This post is not overly fantastic or brilliant, but it excites me.
Last April, I began utilizing the Fly Lady website (again) to attempt to get my house in some kind of order. A few months later, I blogged on my progress thus far in addition to giving a sort of 'Fly Lady Report' on some of my thoughts and adaptations to the Fly Lady method.
Almost a year ago, on our cross-province road trip last summer, Brian and I stopped at IKEA and purchased a new bedding set. We had stayed at my Aunt and Uncle's home in their beautifully decorated guest room, and stolen their idea for a purple bed spread, white sheets and a white throw blanket at the foot of the bed. I felt brave - going for white sheets - but I had transitioned to white towels in the bathroom a couple of months earlier and that was going well, so I decided to add more to my white laundry pile. When we came home, I didn't allow ourselves to do up our beautiful new bed until we had cleaned up our room enough so that the bedding could be the 'final touch' to make our room beautiful.
Two weeks ago, on my 'Fly Lady' routine, cleaning the Master Bedroom was my focus for the week, and I finally felt comfortable with changing our bedding. This is another place where I wish I'd taken a 'before' photo...
This photo kind of reads like an IKEA advertisement: Bed: IKEA MALM high bed with 4 storage drawers, IKEA Wall lamps & shades, and throw blanket, although I couldn't locate them on the IKEA website, IKEA LACK wall shelves for bedside tables, IKEA GASPA duvet cover and pillow cases, Sheets from Target and picture frames from Walmart.
Anyway, I wish I'd remembered to take a picture of my room before - trust me that this is an enormous improvement. Our bedroom is pretty small - I'm standing in the few open feet of space between the foot of the bed and the dresser along the wall. I have a small dressing table in the room as well, but the room is probably too small for this since I have to walk sideways beside it to squeeze through to my side of the bed.
In regards to a Fly Lady cleaning update, it hasn't really seemed to me that I was really keeping up, but my house is staying relatively clean - or at least capable of being company ready in less than an hour and that includes a fairly high level of clean on all surfaces. So, despite how I FEEL like I'm doing, my house would indicate that things are going pretty well.
Despite my earlier prediction that I was beginning to really follow a routine, I've found that many of my 'daily tasks' don't get done every day anymore, but maybe on and off over a few days, and some things don't get done until I see that they need doing, although I've developed a pretty sharp eye for these things.
My bathroom is still almost always in near-perfect condition, although the caulking around the edge of the tub is peeling and so there is a bit of mildew growing around the edges. I plan to fix this over the weekend, and hopefully it won't happen again. Keeping the kitchen clean is a bit more challenging, but is definitely more fun in the new space, so we're much more on top of that. Also, my bed is consistently made every morning.
Lately I've been about a load or two behind on laundry, but we've been sick again so I'm going to go ahead and blame that...
I still love the 'baby step' approach that Fly Lady takes - and how things don't pile up. Whatever you don't get done today you don't try to make up for tomorrow (except things that have to work that way like laundry and dishes), you just start over today and try again. Eventually, hopefully, you'll get to everything. I use this approach with just about everything these days - reading the Bible, parenting, meal planning, etc. Just take each day as it comes.
When I was a child, there were a few politeness 'rules' that weren't effectively drilled into me. I may have asked for things nicely, but I rarely said 'please', and it wasn't until one of my uncles patronized me when I was already an adult about this, and - despite my embarrassment at being treated like a child - I made an honest effort to change my bad habit in this regard. In the end, I appreciate his willingness to let me know that I - even unknowingly - was coming across as rude.
I would like to spare my children this particular embarrassment, and teach them how to be as polite as possible in all circumstances. This can be a little bit tricky, because what is considered 'rude' can be entirely different depending on the company you are in. Some people appreciate when you ask about their personal lives, because it shows that you care about them personally, while others are annoyed and even offended when you ask about their personal lives because they see it as being 'nosy'. There are also cultural differences in different areas of the world, and although our girls haven't yet been exposed to a lot of different locations or cultures, I would like them to be, and so it's important to me that they (and I) have an awareness of how to be respectful to other people.
So, for those of you who are parents - what basic manners do you teach your children? And for those of you who may not have children, what manners do you think should be taught to children?
Here are a few thoughts I have now - I'd love to hear other people's responses.
- Always say 'please' and 'Thank you'.
