not criticizing SAHMs at all. Everyone needs to choose what’s right for them. As I said, I stayed home for 15 years to be with my kids, and I don’t regret a moment of it.

It’s just time for a new Chapter.

It’s now 8:15pm…is it too early to go to bed? LOL

Who Knew I Was A Cool Parent?

Most of the time, I feel like a dinosaur.

I still own a flip phone (my friend tells me I should donate it to the Smithsonian), I prefer talking rather than texting, I don’t drive a car (they won’t let epileptics have a license – with good reason), I’m always at least one season behind in styles and technology.

I even parent in an old-fashioned style: my kids don’t have cell phones (ages 11 & 15 – though the 15 yr old will probably get one this year), they don’t have ipads, or the latest in fashions either.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, we live in a relatively wealthy area, but we aren’t wealthy. My husband and I joke all the time that we’re bring the property values down. My kids probably won’t go to Ivy League schools, like many of their classmates, unless they get a full ride scholarship. They don’t get to join every club and every sport around…it just isn’t affordable. And I’ve always felt a little guilty about that…not enough to keep me awake at night, but enough for it to bother me.

I am not the definition of a “cool mom.”

So, when my daughter had a friend spend the night this weekend, she “allowed” me to hang out with them. Actually, I told her that she could have a friend over, but that I wasn’t going to go hide in the bedroom, and be pushed out of the living room, so that she and her friend could take over the TV and the living room.

It was one of the few chances I got to talk to her and her friend. Since I don’t drive, I miss out on eaves-dropping on their conversations while running them from place to place. As we sat on the couch, channel surfing, I tried not to insert myself into their conversation, unless I was invited. I even waited until the next day for my daughter to explain some of the slang they were using, including one term that in my generation (GenX) meant something completely different than it does now.

My daughter has told her father and I that she tells her friends that her parents are “cool.” Truthfully, I thought she was just giving us lip-service for the next time she screws up. But even her friend mentioned that she heard we were “cool.” (Unless her friend is in on the scheme – but I’m choosing to believe that’s not the case).

Apparently, my husband and I have decent taste in music, and that scores big points. And I guess it helps that my husband is a gamer, and the two of them can talk for hours about RPGs and stuff like that. I have always been a little jealous of that.

I guess it’s nice to be “cool” in your kids’ eyes. I mean, we all say it doesn’t matter, and we’re the parent and not their friend. But I think it does matter to us that they like us. Hopefully, they’ll like us enough to come to us with the hard questions, and the hard problems of life.

Who knows how much longer I’ll be “cool.” I’d better enjoy it while I can.

Summer is Near the End…and it’s Mayhem!

It’s nearing the end of summer, only a couple weeks until school starts again.

And it seems that ALL the rules have been thrown out of the window:

  1. Bedtimes don’t exist.
  2. Mealtimes are never on schedule, if cooked at all.
  3. Kids have stopped following any rules.
  4. I seem to have lost all most of my authority.
  5. Being active is non-existent, partly because it’s either hotter than blazes or it’s pouring rain.
  6. The kids are torn between being excited to go back to school to see friends, or dreading having to go back to school because…well…it’s school.
  7. Screen time limits seemed to have run a muck.
  8. Fighting has reached an all time high.
  9. Beds aren’t made and laundry isn’t done.
  10. And Mom is just plain tired.

The only ray of hope left was back to school shopping, and the thought of a new wardrobe. But even that had to be pushed back a week because the car needed a new set of tires!

So, we are counting the days, until life goes back to normal.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned this summer is that our family NEEDS a schedule. Otherwise, we run wild when left to our own devices.

Anybody else ready for school to start again?

Mom goes to her first Comic Convention

I live in a house full of nerds. Subjects like comic books, video gaming, anime, CosPlay, D&D, and RPG are part of the norm…for them, but not for me.

I love my nerds and all the “nerdiness” that surrounds them And I stay just on the outskirts of Nerd-dom looking in. They don’t leave me out, at least not on purpose, I’ve just never found that stuff interesting. It’s not “my thing.”

But we had a local, small venue ‘Con (Comic book convention), so I agreed to go. I had a pretty good idea what was involved, but I wanted my kids to see that I was interested in something they love…or at least participate in it. If nothing else, it meant we’d get out of the house and spend some family time together, without them groaning about it.

My daughter dressed up as Trafalgar Law from One Piece and her little brother went as Law’s sidekick, Tony Chopper.

The Con was fun entertaining. I was most impressed with the artists who had booths and were selling their prints. I can appreciate their talent. I want to give a shout out to Sam Ellis – designer and illustrator for Adventure Time, Archer and Catbug to name a few. My son is a fan of Catbug, but Sam didn’t have any Catbug prints with him to buy. So, Mr. Ellis drew a quick doodle of Catbug and signed it for my son. An original! How awesome is that for anyone, let alone an 11-year-old boy!

It was fun for the kids (and me) to get to talk to illustrators and writers of some their favorite comics, up close and personal.

And then there were the costumes. Fortunately, I had my husband with me to tell me who a lot of the costumes were, since I’m not versed in the Comic world. Again, a lot of talent, which I can appreciate, being a bit of a seamstress myself. And the creativity. Not just in the actual creation of the costumes, but in the hybrid costumes as well: Steampunk Mario & Luigi, a Victorian version of the Tardis from Dr. Who, to name a few. Their vision was fascinating.

Though my teenage daughter found it overall boring and too small (she’s been to much larger Cons), it was the perfect “Starter-Con” for me and my son.

Will I go back next year? That’s debatable. It may be sort of a one and done thing for me. But the rest of my brood will, no doubt, get dressed up and go again next year. My daughter has already started planning her costume for next time.

