A friend just told me that last week’s Thanksgiving holiday really threw her for a loop. She’s a student again and had become so used to studying in the mornings after her children left for school that she couldn’t read or finish her homework with all three of them home and, literally, underfoot.
I had to laugh because while she was tearing her hair out, I was lying half-asleep on the couch while my three younger children practically ran wild. Olivia is currently my only home schooler, so it had been a while since we’d had a full house on a weekday. Parker printed the piano music for “Pumped up Kicks” and practiced it – over and over, until I’m sure every one of us could play it by ear! Reiley worked on the badges and other pre-requisites that she needs to begin her Girl Scout Gold Award, and Olivia “crafted,” whenever she wasn’t running in and out of the garage gathering supplies, door slamming shut behind her every time. The kitchen and family room floors were coated with a fine dusting of glitter by noon – sure sign of a good day.
Though I’m far from alone in my enjoyment of these respites from the school schedule, arguably many more parents find themselves
desperate for their children to go back to school at the end of holidays/seasonal breaks and summer vacation. Weariness associated with simply keeping their progeny occupied is compounded by the costs of doing so and concerns that kids today have
too much free time to ensure their competitiveness in the college entrance game. The resulting lack of parental enthusiasm for their children’s time off from school has generated demand for
"holiday survival" kits for mom and dad, in addition to (day) camps, tutoring, and holiday entertainment industries designed to take over child-care and instruction when school lets out.
Believe me, parenting free of the usual school and extracurricular schedules can be fun. Tear a page out of the 70’s parenting manual and let go! Sleep in, employ earplugs or earbuds as mute button, open the door and let them go. In collaboration with my virtual British parenting soul mate
Fiona Baker, consider the following groovy parenting tips:
Let them be bored. Take off your Activities Director hat and rest easy in the knowledge that tolerance for long periods of uncertainty and “boredom” breeds creativity.
Ignore them. Ban sentences that begin with “Mommy” and interruptions unaccompanied by blood. An iPod and/or a closed door can help, though I’ve found that manifesting a force field between me and them does the trick and is a lot more fun.
Put them outside. Don’t let your children become victims of
Nature-Deficit Disorder. Aromatic therapy is well and good, but climbing trees, falling down, and getting really dirty is better.
Allow them to do it themselves. Days off from school provide the perfect opportunity to give up elements of your cook, chauffeur, and other such roles. Perhaps
Lenore Skenazy, who left her nine-year-old in Manhattan with instructions to find his own way home, went too far, but kids really are more capable that many parents realize. Even younger elementary school children can prepare lunch unassisted (or order pizza delivery); older children can walk, bike, or scooter to the park or maybe even the movie theater.
Consider yourself well armed for the upcoming Christmas holiday or winter break.