Sunday, May 5, 2013

Screen-Free Week 2013: Finding Balance in the Real World

Last year, I participated fully in Screen-Free Week - not using the computer or TV at all for 7 whole days.  This year, I decided to take a more realistic view of things.

With a preschool to run, a new blog to promote, lessons to plan, and bills to pay, completely eliminating screens just wasn't going to happen.  I decide to allot myself 30 minutes per day of computer usage after the boys were in bed.  One thing I learned this week - 30 minutes is NOT enough time.

The first night, I think I spent about an hour online, however, because I had given myself a time limit, I worked quickly and efficiently getting invoicing done, paying the monthly bills and catching up on articles, blogs and emails.  After that hour, I retired to bed where I read my current book - Siblings Without Rivalry.  Overall, I felt relaxed, both because I was caught up on work, but also because I hadn't spent extra mindless hours in front of the computer browsing through hundreds of lesson ideas and other time-wasting, directionless endeavors.  Don't get me wrong, I love me some mindless browsing, but it certainly doesn't need to be my focus every child-free hour of the day.  The week continued in pretty much the same way, but it wasn't working like it had before.

Last year, my concern was mainly about my son, Monkey's behavior.  He was 2 1/2 at the time and was clearly affected by my computer usage.  I must say, I did quite well maintaining the focus I set during last year's screen-free experiment....at least until my second son was born at the end of September.  I started my preschool up again when lil Bear was just 5 weeks old.  It was a struggle at first and I had way too much to do and very little time in which to do it.  I was barely sleeping and hardly had time to eat, so meals were usually made to order as needed and Monkey often ate on his own.  I tried my best to be sure he had time with me on his own to read or play games and for a long while, he was napping everyday at the same time as the baby and that gave me a good window to get things finished up after each school day.

However, slowly but surely, I became that dang frog in the pot again!!  Why does this keep happening??  Sheesh.  Monkey stopped napping, I was sleepy and still not focusing on myself when it came to food, quiet time and appropriate rest, we were arguing all the time and heading for disaster if I didn't straighten things out.

When I started seeing reminders about Screen-Free Week, it dawned on me, it was history repeating itself, but this time, I would be the calm center of our household, I would be the strong and compassionate guide my son was so desperately trying to bring out in me.  First up, no computer (again) until after bedtime - done! Next?

Time for some reflection.  He's acting out but the computer is off, what else does he need?  We're spending a ton of time together, playing, reading, singing, anything he wants to do, why is it not enough?  It's not my proudest Mommy moment to admit that it took me ALL week to figure it out - rhythm....I'd let it go somewhere along the way.  The only thing predictable about our day aside from my preschool routine was dinner and by then, he was so frazzled and out of sorts that he didn't even want to participate.  So, I've got it figured out, now, what to do about it.......menu time!

The easiest way to schedule a child's day is to use meals as a base - time to 'check in' and regroup - time to exhale.  I decided to start with Rudolf Steiner's color and grain of the day; grains are one of the few foods Monkey's guaranteed to eat, so why not start the day off right.  We've also recently started using a rainbow chart to keep track of fruit and veggie consumption, so I thought the color of the day would be fun for him as well.  The color doesn't need to be food necessarily, it just gives the young child something else to guide the rhythm of the week - it can be clothing, placemats, anything really. 

I've tried menu planning in the past, but gave it up after a short time, mainly because my husband works nights and is only home 2-3 times a week for dinner and those nights rotate making it nearly impossible to create a workable routine.  I also didn't spend much time cooking because Monkey is a VERY picky eater; meaning no vegetable shall ever, ever touch his lips OR ELSE!  He also refuses meat of any sort as well as beans, seeds, nuts, and anything else that might possibly SOUND like it might be something he won't like.  On the positive side, he does eat a rainbow of fruit everyday and enjoys cheese, yogurt, eggs and even 'green juice' from Trader Joe's, which he'd probably refuse if he knew what was in it.

BUT, now I have Bear, who, at 7 months old, eats anything you put in front of him, including eggplant parmesan and mahi-mahi, which I just can't wrap my mind around, so I thought, even if no one else will eat, we can go through the motions and Bear and I will enjoy what I've cooked.  The menu I came up with is simple: breakfast each day (usually a grain with fruit) with more time-consuming meals such as pancakes on weekends; lunches aren't planned because we keep them simple (hummus, yogurt, cheese and crackers, etc.); dinners are categorized - soup day, casserole day, slow cooker day, leftovers, etc. and then I pre-plan the menu and shop for the whole week each Sunday.

We've done our new rhythm for a total of ONE day at this point, but today was the best day we've had in weeks.  We ate our meals together, we played, we read, we had rest time (no longer referred to as 'nap', and yes, I rested too, we must set a good example!), I was tested, but I held my ground; I was pushed, but I was firm, yet empathetic.  I'm not under any illusion that today will be the standard for every day to come, but it was enough to let me know that all my kiddo wanted was some boundaries. 

A friend of mine said it beautifully once - children will just keep reaching and reaching until they find something solid to push against.  Yes, he's going to keep pushing, but I hope (this time) I'll remember to be there to be his solid ground.


4 comments:

  1. What a great post. I will be off to read up on rainbow chats and colour and grain stuff in a minute, sounds like something we could use in our house. Your last paragraph really resonated with me because we had a really bad weekend with lots of tantrums. It got so bad that we decided we needed to implement a clear consequence. The result of doing this just twice has been a complete personality change to a much happier child. Now there may have been other factors at play but I think you are right that sometimes boundaries are what a small person craves. I'm sharing your post on the Sunday parenting party pinterest board

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    1. Thank you! We're on day 4 over here and so far, so good! I've had to do quite a few interventions to prevent the behavior (his and mine) from escalating, but it's really working and we're much happier, even my hubby and my Mom (who heard one such intervention while I was on the phone with her) have commented about both my handling of situations and his reactions. Good luck with your changes as well!!

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  2. This is such a sweet post! I am going to spend some time reading your blog-- we have a home playschool too!

    I featured your post this week at Eco-Kids Tuesday! Hope you stop by again today!

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    1. Thank you! I'm planning some big changes to the preschool for our new school year in August, so I'm sure there will be many blog updates on that!

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