But at least I got to spend some much-needed time with the family. And the kids hung out with us, so long as we followed along behind. I can’t ask for more than that.

What Happened to Life Skills?

I worry about my kids’ generation’s life skills.

Because of technology, our kids are far more advanced technologically speaking than we were at their age, it’s true. AND KUDOS TO THEM. Where we had to show our mom’s how to program the VCR, they are downloading apps, and writing code by the time they’re 10 years old.

But it’s the basic “life skills” that worry me.

I was the generation of “latch key kids.” Basic “life skills” were, at least, a matter of necessity, and at most, a matter of survival.

My husband was getting dinner prepped and could de-bone a chicken by the time he was 10 years old. We could use knives, and the toaster, even the stove at a much younger age than many of our children do.

We used the phone (landline, that is) and called our friend’s houses to arrange our OWN “playdates” (we didn’t have a name for it back then). I had probably a dozen phone numbers memorized in my head, not programmed into the phone, by the time I was 7. I can still remember a few of them to this day. And we had to talk to their parents when we called and ask politely to speak with our friends.

We also knew how to take a proper message and write it down, and to screen a call to be able to tell if it was stranger or friend calling. We didn’t have “caller ID” to screen our calls. The only thing “programmed” was our ability to ALWAYS tell whoever was calling that our parent(s) was “busy” and NEVER tell the person calling that our parent(s) wasn’t home.

My generation was handling money (of the paper and coin persuasion) at a very early age too. I lived in the boondocks, but my husband lived where he could walk to the nearest liquor store with a friend and buy candy or bubble gum or a comic book, give the clerk the right money and get back the right change.

We all had jobs by the time we were 16, some of us were even younger. If we didn’t work at the mall or a fast food restaurant, we pulled weeds for neighbors, or mowed the lawn for the old lady down the street. We learned responsibility.

Some of us had paper routes, much to our parent’s chagrin, where we folded and banded the papers, and on rainy days stuffed them in plastic bags. And we were responsible if someone didn’t get their paper, because WE got a call telling us so. But that rarely happened, because we didn’t want to get back on our bike or incur the wrath of mom or dad who had to drive us to go back out to deliver the lone paper, especially in the rain.

I worry that this generation doesn’t have those skills, just as I’m sure my parent’s generation said the same thing about us. I know it’s our responsibility to teach them, but here’s the thing: Unless they get a chance to PRACTICE THEM OVER AND OVER ON A REGULAR BASIS, they will always be a little bit hesitant, or worse, over-confidant, and THINK they know what they’re doing when in actuality they only know a fraction of what they should.

The thing is I don’t know where this mindset comes from that we tend to shield our kids from the world. We want to do everything for them, and it isn’t helping them at all. I’m guilty of it too.

This summer, is the summer of “Do It Yourself” at my house: your laundry, your lunch, your social arrangements with your friends (with permission of course), your dishes, your hygiene (I can’t even believe this one is an issue), your money management, and your time management.

So far, it’s going well. They feel more empowered. Of course, there’s still whining at times, but it’s working…I hope.

Please feel free to leave any suggestions for encouraging “life skills?”

As a side note: I had a hard time finding stock photos of kids doing any of the things I listed above.

Countdown to Summer

 

Three more weeks until Summer Vacation!

Most years I have some apprehension about summer vacation…and what to do with the kids. In years past, I would have already been planning out their summer, trying to come up with ideas to fill their days. But not this year.

I think I am almost as burnt out on school as they are (though they would disagree). I am so tired of checking the Parent Portal. I’m done nagging, ooops, I mean “encouraging,” them to do their homework and study for the that test. I’m tired of helping them study for a German vocabulary test that I will never use in my life.

I’m tired of the speeches that start with “I’m sorry you don’t like school, but…”

The truth? I’m not sure when you will ever need to prove the Alternate Segment Theorem of a Circle, or if the Quadradic Equation will ever save your life. Probably not. But you still have to learn it because you signed up for the class and you have to finish what you start. And yes, you have to pass the class too.

I’m tired of getting up at the crack of dawn and making lunches, being sure to cut the crust off of one sandwich, and that this one likes Cheetos, but this one doesn’t. Frankly I’m amazed that no one ever went without a lunch or was late for the bus all year long. (Albeit we still have 3 weeks left -there’s still a chance).

I’m tired of remembering everyone’s schedule, or buying a purple shirt and polka dot socks at the very last minute that they’ll never wear again just because it’s Twin Day tomorrow. And don’t get me started on money for last minute pizza parties or missing library books that are later found on another shelf at the school library.

I’m tired of arguing over taking a shower (yes…you have to do it). I’m done with arguing over what time to go to bed – you know you get cranky when you stay up too late. I don’t care if your friends stay up until midnight on a school night…I don’t stay up that late so neither do you.

Stick a fork in me…I’M DONE! #readyforsummer

I’m ready for sleeping until noon (okay, not me, I have to work), I’m ready for staying in pajamas until 3pm. And I won’t even criticize if they don’t brush their hair everyday – at least for the first few weeks of vacation.

They are finally at an age where I am stepping back a little. It’s time they start taking control of their own time and how they use it. Just don’t expect to spend 12 hours a day on the computer or the cell phone. That’s NEVER going to happen.

But let’s relax…go outside…eat dinner late…play outside after dark with friends…have water fights, and sleepovers…go to the library…go to the pool…sleep some more…stay up until midnight (just don’t expect me to stay up with you)…go to the movies in the middle of the week…skip breakfast…hang out with friends (in person, not on line)…

Summer is coming, and I’m ready this year!