- Always say 'sorry' when you have done something wrong - even if it was an accident. When someone else apologizes, tell them you forgive them.
- Always greet others - whether this is someone who comes to your house to visit, or whether it is a stranger on the street - smile and say 'hi'.
- When you are in a conversation, ask other people about themselves; their lives, their families, their experiences, their thoughts. I've decided that in this regard, it is better to let someone know that you care about them, and that most people respond well to being asked personal questions. In cases where people are uncomfortable with personal questions, hopefully I will learn enough to be able to teach my daughters how to read these signs.
- Ask others - particularly those older than you - what they would like to be called. As an adult, I tend to take my cue from how a person introduces themself, but for my children, I like to ask what that person prefers. I was forever annoyed when my sister insisted that her children call me 'Auntie Sam' when I would MUCH prefer to be just 'Sam' or 'Samantha' to them, although I have come to understand the significance of this to the family. I am now ok with being called 'Auntie Sam' for her sake, but because I know many people who would prefer to be addressed by their first names, I would like my children to get into the habit of asking "What would you like me to call you?" We no longer live in a world where 'Mr. and Mrs.' can be assumed (and don't you dare call me that, ever!) and I think it's most polite to call others what they are most comfortable being called.
- Close your mouth when you chew.
- Stay at the table until everyone is finished eating. (We are working up to this one).
I'm leaving out some of the obvious ones, like 'don't throw food on the floor', and 'don't talk about pee at the table', but I assume that my daughters will grow out of these particular habits soon so I'm mostly thinking ahead to the manners and habits I would like to teach them as they grow.
I know I've missed many things on this list - what are your thoughts? What have I missed? Do you disagree with any of these?
I have fallen into a less-than-once-per-week blogging non-routine lately, and I'm not too happy with it. I don't mind that my priorities change, and that I can sometimes set aside things like blogging, and even housecleaning because other things become more important, but if I'm blogging to record my daughters' childhood for their sake, eventually, then I need to keep up with it a bit more regularly. Anyway, I still love the 'Catch the Moment' link-up, and will keep trying to make sure I take a certain number of photos weekly of our life. These are sort of a smattering of photos from the past month, but here goes.
My Mom bought Clara these two little chairs when I was babysitting for another little girl last year, and unfortunately the girls 'favourite' thing to do was fall out of them, so I kept them put away most of the time. Until now - Audrey is finally old enough to get in and out of them by herself without falling - at least most of the time.
Sometimes I take a picture of Clara, and to me it looks nothing like her. I feel like this impish look is a glimpse of a part of her personality that we don't usually get to see. The messy 'Ramona-hair' is typical, though.
This is what Audrey does when I have the camera and ask her to smile - complete with neck arch. Unlike her big sister who didn't get her first hair cut until she was 2, I think Audrey will need one soon...
A serious moment with Great Grandpa over chocolate milk and coffee.
We've had a really ugly winter here the past two months, with temperatures dipping below 30 degrees celsius (-22F) on a regular basis, with the windchill flirting with - and sometimes passing - minus 50 degrees (-58F) celsius. With the windchill, it actually hit minus 60 degrees celsius overnight once. We had one comfortable winter day, and Brian ran down to Canadian Tire and picked up two $10 plastic sleds for us to use on the hill across the street from our house. Audrey wasn't sure about the whole situation, but Clara had a lot of fun! I wish we'd been able to get out more this winter, but I keep telling myself that with Audrey walking, next year will be easier, and I'm definitely looking forward to having a summer in between! Hopefully we'll get a summer this year!
My birthday is the day before Valentine's Day, and growing up I always felt as though the world was decorating itself in pink and red hearts just for me. I think I always knew that wasn't the case, but it still always made me feel all warm inside to see Valentine's decorations popping up in stores as soon as Christmas decorations were put away. It makes the end of the Christmas season a little bit easier to deal with also.
Anyway, aside from Valentine's day being a 'couples' holiday, for me it has always been more about just simply 'love'. Even as a child, it never occurred to me that it should be reserved for lovers, and so I want my children to love it also. Not that we need another excuse to buy and eat candy, but an excuse to show someone you love them is never a bad thing, is it? Ideally, we would all find opportunities to show people we love them on a daily basis, but realistically speaking - sometimes we need little reminders here and there.
So, on the morning of February 14th in our house, our daughters found two small wrapped packages at their spots at the kitchen table. I had been shopping around a bookstore the evening prior (I got to leave the house alone on my Birthday - best gift ever) and had picked up a few small gifts for my family.
