School’s out in a couple of days for the kids. Which means having some kind of idea what the boys and I will do during the days of the lazy summer weeks. I have a basic plan. A general idea of when we should all get out of bed so we don’t get too far off of Dad’s schedule. A time of the day set aside for chores so the boys can keep learning work ethics and how to take care of themselves when they get dropped into the free fall of life and in the back of my head I add so their wives can be pleasantly surprised they know how to make hospital corners on their beds. We have swimming and water guns fights and camping planned. And crafts. Oh so many crafts. When you have one kid who’s got science on the brain and another who is amazing with fine motor skills and a mom who’s crafty/handsy, we do crafts to keep busy. And there’s Legos and robots and cars and books and science and yeah we have stuff. But it’s hot where we live so we spend a lot of time indoors hiding from the heat with the A/C on playing games. Which means, of course, worrying about how much video game time is too much. And trust me, I have read loads of literature and studies about how much gaming is ok for my kids before they become Lifeless Zombies of Button Mashingville.
So guys, here’s my basic take. It works for my kids and mine alone, because I’m the one managing it. I have neighbors and friends who have different takes for their kids. And it works for them! So I don’t touch their plans. Actually, I’m grateful when they explain their plans and reasonings and the outcomes of implementing them because it helps me keep looking at the plan for my kids with aware eyes. Recently my neighbor explained the effect of her plan to me. I knew she limited gaming to weekends so we could follow her kids rules when they come over, but she took the time to tell what had happened. She said that the change in her son was wonderful and from the sound of relief in her voice I could tell it was needed and welcome. Gaming had set up a cycle of frustration in her little guy that when limited to just weekend, gave time for him to cool down and recharge. I love that. And it gave me the opportunity to reconsider my own kids behavior and see if they need the same or a similar idea. And I think, perhaps, that is where we need to be looking. How long can our kids concentrate on one thing, one puzzle, one mind teaser until they get fed up and, as people do, then take that frustration out on the world to get it out of their systems. And really that can be for anything not just video games. I see more and more it being noted that in education kids get to a point when they just need to move their bodies. Isn’t that their frustration point? The point at which they need to step back, breathe, and then be ready for more? Call it a strategic retreat if you need to, but I think as adults we know that spot within ourselves, and we know that for different activities, different people that spot, that moment, is vastly different.
For me, I am almost always in the same room as the kids when they play their games. We have all the gaming set up in the living room and the boys play their 3DSs mostly in there as well. The other times are usually in the car on long road trips. Our TV spends more time playing video game feeds than TV or movies. Most of the games we have require some kind of brain process. I say most because we have racing games and fighting games too, but my two big rules on the games is clever first and no competition. There are a good many times when I game with the boys. I find it equivalent to playing a pen and paper game or a board game or even a card game, just we’re doing it digitally. Even if they are just watching me play or I am just watching them, we’re interacting. Sure, sometimes they are playing by themselves and I’ve snuggled up with a book upstairs, but you know how we mom’s are. We usually have one ear that never turns off. That is attuned to some kind of my kids aren’t cooperating with each other wavelength. I can tell when things are going south.
So what do I do when I go are going south? That’s my cue to give the kids a break. They could have been playing Skylanders cooperatively for a couple of hours. I’ll be assaulted with giggles and come this way and wait up and you change your element this time, I did it last time. And then it’ll change. Someone’s gotten frustrated or stopped helping or listening or cooperating. So I shut it down. Guys finish the level, the games going off for a while.
What happens next if often along the lines of, let’s make a sword and you can be so and so and we’ll go after…epic battle ensues with the brothers defeating the forces of evil. And then later in the day they are back to playing a different game perhaps together perhaps not. Some days it’s less than others some days it’s more, but for me, for my kids, this is what works.