Dear Children: Let Me Explain This Thing Called Summer

It was an hour after she got home from Vacation Bible School last summer.

One hour after Water games! Snow cones! a Slimy Craft! Dancing and Singing! The Best Day Ever!

We were in the second week of summer. The second week of sleeping in and she was slipping and sliding towards boredom.

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Walking around the house, whining about nothing to do.

Kicking her foot and waiting outside the bathroom door. (I wasn’t hiding, really).

Sound familiar?

Go. Find. Something. To. Do.

She gave me an empty stare and then I realized she was waiting on me to tell her what to do, to do something with or for her.

And there it was again, this “You Owe Me” mentality that is wrecking our culture. We do so much for our kids- camps and classes,  back and forth to lessons and events, we spend money and fill their lives with stuff and you’d think they would be oozing gratitude, but we are taken aback when they just want more.

More activities, more fun, more stuff.

More.

And honestly, I can’t really blame my first grader. Because for a long time, I provided The More. I bought into this lie that it’s my job to make my kids’ childhood magical and fun and everyday an adventure all about them.

I have fed the entitlement beast and when it rears it’s ugly head, my children aren’t the only ones to blame.

Our children need to be bored. They need to kick their feet and wait outside of bathroom doors, unanswered. They need to be sent outside or to their rooms to play. They need to turn over the bag of tricks and find it empty.

Because that’s when they will discover they don’t need stuff to fill their time. They don’t need a plan for entertainment.

They can create their own. And that’s when summer gets magical.

I pulled my little one aside and got down on eye level and I said, “Let me explain summer to you, honey.”

“There will be fun days! We will check boxes off your summer bucket list. We will play. We will work. We will serve. We will have great times. But there will also be a lot of unplanned days, there will be empty hours. There will be days when you’ve watched enough TV or we won’t be leaving the house for something super fun.

At first, these days may seem boring or like there is nothing to do. And that’s okay. Because after you whine and perhaps, cry, you will have to make up your own fun. You’ll get into that book from the library. You’ll draw doll furniture and cut it out and give your paper dolls a good home. You will figure something out. I love to see you having fun, but I will not, I cannot make every day fun. It’s not my job to make every moment The Best of Your Life. But it is my job to teach you that the days that aren’t fun usually end up being the best ones of summer.”

She ended up with a bucket of Legos and spent a couple of hours creating the coolest flying space car ever.

Sometimes we have to just wait for our kids to remember just how fun boredom can be.

C’mon, moms! Who’s with me?

 

edited repost

When I Tell You No It Doesn’t Mean I Don’t Care. It Means the Opposite

The text vibrated against the table in the Mercy House warehouse.

I was overseeing a roomful of volunteers and excused myself to make sure it wasn’t an emergency.

“Mom, it’s an emergency! Can you please bring my notebook to school right now? Plz?? I need it by 4th period for a presentation. Let me know asap,” read the text from my child.

I sighed.When I Tell You No

I had reminded my notebook-forgetting child three times to get it off the stairs where it lay all weekend. And earlier in the week, when I’d dropped off the forgotten book in a rainstorm, I had said, “This is the last time I’m doing this.” Forgetfulness had become a recurring issue and it was time to put a stop to it.

Before I could respond, there was another text, “Mom? Are you there?”

I knew this wasn’t going to go over well. Sometimes doing the right thing as a parent is the hardest thing.

I took a deep breath and typed these words, “I’m sorry you forgot your notebook. Unfortunately, I cannot bring it to you.”

Send.

“Why? What r you doing?” was the response.

“I’m working at the warehouse and I have volunteers here. Plus, I already told you I would not bring anything else to school. I’m sorry, but the answer is no.”

I went back to work and all but ignored the vibrating phone. When I glanced again, I winced at these words, “You don’t understand, Mom. You just don’t care.”

The hard words found their mark and for a split second I nearly caved. Our kids know exactly what to say, don’t they? And I did feel bad. I felt horrible that my kid was about to learn a big lesson in responsibility and consequences.

It was hard not to imagine my child standing up in front of the class to do a presentation without notes.  I really did feel bad.

I texted, “When I tell you no– it doesn’t mean I don’t care. It means the opposite.”

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And while my kids might not be old or mature enough to believe or get this principal yet, it’s the truth.

Sometimes saying no is about not allowing them to go somewhere or be with someone or do something. Sometimes I get to say yes and that’s my favorite, but many times, no is the best answer.

Recently, I observed a woman in the store who could not tell her preschooler no. I mean she said it, but she just didn’t enforce it. And after watching him do the opposite of everything she said she continually changed the rules required of him, he started hitting her and calling her names. She laughed it off and I felt really sorry for both of them. Because what might seem like a harmless phase or stage now, can quickly become the norm. And if we don’t learn to tell our children no when that’s the best answer, one day they might just wonder if we really care at all. Kids aren’t meant to lead parents, it’s the other way around.

We say no because we want them to respect us. And themselves.

We say no because we want to respect ourselves.

We say no because real life won’t always tell them yes.

We say no because we want to protect them from things they don’t understand.

We say no now so we can say yes later.

We say no because we love them.

At dinner a couple of years ago, a friend of my daughter’s was eating with us. My kids were teasing about how strict we were and listing off the rules we enforced, when this child looked up from their plate and said, “I wish my parents had rules. It would make me feel like they loved me.”

It’s easy for our kids to whine and complain and even hate that we tell them no, until we don’t at all.

Save the Date

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  I'm so excited about our 2nd annual Mercy House Gala. Everyone is invited to this hoot and hollerin' good time! There will be an amazing live auction and country & western band, dancing and delicious BBQ, a high-end Fair Trade Friday … [Continue reading]