For the girls, they each got a small box of chocolates in fun shapes.
They were thrilled.
And my husband got a bit of chocolate also (because he's an extreme chocolate lover), and a book light that he had mentioned needing a few days earlier when he had wanted to read in bed after I had decided to go to sleep.
Tiny things, but fun to surprise my family with. My 'Love Language' is definitely gifts, which for me doesn't necessarily need to be expensive, elaborate, or even to cost money, but I definitely appreciate little things like this that say 'Hey, I was thinking about you!' and so I try to take opportunities to do this for people around me as well.
Thinking back (almost a full month) to Valentine's Day - what did you do? Do you love or hate Valentine's day?
It happened all over Canada and the US in the mid-80's to early 90's. Small communities were not as connected to the rest of the world as social media has forced us to be now, and despite the same story echoeing across the continent - each community believed their story to be individual, real and an immediate threat.
It would begin with rumours of a cult, maybe a few accusations of ritual sex abuse or murder, and shortly thereafter the community police officers or church leaders would be addressing the concerns in their own well-meaning way - usually just trying to educate the community about what to watch for IF something dangerous was really going on. In doing exactly this, the community leaders would give credence to the story, and what began as simply rumours became legitimate evidence to townspeople.
In hundreds of such cases that occurred in the 1980's and 90's, no evidence of a true satanic cult was ever found and in the process of the witch hunts that resulted, thousands of innocent people were arrested and accused of committing the most horrific atrocities.
When I was 6 years old, this happened in the town I grew up in. It began with a rumour in a nearby town that travelled through high school students to the surrounding area. When an infant's diaper rash appeared out of the ordinary to a paranoid mother, stories started circulating about child abuse occurring at a local daycare.
The rumours and stories - many of which were circulated by children - told of children and babies being hung in cages, murdered and eaten by cult members. They told of mutilations, involving almost every part of the body imagineable. Signs saying "We Believe the Children" were hung in living room windows by those who claimed that a child could not lie about such things, despite the fact that no babies or children were ever reported missing, nor were there any missing body parts.
Police handled the investigation poorly, asking the children leading questions based on what other adults and children had said, and soon almost every family in town was somehow affected by the rumours and allegations. When children were shown photo lineups of possible suspects - filled also with stock photos of the local police force to add to their numbers - fingers were pointed in all directions. Over 200 adults in the town of less than 3000 people were accused and/or taken in for questioning. Churches were excommunicating people, police officers as well as other workers lost their jobs and their families with no real evidence against them.
It was nothing short of a witch hunt - if it had been 100 years earlier, I'm sure many innocent people would have been hung.
How does this involve me?
I was the only child of a single father, and as the rumours circulated I believe what happened is this: a close friend of mine had an older brother who had some connection to a daycare in town that was the focus of many wild accusations. Her brother was getting a lot of attention from police and she may have felt somehow left out. She told a simple story about my Dad one day, and her mother believed it whole-heartedly, also believing that as an only child in the home, I was likely at risk of abuse myself. Despite her ignorance, and despite the intense anger I have felt toward this woman for the majority of my life, I do know that in her heart - she believed that what she was doing was the 'right thing to do'. Unfortunately for me, she was very wrong.
It was winter, and my elementary school principal came to the door of my Grade 1 class and called for me. As I came to the door, she informed me that I should bring my outdoor clothes. In her office I met the social worker - all I was told was that I would be going with her. I wasn't told why. I wasn't told how long. I don't remember being afraid for myself, but I do remember looking at the clock in the car and realizing that my Grandma would be expecting me home soon and I was worried about her.
Can you imagine getting that call? "Your daughter/granddaughter has been taken into protective custody on suspicion of abuse." Knowing completely that you have never harmed your child, and fully believing that no abuse has ever occurred in your care - and yet, someone found enough evidence to take your child away. How helpless would you feel? Thinking about it still makes me cry.
That same day my Dad was taken into police custody where he took a polygraph test that he passed perfectly, leaving them with no further evidence against him. He came home that night - without me. I was taken into the police station where I was asked a number of uncomfortable questions while the investigator acted out random scenarios with dolls. "What would you do if someone touched you here?" was one of the questions I remembered. I wonder, looking back, how my answers affected their investigation. I came from a conservative family, and I was embarrassed and uncomfortable with anything involving sex.
