Monday, August 20, 2012

How Much Time Do Your Kids Spend Playing Video Games?

Last week, as part of an article I’m working on for a parenting website, I asked the friends and family on my social media sites whether they limited their kids’ video game time. Given the huge controversy surrounding video games these days, I wasn’t at all surprised to see responses ranging from “My kids aren’t allowed to play video games at all” to “They can play as long as they want as long they’re still speaking proper English”.

What did surprise me was how many parents were eager to set their OWN limits instead of quoting the American Academy of Pediatrics and calling it a day.

With a child with ADHD, video games are a hot topic at my house. I can tell when Mr. A’s been spending too much time glued to the computer. Not only does he start bouncing off the walls, his social manner begins to be…well…shall we say lacking in manners?

On school days, I usually cut the kids an hour or two of electronics time. That translates to a TV show or two before bed. Weekends and vacations, they get on the television and computer pretty much as soon as they get up. I let them hang out until 10 or 11, then kick them off until bedtime. At which point I usually allow another hour or so before I send them to bed.

Occasionally I’ll let them stay up watching television until all hours of the night. Well, okay, midnight, which is the point at which they go to bed or my head goes “POP”.

Work days during vacations are always a little tricky. I’ve discovered that the pool about an hour and a half down the road has a perfect pre-made work space; the tables are set high enough above the pool that I can see what’s going on without having to worry about my laptop getting soaked. Since I now have three-count them, three-kids that can swim comfortably without the aid of a flotation device, that makes a good way to keep them occupied for 3-4 hours while I blog/research/work on the day’s articles/whatever. Well worth the drive.

Winter time, however, I have been known to lift video and television restrictions completely if it will keep them occupied and out of trouble for 4-6 hours. Same with sick days-mine or theirs. (My kids LOVE mom’s sick days, let me tell you what.) Since that usually ends with the kids bouncing off the walls by bedtime, I try not to let that one happen too often.

I’ve heard a number of people tell me that their kids will, if given the choice, self-police themselves when it comes to video games. Two thumbs way up to those kids, let me tell you what. My kids aren’t there yet.

What are the video game rules in your house?  

School Clothes Shopping

I thought I was going to get lucky this year. I really did. Mr. A needs new pants, but otherwise he’s pretty good on clothes. Princess C started the summer wearing the same size range as she did last year, and G-Money was the recipient of so many hand-me-downsI’m not going to have to shop for him for years.

New socks, a few new t-shirts for the boys and we’re ready to rock!
Then I took a good look at Princess C’s wardrobe and realized I wasn’t getting that lucky. You’d think it would be my boys who were hard on their clothes. Nope, not so much. Everything in her dresser right now has either stains, holes or both. The bottoms are falling off of her pants. Her shirts have shrunk in the dryer. Her skorts from last year aren’t too bad, but let’s be realistic. We live in New England. Global warming or not, it’ll be a miracle if it’s not snowing by Halloween.

So, this weekend, we get to go school clothes shopping. And because the boys would rather have their toenails plucked than go shopping when they don’t have to, it’s going to be ladies’ day out all the way around. Maybe we’ll make it to Red Lobster this time. Those shrimp are calling my name.

Friday, August 10, 2012

The Problem with Cartoons

Curling up with cartoons in the morning is a long-standing tradition that dates back to the year Mr. A was born. I was working nights, and being able to kick on the television and distract him for a few hours was my key to catching another hour or two of sleep.

Maybe not the best habits to foster, but hey. A mom’s gotta do what a mom’s gotta do.
Now, when Mr. A was born, good cartoons were a dime a dozen. We’d watch “Bear in the Big Blue House”, “Darkwing Duck” and “Dora the Explorer”. Things started taking a downturn when Princess C came along, but they weren’t bad. By the time G-Money was old enough to appreciate the wonders of animation, his options were pretty gosh-darned cruddy.

Fortunately, we were too cheap to pay for cable. All those Dora and Blues Clues DVDs came in handy.

Now that the kids are older and moving beyond Thomas the Tank Engine and Care Bears, I’m not impressed. We’ve pretty much banned Cartoon Network in my house for excessive violence and encouraging bad behavior. Even the Disney Channel is letting me down. I love Phineas and Ferb, but even Suite Life and Pair of Kings is a perfect launch pad for anarchy and terminal verbal diarrhea.

Short story, our kids are getting bombarded with messages about how it’s “cool” to talk back to their parents, play pranks on their supervisors and disrespect their friends. And it’s not cool.

What happened to the cartoons of our youth? I know I’m not romanticizing it. These days, if nobody gets their butt kicked, my kids don’t want to watch it. I did, however, find one show I really like.

Magi Nation

If you have older kids who are into Yu Gi Oh and Pokemon, you have to check this out. The show is essentially Pokemon, but in a dream world with dream creatures. The best part is, there are math and science lessons incorporated into each show. The kids get to see Gorram be captured and sent back to the dream land AND discover the lattice and pure minerals inside crystals. They track down the dream stones while discovering addition, subtraction and greater than/less than, which might not mean much for older kids but is solid gold when their six year old brother’s in the room too.

Most importantly, it teaches things like friendship and family values while still giving them enough action to keep them interested. I love it.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Yay Sick Days

Hello hello hello! Did you miss me?

It’s been a wild summer. Kids spent a month out of state with my in-laws while I finished some college classes. (More on that when I’ve put the trauma out of my mind.) I spent that whole month scouting out great things to do with the kids when they got back.

I planned camping trips. I planned amusement park days. I planned for picnics and pools and movies and all sorts of other stuff. So what’s the first thing they do when they get back?

Okay, the first thing they did was spend two days at Jellystone, which was AMAZING. The second thing they did was get sick.

Yup. Sick. For the last one…three…five days I’ve had at least one kid down with the plague at any point in time. Princess C had to come home early from a slumber party the other night. I left her home with Dad to take the boys to the state park for a day of fun, sun and swimming, only to have Mr. A drop on the way home with a fever, cough and general misery.

I was so aggravated with the amount of time they spent on the computer and watching TV while they were gone. I SWORE I was going to get them out and about when they got home. What happened? We’ve had a five day cartoon marathon while the kids lay around in bored misery and mom tries to work, catch up on two weeks’ of errands and housework, job hunt and play nurse, all at the same time.

No days at the park or Chuck E. Cheese with my laptop in one hand and a juice box in the other. No early morning work sessions so we can spend the afternoon at the pool. I love sick days. (sigh)