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She Off Her Rocker: Tip #3

November 19, 2010

“She’s Off Her Rocker” – the new Friday tradition here at Islamama! Want tips for successful parenting without the whole going batshit insane part? Then look elsewhere my friends.

It may seem counter intuitive, but your crazy might just be the sanest you’ve been all day. In my humble opinion, successful parenting occasionally walks (shuffles) hand in hand with a more wild-eyed version of yourself…wearing spaghetti sauce for rouge and muttering “I’m forever blowing bubbles…pretty bubbles…”

Are you also a little off your rocker? Well then, wipe off your drool and leave a tip before you go, you just might help another Mama (or Daddy) out!

She’s Off Her Rocker: Tip #3

Play Nothing

My youngest sister works at a childhood obesity clinic where she’s on the front lines of this mounting epidemic spurred on by venti frappucinos, fast food  and 6-8 hours of television/video gaming. I often listen to her debrief about her job and am usually appalled. I mean mocha frappucinos were pretty funny in the film Zoolander, but who would actually buy one for a 9-year-old? Apparently lots of people.

Recently she shared a story about a young boy who gets up at 5am to play video games for 2 hours before school. Then comes home and has around 6 more hours of screen time before bed. When you factor the kid sleeps about 8 hours a day, is in school 8 hours a day and then in front of a television for another 8, his day is literally (unless he got lucky with some select school activities) filled with activity that doesn’t require self-initiation, creativity or ingenuity.

She asked him to set a goal for himself to play outside. And, here’s the kicker…he said he wouldn’t know what to do.

A kid who wouldn’t know what to do if he went outside.

I thought about that kid, and the far too many kids like him a lot since that conversation.  Recently while I was out trying to slay, or at least greviously maim our frightening laundry monster, and Jarah ended up scratching in the dirt beneath the nearby mango trees. Poor kid, I thought to myself jiggling a baby in a sling and clenching three pegs in my mouth, I should go and bring out some of his toys.

Now I’m so glad I didn’t. Kids mostly  just need nothing. How else will they ever learn to be creative? I hate to talk about the good ol’ days of when I was little but my mom would often just open the door of the kitchen, point and say “out.” Sure, I watched He-Man, Jem and GI Joe, but I also could build a fort out of sticks and oak leaves or go day-dream inventing new languages in the veggie patch. I could go on about having to walk a mile to the bus stop carrying a drum kit while getting chased by my sleazy neighbor’s abused german shepherd who was only diverted from my throat by a bologna and kraft cheese sandwich…but…that’s a story for another day.

When my sister asked the mother of the video-addled kid why he is allowed so much time in front of the television she stated, “Well, he turns it on.” When she was pushed as to why she just didn’t turn it off, apparently she looked quite confused. Jarah is drawn to media. He frequently asks for “Dora the Explorer” or “Dinosaur Train.” I am not an anti-media zealot so sometimes let him watch one on Netflix. But it’s a slippery slope. Lately he’s been asking everyday to go to the library. And not just for the books, which happily he still digs. He now makes a beeline to the DVD rack grabbing for the Fantastia flick. He likes single purpose plastic toys that make noise and in the shops will often beg for one before leaving disappointed.

Screen time is fine. Fancy toys can be great. But as parents we cannot forget that sometimes providing a great big helping of nothing is probably way more creatively nutritious.

Today I watched my wee boy find a stick and draw in the beach sand. He made an “airport,” a “horse eating a magic carrot” and a “t-rex” (they all closely resembled crooked circles). It was easy. It was fun. It captured everything about this amazing creative world he is slowly developing in the quiet moments when provided nothing.


4 Comments leave one →
  1. Cherlyn Wilcox permalink
    November 19, 2010 2:18 pm

    I remember the good ol days…red stained feet, no shoes, my favorite Hawaiian shirt and necklace, playing marbles in the dirt, rollerskating with my cassette tape player.

  2. Melissa Goodner permalink
    November 19, 2010 9:07 pm

    I remember the day my mom came home and decided I watched too much TV (which wasn’t really very much) and literally cut the TV cord in half. She then installed some little gadget that attached the two ends of the cord. When she left us home alone she took the plug to the TV so there was absolutely no way to turn it on. A little psycho, a little genius.

  3. November 27, 2010 2:36 am

    We need to go out without toys more often at our house for sure. Oh, and I can totally picture your mom doing that.

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