The Nealon Kids have been without electronics for one week now. This was the consequence for the flood in their bathroom that worked its way down to my dining room ceiling. No xbox, no wii, no tv, no ds games, no ipods, no computers. It really is amazing how plugged in we have all become. I have never had too many rules put into place about hours in front of the many screens that my kids have. Our routine has always been to come home from school and get homework finished and then read before they can go out and play...and "go out to play" is what my kids do a lot. My boys can spend hours and hours and hours in the driveway shooting hoops. It could be just one of them out there by himself working on his free throws, it could be two brothers playing one on one, and sometimes there maybe a foursome going on with the neighbors. Whole worlds have also been created in our backyard by boys with imaginations. Forts have been built with tree logs, walls have been raised with stones from the creek and endless battles have been fought with nerf guns until the yard looks like it has just rained bright orange darts. Molly still loves our swing set in the backyard and still asks Chris to push her even though she doesn't need that push any more. She will also spend hours in her playhouse...sometimes it's her house, sometimes it's her school, and sometimes it's her store, it just depends on where her imagination leads her that day. Then there are the countless hours of organized sports and activities: soccer, basketball, baseball, football, dance, piano lessons, horseback riding lessons, girl scouts.
There really doesn't seem like a whole lot of time left in their day for electronics to play such an important part in their lives and yet they do. Three days into "no electronics" Ryan said, " The day just moves so much slower than it did before." I don't think he meant that as a good thing, but I thought that was a good thing. Why should we always be in such a rush? Why should we always feel like every moment of the day we have to be doing something? Sometimes I think we should just "be" and not "be doing" something.
So with all this extra time on their hands (and mine as well because I've been trying to keep the TV off and the electronics to a minimum during this) I have been trying once again to get my kids to read more. I realized for myself that it has been a while since I had picked up a book myself. It amazes me that we have to remind ourselves sometimes to do the things we love to do. So I told the kids to all bring their current book that they were reading to the dinner table to share. Some of my kids are always excited to share what they have been reading and some just give me the eye roll and just go along with it because it's easier than putting up a fight.
Dinnertime is sacred in our house. It is the most important part of the day. It is the only time during the day that we are all together, that we can share the events of the day, that we can relax and be ourselves and I try to make them teachable moments as well. This past Friday, Molly had a play date with a friend. First of all, Molly was very concerned about not being able to have electronics while having her friend over. I told her we would play it by ear and see what happens. Well, these two little girls brought home their science textbooks from school and spent the first part of the afternoon doing one science experiment after another. They had blue dyed water in ziplock bags taped to windows in the sun and bags taped to windows in the shade and then they went back every few minutes to see if they could see a change. They were in dark closets with a flashlight telling me if you shine the light on the black paper you can see stars,"Do you see them mom? Don't you see the stars?" "Hmmm, yah, I see them," I tell them. After they were done with experiments, they went outside and played tennis. No electronics needed. Then we collected food for a food bank for their girl scout troop. No electronics needed. Then the two girls went in the backyard and were on the swings with the boys for over an hour. No electronics needed. The phone rings and it was Molly's friend's mom wanting to know how everything was and if she had overstayed her welcome. I told her everything that they had done that afternoon and that right now there were four happy kids in the backyard laughing and giggling and having a great time. She said that that was great and again wanted to make sure her daughter didn't wear out her welcome because she always talks about the "Nealon Dinners" and that they are so much fun. The mom wanted to make sure her daughter wasn't stretching out her play date to stay for our dinner.
Wow, I thought, someone is always talking about the "Nealon Dinners?" "Oh, yes," the mom continues, "she says the Nealons are just the funniest family. I just love having dinner with them." Now, to be honest, I really don't remember this little girl having too many dinners with us to make that much of an impression. But, I guess we did, and I was so glad that it was a good impression.
Yep...some of those "Nealon Dinners" maybe, "Stop, my side hurts too much from laughing so much," but then you have the mom that used to be a teacher with a Masters in Reading telling her four kids, "bring the current book you are reading to the dinner table." Sunday night was that night. Everyone brought a book and while we ate, each of us shared what we were reading. Timmy was rereading a LeBron James book. Ryan was reading a biography about Dr. Seuss. Molly was rereading a book that her teacher had read aloud to the class. Shannon was rereading a book about Derek Jeter. Chris was reading the Steve Jobs book. I thought it was kind of odd that everyone was reading a biography except for Molly. Ryan and Chris got into a discussion about Dr. Suess because Chris recently read a book about him as well. We talked about some of the same qualities that each of these people possess: perseverance and determination. Then it was mom's turn. I brought The Hunger Games to the table. I told them that I had started reading this months ago, got about two-thirds through it and then our busy life got in the way, I got side-tracted, and now wanted to finish it because the movie was coming out. Timmy's eyes lit up.
"I've heard of this book! My friend told me all about it and said it was a great book and I should read it!"
"Why didn't you say something to me that you wanted to read it?"
"I didn't know we had it."
Just the night before Timmy said he needed more books to read. Recently, all Timmy will read are sports books. They could be either fiction or nonfiction but they have to have some kind of sport in them. I've tried to introduce other genres to him but he wasn't interested and that's okay. This was the first time that he wanted to read a sci-fi book. After dinner was over, Timmy took the book and began to read. With no electronics to distract him, he got to chapter 4. The next morning he was in my room at 7:00 in the morning looking for the book. Another three chapters were read. Then, he was starting not to feel too well, cough coming on, throat starting to hurt, and he had a basketball tournament that lasted all day. By Monday night he was exhausted. He stayed home from school. I felt bad for him. Here he was home all day with no electronics. Do I let him have tv back because he was sick? But Timmy never asked for it back. He lay on the couch all day and read and read and read. Why would I stop that for tv? Why would I feel bad? He was enjoying the book. A book that a friend told him about but a book that I brought to the table Sunday night.
Sometimes there are things we do as moms that feel like we are banging our heads up agains a brick wall. How many times have I told you to hang up you coat? How many times have I told you to put you shoes away? How many times have I told you to wipe up the water on the bathroom floor? But if you keep on talking, if you keep on trying, if you have determination and perseverance, eventually we moms start to get through. I always have Dory's voice in my head from Nemo..."Keep on swimming, swimming, swimming." If I didn't bring that book to the table Sunday night, Timmy wouldn't have connected to it from the conversation that he had with his friend and he wouldn't have finished reading it in two days. Through the eye rolls, through the sighs, through the, "Ahhh, I don't have a book to talk about right now!" I will keep on swimming. Most night we just share our books. Most nights there are no great connections made, but every once in a while, there is a connection and I feel like I'm finally getting through to them...one little book at a time.
Now, if you please excuse me, I have to finish The Hunger Games so I can go see the movie next month. I think I have a date night planned with a special eleven year old.