That night I was taken to a foster home. It was a large home, and there were a number of children who were clearly permanent residents - they had bedrooms and closets full of clothes and I wondered if I was to be a permanent resident also. That evening they played 'The Land Before Time' and I remember not being able to focus - and to this day, that movie makes me uncomfortable. The only place they had for me to sleep that night was on the living room couch. A woman sat at a computer that glowed green after dark and I lay on the couch and cried. She would yell at me occasionally to be quiet and go to sleep.
The next morning, my Grandma and my Aunt - my Dad's younger sister - came to pick me up and take me home. Unfortunately, through some flaw in the child protective system, my Dad was given the impression that he and I could not see each other for a number of months, and after that only supervised visits for another period of time. Not wanting to get into further trouble and lose me entirely, my Dad obeyed these rules precisely. Knowing what I know now, he should have fought this decision - since they found no evidence against him, there was no further reason to keep us apart.
This affected my perception of a lot of things growing up.
Never again, upon hearing a news report about some horrible child molester, do I take for granted that the story is true - because I always know that lies can be told, and innocent people can be accused of things and I find this reality just as tragic as the reality of abusers. As a teenager and young adult, I went through a number of training classes for taking care of children that told me to take all accusations to the police - unquestioningly - and I could never agree to this. I would approach the class instructor in all of these cases and say that I would take many things into consideration before bringing an accusation to police - because after my experience - I don't trust Child Protective Services to make the right choice. I can't shake the weight of knowing that there are always two sides to a story, and I will almost never fully believe an accusation without question - because in almost 100% of cases, there are parts of the story that an accuser will not tell. I recall as a child when I would complain about something another child had done to me and my Dad would look at me seriously and ask 'did you do or say anything to provoke them?'. He would always follow up with the statement that 'I can't control what another person does to you, but I am still responsible for teaching YOU what the right thing to do is in all circumstances' and he was almost always right to assume that I wasn't entirely innocent either. It's also possible that his experience with this scandal gave him additional understanding about investigating all angles before coming to conclusions.
I also do not promote the idea that a child cannot lie. I will absolute agree that a young child may not be able to be held accountable for a lie - because a young child can't fully understand the implications of the lie - but as soon as a child can communicate, they can lie. A lie is simply a statement that the speaker knows not to be true - and anyone who has ever had a young child must admit that children spend a good deal of their time trying to figure out how to control their world and lying is a part of that process.
Writing this blog post actually began with my thoughts on homeschooling - which I will be discussing more and more over the upcoming year - and thinking about all of the horrific stories and rumours that I heard as a very young child through the course of this event. I lost my innocence at a very young age, despite not actually having been abused as many in my community thought I was. All of the stories I mentioned earlier were, as I said, circulated by children - whether they were invented by children, I can't say, but nevertheless they were stories that children had rattling around in their brains and I think that's awful. No child should be thinking about sex abuse or mutilations, and when it comes to things like this, I would absolutely advocate that children should be sheltered from this kind of thing as long as possible.
Anyway, as a story that affects my life, my opinions and perception of the world, and my relationship with my father which was forever affected, I felt it was time to tell it. If you've read this far, thanks for listening.
Clara is at an age where almost everything that comes out of her mouth is quotable, because she's using words she's never used before daily and she is often using complex words in places they don't belong. She also tends to overuse words that are 'new' to her vocabulary.
For example, her latest word is 'actually' - and when she says it, it sounds more like 'akshly'. This weekend, she stayed at my Mom's for a couple of nights and I spoke to her on the phone. Her happy babbling sounded something like this: "I watched a movie today akshly, and it akshly had lots of princesses, and I liked all the scary parts akshly!"
Tonight after both girls had been put to bed, but neither girl was yet sleeping, Brian walked in to their room to find Clara not in her bed - but hiding in her tent. As he was guiding her back to her bed, she suddenly burst into tears exclaiming that "All of the Princes died! Now the Princess has no Prince, because all of the Princes are dead!"
Awhile ago, after Clara had done something that was so very much like something I would do, Brian says "She's your daughter..." to which Clara replies "No! I'm Daddy's daughter! Audrey is HER daughter." I told Clara that they were both my daughters AND Daddy's daughters, but she wouldn't be persuaded. "No! Only Daddy likes me! I don't like Mommy to like me! It makes me scared!" Ok, then.
