We are delighted to welcome Jennifer Phillips as our guest writer. Many of you know her as the coauthor of “Unhitching from the Crazy Train,” but she also has authored “Bringing Lucy Home” and “30 Days of Hope for Adoptive Parents” as well as a fabulous blog. For a much needed admonition to remember that summer means REST…read on and enjoy!!
By Jennifer Phillips
It was the start of summer, and I had big plans. I have four kids who at the time were twelve, ten, eight, and three. My oldest was headed off to camp, so the plan was this: fill the week with activities perfectly tailored to the younger three. It was going to be great…except Littlest One awoke the first day of vacation with glassy eyes. You know the look. Mamas don’t need thermometers; the eyes never lie. She quickly spiraled down into viral misery. Translation: we were going to be housebound for the entire week.
What? No fun, yet educational outings? No trips to Baskin Robbins? No play dates? We’re just going to be home for six days straight?! Say it ain’t so.
I hunkered down and prepared for the worst. I could see how it was all going to play out: The youngest would require most of my time and attention, and the other two—bored out of their under-stimulated minds—would fight like street warriors. My husband would come home each day to find me rocking in a different corner of the house.
The first assumption was true: my baby was the most pitiful little sickie, and I spent most of my time being Nurse Mama. The other two predictions? Actually, (and this is hard for me to admit) I was wrong. They didn’t come true.
With the bookend kids out of the picture so to speak, the middle two made an intriguing discovery. They actually liked each other. They enjoyed each other’s company. They palled around and giggled and schemed and genuinely had a good time.
Do you know what else they did—these children left on their own without a mother hovering over them, without me playing Activities Coordinator Extraordinaire?
They were creative.
I wasn’t dragging my kids anywhere or filling their time, so they filled it themselves. They built forts to house sock puppet shows. They rediscovered dusty card games long abandoned in the cupboard. They played darts—darts, for crying out loud—and even invented their own dart game, dart business, and dart business cards. They read great books. They wrote and performed musicals, complete with props. They dug out long-forgotten craft supplies and just went for it.
Please hear me: I did not organize or suggest any of these activities. As far as these two middle kids were concerned, I was MIA. Cruise Ship Entertainment Director had a pitiful baby on her at all times and was unavailable. Did they still fight? Well, of course they did. But you know what? They had a fulfilling, fantastic week, courtesy of their own imaginations.
Perhaps we’re onto something here. Summer is here, friends, so listen up:
Is it possible that our efforts to entertain, develop, and provide experiences for our kids are actually robbing them of the space their minds need to explore and create? When our schedules jump from task to task, event to event, planned entertainment to planned entertainment, we leave little room for imagination, dreaming, ingenuity, or even relationship. We feel guilty if we aren’t Pinteresting and extra-curricularing our kids to the max, but maybe we should actually feel remorse for the fact that we are.
I get it. Life is busy, and sometimes that busyness is unavoidable. But I’m going to venture to say there are ways we can slow down the madness and stop micromanaging our kids in order to set them loose and see what they can do, on their own. So their minds can grow and expand without us telling them exactly how that’s going to happen, and without us bearing all the pressure to make that happen. So they have time to deepen relationships that just can’t deepen if they’re always on the go. So we can stop carrying the ridiculous responsibility of providing our kids with the most perfect, educational, and fun childhood.
Am I promising that if you scale back, your kids will make sock puppets and get along beautifully? No. They may fight and beg for screens the entire time. This will probably happen the next time I try this. But maybe they won’t. You’ll never know if you don’t give them the chance.
Sickness forced us off the hamster wheel of excessive busyness, of Mama Micromanaging, for six days. But what if I volunteered to jump off instead? What if we all did? It’s summer, y’all. For the sake of our kids’ creativity, for the sake of relationship, and for the sake of our own sanity, I say, let’s take the leap.
This is an adapted version of an article called “Why We Should Stop Micromanaging Our Kids”. from Jennifer Phillips’ blog.