So, I was told to send my four-year-old to bed an hour early. Simple but great advice! Why didn’t I think of that? Well, that is why I am sharing. I probably didn’t think of that because I am running on autopilot and didn’t step outside of the situation to take a closer look.
I am not sure if anyone is in the same predicament as me but with two jobs and grad school, it has become quite hard to spend as much time with my children as I would like. I spoke with my pastor about this and she had some really great advice. My main issue was that I needed to spend more time with my teenage daughter and as anyone knows teenagers can turn their backs on parents and shut them out; mine hasn’t done this and instead has been trying to connect with me more often. My son is a handful and usually takes up most of my time when I am at home and not grading papers or writing papers.
So, I was told to send my four-year-old to bed an hour early. Simple but great advice! Why didn’t I think of that? Well, that is why I am sharing. I probably didn’t think of that because I am running on autopilot and didn’t step outside of the situation to take a closer look. Within that hour my daughter gets 30 minutes to herself to relax without having to help with her little brother and the last 30 minutes are for us to share and do whatever it is that SHE wants to do.
When I told her about the idea she was excited. She even helps me get her little brother in the bed earlier for his storytime and kiss goodnight. So far we have played monopoly (her favorite game) and 8 ball (a game that uses our cell phones). We even answered questions from our “Coke or Pepsi” book (great book to get for girls middle school and up). She loves our time together and so do I.
Well, I have moved back to my old neighborhood and I am glad because the kids are happy, their schools are closer, and it’s beautiful here. Along with this move came a reconnection to their dad. Our past is somewhat intense. We met in high school and knew then that we wanted to be together “forever” but as we all know, when kids get involved and only one parent matures, it makes for some heavy situations. Fast forward 14 years and we are both a lot more mature and it is time to act as such.
I have come to the realization that it is important for our daughter to finally see her parents interact in a positive way and our 3.5 year old son to have his dad around on a consistent basis (also in a positive way). So, I extended the olive branch and offered for him to spend time with the kids and then when they went to bed we could watch the first game of the NBA finals. Both of us are going for Golden State!
Anyways, he was surprised because I never wanted to watch sports with him when we were together in the past nor did I really want him watching sports alone. I’d rather have him watch a good Lifetime Movie with me. So, he accepted the offer and was pleasantly surprised when he saw that I had brought two different types of wings, chips and dip, and beer and wine for the game.
We watched it and celebrated the ups and downs of the game. As we sat there glued to the screen and the food, it suddenly hit me that there was a clear power struggle between him and me. I didn’t want to give up control and he didn’t either. We also weren’t keeping the kids and each other partner first. We were young and selfish. All he wanted was my presence sharing an experience that he enjoyed. Crazily I used to be so mad at him for other actions that I tied it to anything that he wanted to do and “didn’t do it”.
Needless to say it was a great experience sharing a positive night with their dad and since then he has come over more often to spend time with the kids, talk about our daughters grades and our sons progress in a new preschool, and just relax.
What I want to end with is the fact that there shouldn’t be a power struggle because those types of struggles don’t account for the children. We need to focus on healthy relationships, which sometimes mean sacrifice, for our kids.
I have been “snowed-in” for the past few days and have completed a lot of homework for my new graduate degree that I’m working on. I have also pinned a lot on Pinterest. In keeping this post short, I was able to sit down with my daughter and go through these pictures and ask her thoughts on what she saw. This was a very enlightening moment as she realized that the world was actually as big as she was being told. Kids are so visual and no matter how many reports they have to write on globalization and multiculturalism, it always hits home when they get to “see” it. The best is when they can experience. I wanted to share with you what I shared with her from a site called distractify.com.