One day, as Brian was tickling her, she caught her breath enough to say "This is not a good idea!" Then, after a short break in their playtime, Brian came back to tickle her and she said "Not now, honey."
Both of my daughters love medicine of any kind. When they have been sick, they have always sucked back tylenol like it was candy and lately Clara has woken up every morning begging for her morning vitamin. She says things like "My mouth is sick - I need medicine to feel me better."
She doesn't quite understand that her morning vitamins have no connection to whether or not she is actually feeling sick, so every morning when she wakes up she gives a few fake coughs and says "I have a cough, Mommy, I need a vitamin to feel me better." (Vitamin is pronounced 'bitamin')
As she grins and slaps her cheeks "I'm popping my face!"
"Bubble Gummies are for poking!" I think this had something to do with the bubble gum toothpaste she was using at her Grandparents, although this was before I had ever heard of 'Bubble Guppies', so it's possible she was also somehow referring to them.
On February 2, Groundhod Day, at 15 months and 7 days, Audrey finally decided to walk for more than one or two steps between furniture - and switched from mostly crawling to mostly walking. As though she has to do everything exactly like her big sister, who also began walking between 15 and 16 months.
She walks hesitantly still, with her elbows bent and her almost-closed fists in front of her, but she's getting faster every day. Today she picked up a book and walked around the house Belle-style, with the book open in her face.
It has been sooo long since I wrote an update on my girls. So, too late, here is another letter to my dear Audrey.
My Baby Girl,
You have changed so much in the past few months - and although you are still our 'baby', you really have graduated now to 'toddler'.
You have such a funny personality, you surprise me daily. That photo up top? You put those pants on your arms yourself and wandered around the house that way. We find you frequently wandering around with random items on your hands - socks, mittens, and random other pieces of clothing, all belonging to anyone in our family. You seem to like to always have things in your hands while you walk - I'll blame all of the people who tried to 'trick' you into walking by always putting things in your hands and then secretly letting go. This evening you walked around with your empty bottle in one hand, and a pair of Clara's panties in the other.
You are calmer than your sister, and you follow her lead when you play - mostly. Although you have learned how to yell when she's annoying you, and I think you've started using your 'tattling' to your advantage. I'm afraid I may have asked Clara what she did to you a number of times when the answer to that question truly was 'nothing', but you cried and so I assumed she had somehow hurt you. I will learn to interpret your honest cries from your devious ones. :)
You finally popped some teeth after your first Birthday, and now you have 4 - two each on the top and bottom. You haven't said a word yet that we can clearly interpret as language, but every once in awhile I think your 'ma' means 'more' or your 'di-di' means 'sister'. I try to assume you can understand what we say, though, and you almost always seem to understand my questions to you.
You still terrify me with your need to explore. You launched yourself over the arm of the couch the other day and although I was watching and was able to catch you - I'm afraid you'll do it on your own one day and be slightly surprised at how far away the floor is. You tumble off things constantly, but even after you cry, you almost always go back and try again. You love going up the stairs by yourself and you get quite annoyed if I start walking up the stairs with you in my arms. You will wiggle and fuss until I put you down and let you crawl up on your own. The other day I had a bit of a panic when I had forgotten to close the door at the top of our tall stairs and you had crawled to the bottom of the short set and were on your hands and knees, looking down the long flight. I quickly picked you up and I have been quite diligent about making sure the door is closed since, but that could have been a bad situation...
Looking back over my one-year letter to you, I was still breastfeeding a couple of times a day and we're completely done with that now. You were weaned without me really paying attention to what was happening shortly after your first Birthday. Suddenly I realized it had been 2 or 3 days, and you hadn't seemed to notice either. You still drink a ton, and I actually need to take you in for blood testing, just to rule out any diabetes or anything - your doctor isn't really concerned, but she said it would be good just to 'be safe'.
