Both girls had been sitting silently on separate ends of our sectional for almost an hour, Nintendo DS’s in their hands. It was the longest they had been in the same room this week without fighting.
“Have you eaten breakfast yet?” I asked.
Mumble, grumble, hmphhff…
“Turn off those games and get something to eat please!”
Reluctantly they slid off the couch and perused the display of breakfast foods on our counter. I had a friend over yesterday morning so there was no shortage of choices: fresh-baked muffins, meat and cheese platter, veggie platter, fruit and dip. The girls loaded up their plates then preceded to watch TV. I was in much need of grown-up conversation so monitoring the TV time was not on my mind. However, after an hour breakfast, and an hour walk in the neighborhood I was disappointed (although not surprised) to see my two kiddos still sitting half comatose in the den. After my friend left, I jubilantly exclaimed, “OK! We are going to turn the TV off now and find something else to do. It’s time to enjoy this beautiful summer day.”
Obviously I wasnt clear enough. The Tortoise immediately gravitated to her blinds-drawn, sweaty soccer bag smelling room to read a book, while The Hare whipped out her DS again. I was really in need of a shower after such a hearty walk, and decided to address this consistent inactivity clean. Unfortunately, it was only a few minutes later that the girls were arguing about something. Apparently someone was hogging all the air or something just as important. I decided intervention was needed sooner than later.
“This isn’t exactly what I had in mind, ” I said looking at the dozen kids starting to surface across the street. There are oodles of kids in this neighborhood, yet neither of my children have anyone to play with for some reason. “I’m tired of all the fighting, TV watching and video game playing. That’s it – both of you must get dressed and go outside. Now.”
Their eyes widened and faces froze – if there was any color in them at all, they would have turned white, but unfortunately since they haven’t seen the sun in days I couldn’t really tell a difference.
“What?!” they both exclaimed, “How long do we have to stay outside?”
Seriously? This is that upsetting to them? My childhood flashed in front of my eyes: days spent roaming the neighborhood with my summer friends, hiding down at the creek, building hammocks out of my mom’s old sheets, eating popsicle at various neighbor’s houses, having water fights. My kids were actually scared of going outside.
“An hour,” I stated bluntly, “You must stay outside a whole hour. And that’s final.”
They both slammed drawers and moaned about their rooms while getting dressed. I just ignored them, cleaned up the kitchen. The back door banged boldly as they finally exited. I kept watching the kids across the street expecting to see my two join them. But no sign of them. After 15 minutes I thought I would poke my head out and see what they were doing, since obviously they had not joined the neighboring Little Rascals. They beat me to it, though, as The Hare came flying in through the door crying.
“MOM! MOM! Sissy…”
“Nope – I don’t want to hear it, ” I hissed, “If you and your sister can’t work out your own problems, then I am going to MAKE you find someone else in the neighborhood to play with outside.”
“MOM! Please don’t force us to make a new friend!” screeched The Tortoise. If I hadn’t been so frustrated, I probably would have started laughing at the absurdity.
“Then go outside and stay there!”
The both stormed off. Finally, I could get a shower, I thought. The water was warming up while I made the bed and laid out clothes. So far so good. The temperature was perfect and I was just about to step in when I heard the back door again. Then screaming and crying traveling up the stairs. I quickly grabbed my robe and ran out the door. Standing on the landing was The Hare crying in hysterics, wet.
“What the heck is going on?”
“Sissy put a hole in the top of a water bottle with the air pump and started spraying me!”
I took a deep breath.
Then The Tortoise came running in with the said water bottle, “It’s just water! What is the big deal?”
The water wasn’t a big deal. In fact, I thought it was quite funny. However, wasting a water bottle was a big deal when we have a basket of water guns, two hoses, and a drawer full of washable water bottles with spouts. The bottled water was for days we needed something quick on the way to soccer or gymnastics and we had forgotten to fill a jug.
I wish there was some funny quip I could finish this up with today, but the sad truth is that I sent them both to clean their rooms. We now have clean rooms, but no further desire to be outside. What happened to the care-free days of summer? I don’t ever remember my mom punishing me by sending me out. I loved the freedom and the sunshine. It was a treat to hangout with neighborhood friends, play kick-ball in the street or ride my roller skates. This summer I’ve tried to take a walk everyday to set a good example, but most of the time neither of them wants to go with me. Numerous friends tell me they are struggling with the same thing at their houses too, so it isn’t really unique to our household. But it needs to change, quickly.
I am open to suggestions my dedicated blogging buddies and occasional readers. Please – how do we get our kids to be kids? I overheard a mom at the gym earlier this week say that they have proclaimed it the “No TV Summer.” Perhaps I need to start there. During the school year we always have a no TV rule during the week and it is followed without complaint. I like family movie time at the end of a long day, but there really is no reason for it during the day. I never watch it when I’m home alone. So there you go, that is our new summer plan. We are going to start by simply turning the TV off after breakfast (I need them to be distracted a little so I can write and read blogs over coffee, let’s be realistic here).
Wish me luck!