One month ago Cole found himself grounded. Grounded from video games. Grounded from television. Grounded from technology. For an entire month. The last month of summer break.
As his punishment was decided, I selfishly thought with dread “what am I going to do with him to keep him entertained for four weeks without a technology distraction every now and then – for those moments when I need a break – for those moments when his brother won’t stop fussing – for those moments when I’m out running and Christian needs to decompress too. How am I going to stay sane without technology? How was Cole’s punishment not going to turn into punishment for the whole family?“
Cole got his video games back on Friday night, and we all survived. Not only did we survive, we thrived. Taking away his video games for the summer is the BEST thing that could have happened throughout the course of this summer.
Over the course of the summer, I’ve also had many conversations with Heidi as we have run enough miles together to get to Richmond, Virginia (to be exact: 93.45 miles covered on Saturdays this summer). A conversation that always surfaces is parenting. How do we engage our children? How do we preserve their childhood? How do we let them be boys but raise them to be men?
Heidi, once a teacher (always a teacher!) now a full-time mama, so brilliantly said – You have to let them find comfort in boredom. She had witnessed it in her classroom. If she asked a question and got no response, she had to wait out the silence. An answer would be found by her students if she didn’t provide it. As a parent, I’ve become so quick to fix I’m bored that I haven’t given Cole the opportunity to fix his own boredom. I never allowed him the time or the space to let his brain wander. I robbed him of his creativity. I’m bored has been followed up with long lists of suggestions he could say no to. I needed to provide him silence.
If there was ever a time to let Cole explore I’m bored, a month of no technology was that time. He was responsible for the loss of technology; therefore, he needed to be responsible for finding his own forms of entertainment. And do you know what I discovered? An amazingly creative, silly, TALKATIVE eight year old boy.
The first few days of grounding were a bit of a honeymoon. He was happy to play. He was still feeling remorse for his behavior. He was on his best behavior. Once the honeymoon ended, I’m bored found us. As soon as it found us, I waited. I responded by stating that I knew that he was bored, and that he was going to have to get creative. He was going to have to renavigate his eight year old world without technology.
Books were read. A LOT of books were read. He spent days sitting on the coach with his nose in a book. It took us the first half of 2012 to read a portion of a chapter book. He devoured the rest in just a few hours. From that book he created his own dragons. He pretended the dragons lived in our attic too.
He created. Lego renditions of the book Hatchet were created. Airplane. Crash scene. Mountain Side. He included it all. Forts were built. Stuffed animals became friends and partners in crime.
He drew. Drawing has always been his favorite activity. It wasn’t forgotten about over the course of four weeks.
His imagination came alive. I came home from work to find a dog version of Cole living in my house complete with a homemade collar, dog tail, paws, and his very own drinking bowl in our kitchen. The dog lived with us for two days (and our real dog Alex has never had so much attention!).
One month of no technology was meant to serve as a punishment for Cole’s bad decision. While it did serve it’s purpose, it also delivered an even greater message to our family. We rely on technology too often. I’ve used it as a way to keep Cole entertained when I need one less distraction. It’s kept him quiet. Out of Sight. Out of Mind. And before I realized it, he spent a good chunk of his morning playing video games. I don’t give Cole enough credit or enough space (or enough opportunity) to be a child. There will always be moments when I need one less distraction. There will always be times when Cole wants to play video games.
It is my job as Cole’s mom to establish healthy boundaries for the usage of technology in our house. I have not been successful with this task in the past. Going forward, this changes. I owe it to my son to do better.
Technology is now limited to one hour per day in our house. It is up to Cole to manage his usage. He can choose when he wants to play (but not at dinner time!). He can decide what he wants to play. He can decide how he wants to split up the time. The rest of the day is meant for childhood living. It’s meant for exploring I’m bored. And I’m planning on helping him explore.
I can find a way to navigate the evening hours while getting all the “must dos” accomplished (like cooking dinner, homework and bathing) while incorporating Cole. He’s old enough to help prepare dinner. He’s helped the past few nights, and he loves it. He’s not bored. He’s more excited about trying new foods. And his face beams with pride when he knows he has made something yummy. Movie Nights (does this count as technology free?). Art Nights. Game Nights. Go run around and be crazy outside Nights.
Our childhood is such a small portion of our life. I want him to live his childhood. I want him to love his childhood. I want him to explore all parts of his brain so when life demands that he become an adult, he is ready. I don’t want to lose my child behind a screen. I don’t want him to grown up and think life is lived through technology.
I want him to be engaged with the world around him.
Shameless Mom Bragging Moment: I cannot believe how much this process has matured Cole. He never (not once) asked for his video games back. He never complained. He never whined. He accepted the grounding with grace and maturity. I was amazed! And don’t give him nearly enough credit for how much he has grown up.