Thursday, August 29, 2013

Why it's OK to Ignore Your Children

As the summer wraps up and my school year gets underway, I have to stop and reflect on the fact that I’m not a very good mother for a lot of the school year. I rarely volunteer, and I will never win the award for MOY – Mom of the Year.

I go to Nursing School, so the quality time I get with my kids during the week is when we all sit down and do our homework together. As they’re significantly younger than I am, their subject matter is slightly less disgusting and time consuming than that of a 4th year nursing student. It is no surprise that they will finish their work in 1/16 of the time it takes me to finish mine.

Once they’re done, I need quiet to continue in my studies, and one way that happens is that I totally ignore them for hours on end.

I sit on my porch, with my laptop burning into my thighs, and furiously type away at Geriatric Teaching Projects, Case Studies, and Antepartum Evidenced Based Practice while my children have to self entertain.

They must.

There is no choice.

Without self-entertainment, I would not be able to finish school.

Self-entertainment is not the same thing as being entertained by the TV. We are long past the days of asking Elmo in Grouchland to supervise the toddler so I can work on something, and Sponge Bob has never had a place as a babysitter in this home. I do not allow screen time, and instead I do dreadful things like make children play with toys, or each other, or read, or color, or play outside where they are being exposed to the harmful UV rays of the sun... the possibilities are endless, and they are their choices to make.

They make up new rules to “soccer” on the field next to our home, and they play modified kick-ball with children ranging from 3 – 13. The ethnic diversity is as expansive as the ages involved, and the self-entertaining sometimes results in learning about different cultures. They ride their bikes in a disorganized pace line around the parking lot that surround my building. They roller skate when the weather is nice, and when that gets tiring, they mark the sidewalks with a rainbow assortment of chalk. The summer rains clean the canvas, so tomorrow’s art will be new.

Now I’m not saying you should give your children scissors, matches, and a knife and then tell them to go play in traffic. I’m suggesting that allowing them the independence to make their own leisure time decisions teaches them to prioritize and encourages budding time management skills. I require an hourly check in, and ensure that there are consequences when the timing requirements are not met.

I consider this playtime as an introduction to economics, only instead of manipulating money, my children are learning to negotiate something far more valuable:  responsibility for themselves.