These are the Days of Yes.
Yes to more.
Yes to extra.
Yes, you can do that.
Yes, we can do that.
But it all was qualified. Yes, after. Yes, once we. Yes, only if.
The qualifications, we thought, were good parenting. And they are. But last week we tried a new approach, a new yes.
Yes, and you set your schedule.
As long as the kids do their chores, practice music, get 60 minutes of exercise minimum, and read for pleasure by the end of the day, they get to make their own schedule of activities for the rest of the day (within reason, of course. We’re not dropping everything and running to Disney.) If we have plans made, they don’t get to opt out, especially dental visits.
My husband and I set some boundaries and limits on this and assigned ourselves veto power and the right to rescind this offer at any time. This ain’t our first rodeo.
The funny thing is that they are self-regulating better. Yes, some days they are enjoying more screens than in the previous setup, but they are also spending more time on what we call “educational” screens. Math. Science. History. They spend more time outside now that we’re letting them set the schedule. They play a ton with the dog.
The bickering is…almost nonexistent. I’m afraid I’m jinxing it by writing that, but it’s true. They are working things out, negotiating, and getting along.
It does seem to that “raid the kitchen” is on their to-do lists about 14 times a day, but I think that’s a “kid-summer” thing rather than an “eat-out-of-boredom” thing. It may also be an “I’m shopping while hungry and getting all the crap snacks I try to avoid during the school year because what if someone sees my kid eating Oreo Handi-Snacks and realizes I have no idea how to do this parenting” thing, but the jury is still out on that.
It’s not perfect, but it’s theirs and we’ve only had to remind them once or twice about holding up their end of the bargain. It’s infinitely preferable to having to do countdowns and warnings that screen time is coming to an end or if they really want to veg out they still owe twenty minutes of exercise.
I think the only difference is they are getting a say in the structure of it all.
The best part is that they really want to spend more time with us. Maybe it’s because we’re not forcing ourselves in their faces. But at the end of the day, they are seeking us out for conversation and games and reading and one-on-one time.
We’re letting them figure out what they like to spend time doing. Yes, there are a lot of video games, but there’s jogging and baseball and soccer and cooking and exploring new restaurants.
I still need to figure out the transition back to the relative rigor of the school year schedule, but there are endless summer days still yet to do that.
And I’m not so naive that I don’t know there is a good chance this system will fall apart in the next five-six weeks, but for now, I’m feeling as summery as a Country Time Lemonade Commercial.
For now, victory. Next week, who knows. They are wily and young.