You've started becoming pickier in your food choices, and you have this irritating habit of suddenly waving your arms across the table in front of you when you decide you're done eating. You give no warning - suddenly there's food and dishes flying across the kitchen. After waiting what was probably too long to let you start using cutlery on your own, you began refusing food unless you could feed it to yourself, and you've proven surprisingly adept at using a spoon and fork. I have to get back into the habit of bringing bibs with us because anything soft and drippy will certainly end up all over your front, but most of the time you stay pretty clean when you eat. Until of course, the food spasm happens when you decide you're full - then you end up with food all over your lap and arms. :)
My girl, you have a quiet, but expressive personality that I feel like I'm constantly missing behind your sister's flamboyance. I will notice you do something out of the corner of my eye, or you will suddenly be doing something - like wearing pants on your arms and walking around stone-faced - that has me in stitches, and I wonder where you've hidden your giant personality in your quiet persona. I think you will surprise me daily, and I wonder if you will always remain - at least a little bit - a mystery to me.
We almost bought a new vehicle on the weekend - almost. Now that we've opened the door to trading in our car, Brian seems unable to think about anything else. Sigh...
It all began when I started seriously talking about wanting more seating in a vehicle - because as it is, we have no room for anyone but ourselves in our little car. As it is, WE don't need another vehicle for our daily needs. We can get the four of us where we need to go, and last summer we packed both girls, a stroller and all of our luggage for a 6 day roadtrip. Of course, if the trip had involved camping, there's no way we would have fit any tenting supplies along with what we were already packing.
As we began discussing a vehicle with more seating, the option of a vehicle that might pull a tent trailer or small camper became part of our criteria also.
Initially, I was convinced that only a mini-van would provide the seating we required. We need to be able to install 2 carseats in the middle row, and still be able to access the back row without having to take out the carseats all the time. We casually looked online at a few different minivan options - a 2012 Dodge Caravan was one option.
Brian was also somewhat interested in the VW Routan (if we had to get a minivan)...
Knowing how much Brian hated the idea of a minivan, I found an SUV that looked as though it MIGHT allow us to install carseats while still giving easy access to the back seat, and so we went to look. As it turned out, the SUV's I had seen had a middle bench that needed to be folded forward in order to access the back seat, and therefore wouldn't work for carseats.
Then we saw this...
A 2009 Ford Flex with 6 seats - which meant two bucket seats in the middle row, which were quite easy to get around. This thing also had heated seats, all wheel drive, and so much leg room all over the place it felt nearly like a limousine.
When we got back to the dealer, however, the salesman turned on us - although he had been friendly at first, he became condescending and even rude about the car we currently drove, and so instead of purchasing the Flex, we walked out.
So, then we returned to the salesman who had worked with us when we purchased our Cobalt, and although he isn't hopeful that we'll find another 6-seater Flex, he will be keeping his eyes open now for a vehicle that fits our criteria. And now that Brian has cars on his brain, I suppose we'll have to buy a new vehicle soon.
What do you drive? Considering what we need - what would you recommend? Any input would be great here!
Now that we've moved in to our 'new' kitchen, there are some incomplete projects that will probably take us awhile to finish. Most of them are not really obvious, like a few pieces of kick plate and cornice that need to be cut and attached, but the tile backsplash is still missing, which is quite obvious - especially where we ended the red paint in the middle of the wall at a point where we expect the tile to cover when it's finished.
Anyway, here it is just before we moved back in:
Almost everything is completely changed except the one light fixture over the sink (we have a new one, just haven't replaced it yet), and the white brick surrounding the doorway. The brick used to cover that entire wall with the pantry door, but we had to remove it to put in the pocket door - and I like the red wall. I think the white brick is the perfect amount to accent the room - and make it a little bit more unique.
A little different than a few months ago:
Just a reminder of what it looked like before:
We bought our kitchen from IKEA during their kitchen event, which meant that we received 10% back in IKEA gift cards. With the approximately $300 that we got back, we bought ourselves a new kitchen table to go in our newly expanded space. We had thought our kitchen chairs to be in good shape, which it turns out they aren't so we plan to replace those soon also, but all in all I think the improvement is pretty spectacular.
We bought a table that expands to seat 10 people, which we can do now that we don't have a wall between the kitchen and living room. We've already had quite a few 'dinner parties', filling up our new table, and I'm looking forward to hosting many more!
Glad to be mostly done with renovations, but dreading the task of finishing up the small bits of work that still need to be completed. Motivation will be an issue. But so glad to have a kitchen again!
Considering my husband does computer 'stuff' for a living, we're actually a pretty low-tech family. We watch some television and movies, but between Clara's afternoon tv 'quiet' time and our evening TV/movie watching, I think I can safely say that on average, our television is on less than 4 hours per day. That applies only to the days that the TV is on at all - there are many days when we get out of the house for various activities and on those days our TV watching is less or even non-existent. I don't mean to judge or condemn families that spend more time in front of the television, but I am pretty happy with and proud of our TV habits.
