Monday, June 30, 2014

Let Them Play Alone

There is a lot of pressure today to do everything with your kids.  You are criticized if you choose to sit back and watch them instead of get down and play with them.  Now, I fully believe that parents should play with their kids often.  I believe in the power of play, and one form of that play includes playing with a parent or other adult.

Tonight I was at the pool with my four older kids.  All this last week, there has been a post (a great post, to be sure) going around about how you should not worry about what you look like in a swimsuit and just get in the pool and play with your kids.  How I look in a swimsuit isn't something that concerns me when I am at the pool.  I don't believe either that people sit around and look at you and think about how you shouldn't be in a swimsuit.  I think most peopled are too self-absorbed to notice or think about how anyone else looks at the pool.

I love to swim and always take my kids swimming in the summer.  Sometimes, though, I just don't want to get in the water.  Sometimes, I just don't want to be wet.  Sometimes, the pool water is just too cold for me.  Tonight, the air was cool (high 70s) and even though it was hot all day, it wasn't warm enough for me to get in the water.  I didn't even want to put my feet in because the air was so comfortable.  So I watched from a chair on the side.  I didn't even bring my phone or something to read.  My four older kids can all swim just fine.  They had brought super spraying water guns to play with and were really going at it with each other.

I started to feel guilty for not getting in the water with them even though they asked several times.  The whole idea of not missing out on sharing a moment with them made me feel like I was doing something wrong.

But then I realized that they were playing together really well.  They played with those water guns for a good thirty to forty minutes, happy, laughing, swimming together.  They were getting along without me having to intervene every few minutes and remind them to be nice and share and blah, blah, blah.  Why should I interrupt that?  As great as it is to play with your kids and swim with them and do all these activities with them, it's also really good for them to play with each other without adult intervention or inclusion.  Sometimes, kids just need to play with other kids and work things out on their own without us.

So, even though it's great to get down and play with them and include yourself in their activities, it's also just fine to sit back and watch and not be part of it.  It helps them bond with each other and build friendships with each other.  After all, when I'm gone, they will have each other, and that will be a hundred times better if they are also friends.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Free Entertainment and Summer Fun

This summer, it is my goal to have as much fun as possible without spending any more money.  I bought a family pool pass for the summer, which was way too much money, in my opinion, given the hours the pool is open and how often it's closed due to thunderstorms, but beyond that, I have no intention of spending any more money.

That means no trips to Thanksgiving Point (a local attraction that consists of a few museums, beautiful gardens, an agricultural learning area, a movie theater, and lots of shops), no trips to the zoo, no trips to the aquarium.  That means no taking any summer classes beyond the private trumpet/trombone lessons I signed the boys up for to keep them practicing over the summer for band.  It means no lunches out and even no stopping at the snow cone shack for a cold treat on a hot day. It also means no road trips to visit family or friends.  What it means is only doing activities that cost no money at all.

What on earth does that leave to do?  In society's eyes, probably not a lot.  I've noticed that the fun most people post on Facebook that they have tend to be activities that cost money.  Not that any of that is bad; it's not.  But I have taken a good look around and realized that there is so much to do that can be done for free, or even really cheap.

Here is a my list of things to do so far:

--BYU has several museums that are free: The Museum of Art, The Monte L. Bean Science Museum, and a natural history museum. 

--There are lots of places to hike in the mountains around here (most of which I still have to discover because I don't know where kid-friendly hikes are)

--Blackridge Reservoir, which is a small man-made lake that we can swim in

--Many biking trails in our city

--Many new parks to explore

--Downtown SLC--Temple Square and some adjacent areas, like the Church History Museum and hiking up to Promontory Point.

--Free concerts/movies in the park hosted by the city

--Free parades, fairs and firework events throughout the summer

Then, of course, there is good, old-fashioned playing in a field: baseball, soccer, tag, etc. and other outdoor activities that can be done with a group of kids (six siblings and a mom count!), like chalk drawing, four square, basketball, bike games, setting up a lemonade/snow cone/other cold treat stand, and many, many more.

When I was growing up, we used to keep ourselves pretty well entertained in the summers without our parents carting us around to museums, aquariums, and zoos and other venues.  Somehow, we all  managed to come out of it okay and not bored.  Somehow we kept busy and out of trouble and had a lot of fun. 

So I'm going to focus this summer on a throwback to old times.  I'm not even doing my usual "summer learning" .  My kids have been in school since last July and they need a real break.  Aside from 30 minutes of daily reading and instrument practicing, they are free to play to their hearts content.

Ah, summer.  Good times!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Then and Now Kids

When I was a kid, my family joined a community club pool.  At that club, kids could go alone, without their parents, if they were eight years old or older and could pass a swim test.  The swim test involved swimming several laps, treading water for one minute and then retrieving something on the bottom of the pool.  My brothers and I passed that swim test easily and then spent the whole summer at the pool all day.   We would get there when they opened at 10 am and stay until lunch.  After heading home for lunch, we would go back to the pool until dinner time.  Often my mom would come with us in the afternoons.  Sometimes we would go back after dinner with my dad too.  When we weren't swimming there, they had sand volleyball, tetherball, and a video game room.  All of our friends did the same thing.  It was such a great place!
I was telling my kids about this awesomeness and one of them said, "Man, I wished I grew up when you did and lived in that place!"