I love Pinterest and anyone that has read my blog and visited my page https://www.pinterest.com/cleckleymedia/ knows this. This is where I get inspired and I am able to create an online scrapbook. Well, much to my daughter’s chagrin, I came across a list of high school must-reads to revisit. Of course, as I was combing through the list, I became giddy with joy at the thought of reading these books again with my daughter; we would have our own mommy/daughter book club. I am sure that she will not read them all during her four years in high school (she is currently in 8th grade). So, why not get a head start on them now together. When I shared the “good news” she sighed. The truth is that she always huffs and puffs at my suggestion for reading material but, then she becomes enthralled and starts to ask me questions. I never let her abandon a book unless I can tell that it is completely over her head. Right now she is wrapping up “Of Mice and Men”. Then we can start on the list! Yippee!
According to PBS (n.d.), the ability to create something from personal experiences and feelings can nurture emotional health and assist with mental growth by providing opportunities to problem solve and think in new ways. Adults benefit too because creative play leads to relaxation or stimulation of new ideas and mental growth. With advantages like these, it is impossible to deny the impact it can also have on bonding time. As single parents, it is crucial for us to bond with our children as we are their first peek into what the world is like “out there”. We want them to trust us and our opinions more than they will trust their friends as we have been there, done that. It is during this time, that walls can be broken down and conversations can filter in (for the older children). Some of us struggle with the concept of being silly and getting dirty or letting our children find their way in creative play. But, there is no failure or gong that goes off to signal foul play. It is all fun, outside of the box fun, giggles, laughter, joy, eye contact, wonder, imagination, celebration, stimulation…play. Don’t be scared that the carpet and the walls will become ruined (the odds that this will happen regardless are great). Put on some clothes that you feel comfortable in and depending on the type of activity, that you don’t mind getting nasty. First think of your child’s natural strengths and talents and build activities around those. After building self-esteem, transport them to new activities where they must think outside of the box and use their imagination. I look back at my own childhood and since everyone else in the household was an adult and worked long hours, I had to entertain myself. I set up concerts using my Barbie dolls, created castles with Lego’s, completed latch hook and paint by number pieces, collected garbage pail kid cards, rocks, stamps, etc.
But, now there are so many other options out there and our kids are glued to screens instead of manipulating pieces and putting things together with their hands to create something new, whether or not it turns out the way that they intended. Below, I have listed some options for creative play with your child by age group. I hope that this helps and you try some of these this summer when you have more time with them than during the school year.
Toddlers & Young Children:
finger paints outside, in the tub, on a wooden table
Wii just dance or any dance game on the Wii or Kinetic for Xbox
decorate clay pots
use towel paper rolls to create instruments, kaleidoscope, animals like color snakes, etc
fruit loop necklaces
create a rainbow with paper plates and colorful streamers
just color (crayons, blank paper, huge coloring book)
The great thing about toddlers is that they are more interested in the box than the contents. Utilize everyday household supplies to save money and create with what you have. Small ones love to get messy and make a lot of noise so keep that in my mind.
make lip gloss, soap, candy
bake a cake that looks gross but tastes wonderful
let them design a menu and make the meal (with your assistance of course)
watch a YouTube video together and learn a new dance move
put together a skit, write it and act it out
put together a dance routine
paint by number
watch a YouTube video and learn how to crochet and knit (make a scarf)
purchase a science experiment book and try one a week
up cycle a pair of jeans or a t-shirt and make it something new
Remember there are a lot of items that you can obtain from your local dollar store. You don’t need to go to some expensive craft store to get started. Also, use your seasons; in the summer collect seashells and place them in clear containers, in the fall, gather some leaves and create something, in the winter make something besides a snow man with the snow, and in the spring plant a garden.
make snow globes
create a musical
create an iPad sleeve from recycled resources or old clothing
make a journal from scratch
bejeweled iPhone cases or jazz them up in a different way
learn to sew together
Wii Michael Jackson
Okay, the Wii showed up in each category but it is really fun and my kids love to see me let my hair down, plus I get some exercise. If you can think of anything else, please add to the list in the comments. If you have questions please feel free to contact me here in the comments or via Twitter. Now, go play with your kids!