Also, up until this Christmas, Clara has had virtually no experience with computers and unlike many 3 year olds I've seen - she would have no clue how to open and play a game on my cell phone. This was the year, however, that we decided it was time to get Clara her own computer.
Enter the Leap Pad2.
So far she doesn't spend all that much time playing on this computer, and there are a few things that are still quite difficult for her. The touch screen is less sensitive than the screen on our cell phones - probably for strength and durability reasons - and sometimes Clara struggles with impatience when the LeapPad doesn't respond to her touch right away. Her impatience means that so far we haven't even considered limiting her time playing with the LeapPad, because she rarely lasts more than about 20 minutes anyway before she becomes distracted by something else.
Her favourite things so far are the books, since they mostly play themselves and all she has to do is turn the pages. She is also interested in the movie maker app that came with the LeapPad, although creating movies are a bit beyond her capability just yet. I think she will really enjoy this activity in a year or two. I'm disappointed with the battery life of this particular LeapPad, but we plan to purchase a battery pack for $30 which will solve that problem.
All of this makes me think about the concept of 'screen time' and what our family rules will be surrounding this particular thing. I recall a rant I heard in college by a young man who believed that all TV - especially documentaries - were rotting our brains. He argued that watching educational television made it less enjoyable for us to read and learn from a textbook, and I had to agree that after awhile of not reading, I found it more difficult to concentrate on reading. For this reason, I want to encourage my kids to spend less time using technology than is generally accepted by our culture today - don't get me started on laptops in elementary school...
I recently read an article that brought up a lot of interesting points on this topic. It was in the December 2013 issue of Parents Magazine (the print issue), and of course I can't remember what the article was called - I actually think it was a quiz about how 'tech smart' you (the parent) are about your children and technology.
One thing the article brought up was the idea that 'screen time' should apply to everyone in the household - that not just the children should be subject to limitations, but the parents as well. I completely agree with this, because I think too much screen time is bad for anyone and the best way to teach our children is to model the kind of behaviour we want from them. Also, when there is no TV on distracting us, we are more likely to engage in our children in productive and relationship-developing ways.
Another idea that the article brought up - which I wouldn't have considered myself - was to NOT count the hours. The idea behind not counting the hours was based on the fact that not all days are the same, and if you introduce the idea that each child 'gets' a certain amount of screen time, they are more likely to demand it or expect it on days when your schedule is maybe too busy to fit in technology. For example, you may have a 'free' day in your week when no one has to go anywhere (our 'free' day is Monday) and there may be lots of time for children to do their schoolwork and chores, watch TV and play outside while still leaving time to watch two or three hours of TV. Another day, however, may leave only a couple of hours at home after lessons, visits, shopping etc. and during those few hours the child still may need to complete their schoolwork and chores - making it unrealistic to allow them their 'allotted' television time when the day just doesn't really allow it.
Another principle brought up in this article that I wouldn't have agreed with before hearing their argument is that a parent shouldn't use screen time as a reward or a punishment - for example, if a child is rude or doesn't clean up their room to take away their 'screen time' for the day. This sort of goes along with the previous point about not wanting to encourage the idea of entitlement as well as not wanting to give 'screen time' more importance than it deserves. The principle here being that if it becomes a reward or punishment, the child might start desiring screen time more than otherwise because the parent has elevated it in the child's eyes.
One principle that the article mentioned that I completely agree with is the idea of having no screens in bedrooms. For a few reasons, one of course being safety for children - it is more difficult to get involved in scary chatrooms when the computer is in a main room where parents can look over shoulders at any moment. Another reason for no screens in the bedroom is because TV and computers stimulate the brain in a way that makes it difficult for most people to get good, solid sleep. One thing I appreciate about our girls having to share such a small bedroom is that we don't really have the option of filling their room with all kinds of toys and books, because there really isn't room for any more than the two toddler-sized beds and dressers that are already in there. It will be easy to lay out their room in such a way that makes it useful only for sleeping, getting dressed and eventually reading - so their rooms can always be a place of calm. Hopefully.
What are your thoughts on electronics and whether they should be limited at all, or not? Do you have rules in your house for TV, computer or internet use, and what are your rules?
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