I decided to look up that old community club pool to see if it was still there.  Sure enough, it's there.  So I decided to see if my kids could have the awesome summers now that I had when I was a kid if we lived in that place.  I was disappointed to learn that all of the things about the pool remained mostly the same except a few key differences.  They upped the age of attending without a parent to TWELVE!  My oldest, who is an awesome swimmer and the same age I was my first summer at the pool, wouldn't be able to attend without an accompanying adult even though he could easily pass the swim test.  The same swim test that I took at age eleven, mind you.

Why did we trust an eight-year-old in 1989 with doing something that today we wouldn't let an eleven-year-old do?  What changed?  Did they have one or more children unaccompanied by a parent drown in that pool between 1994 and 2014?  If they did, that would be terribly tragic, of course, but other than that, I can't see any reason why they should change the age if it was working then.

About eight years ago, a seven-year-old from Mesa, Arizona swam across San Fransisco Bay.  By himself.  It was to support campaigns to teach kids to swim to prevent childhood drownings.  Why do pools have rules that wouldn't even allow this seven-year-old, obviously an accomplished swimmer, attend the pool without being accompanied by a parent?

My own seven-year-old could pass that swim test.  I am seriously bugged by the notion that kids are not capable and need to be protected all the time.  The best times I had were the times I was given the freedom to do things as a child.  My younger brothers and I had a lot of fun times and a lot of them were at that pool.  I have the fondest memories of that place.

I don't know what the pool rules are at my current pool of choice regarding unaccompanied kids, simply because it is far enough away without any sort of bus service that my kids will have to always go with me.  Fortunately, they have a mama who loves to swim too (thanks to my childhood and spending those days at that pool), so we will go as often as possible.  But I won't be standing next to them nor will I force them to wear a life jacket all the time.  How can they learn to swim if they are always wearing a life jacket?

Somehow, kids have become incapable of doing things they could do on their own twenty years ago.  Parents have helicoptered and hovered and overprotected to the point that kids no longer can do the same things at the same ages as they could in the past.  They simply aren't ever allowed to try so they never develop the skill and are therefore not capable because we don't let them become capable. 

Sunday, June 8, 2014

I do have six kids...

This week I had a conversation with another mom.  She said something like this, "You moms with lots of kids amaze me.  I only have a few and it's insane at my house sometimes!"

Honey, it's insane at my house pretty much all the time.  In fact, more often than not it is complete chaos.  People seem to think I have everything under control with my six kids.  It's true that I am an organized person.  I thrive on discipline and routine.  I like things to be clean.  Not just hide-the-clutter-because-a-guest-is-coming-over clean.  I like it white glove clean.  I like the closets, under the beds, the spice cabinet, the medicine cabinet, and all those other hidden places to be organized and clean too.  (Note: my house is not always this clean but I would love it to be this clean and strive to keep it as clean as I can.)

I scrubbed my baseboards, doors and door frames today because the little dark marks that are left by too many hands and feet were bothering me.  After I was done, I felt I had accomplished something fantastic.  Most likely, nobody will even notice anything is different, but it made me feel different to have it done.  I felt cleaner, more organized, and more in control of my world.

I love the Bill Cosby routine where he talks about parents and justice.  He talks about a crying child coming to a parent about a sibling taking a toy and how unfair it is.  He says, "We don't care about justice!  We just want quiet!"  That is the story of my life.

I am nervous that you admire me.  I want you to know, that as amazing as I may seem because I am juggling six kids, I am not all that amazing.  I yell way too much.  I sometimes hide in my closet.

I realize you probably look at me in awe because you struggle with your one, two or three.  I struggled when I had one, two, and three.  Parenting is grueling, exhausting, thanklessly difficult work that many people take for granted.  Everyone has a parent.  Many people who have never been a parent look back on their own parents and probably don't realize how taxing of a job it was.  Maybe their parents made it look easy or made it look like the parenting aspect of everything they did was a side thing.  I know I had such thoughts before I was a parent.  Now, with my six, I admire my mom even more for all she did for us.  I certainly didn't appreciate her at the time.  But now I recognize that she probably gave up sleep, spent many nights and days worrying about us, gave up money by having more kids, and many, many other things.

I have six kids.  That doesn't make me a parenting genius.  The only thing that I am genius at is realizing how hard parenting is and how hard we sometimes make it for each other.  We all have our strengths and weaknesses when it comes to parenting.  Maybe some people don't keep a spotless house but some do.  I have read articles pointing fingers at moms who do keep houses clean and implying that they must not be focused enough on their kids because their houses are so clean.  If they're like me, they can't focus until the house is clean.  Then they are much more relaxed and better at their job.  Maybe some people keep a spotless house and can't understand how one can function in a home that's not clean.  I know several moms who don't keep a clean house but they do amazing things with their kids and are much more relaxed about certain things than I am.

We are all different.  We need to stop making parenting a competition and a war.  Yes, we all should strive to do the best job possible, but my best job might look different than your best job.

So, mom with less than six kids, I may make it look easy because you struggle with three, and right now, three would be easier for me, but when I had three, I struggled with that too.  We are on the same road.  Let's help each other out along the way.


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