Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Someone To Watch Over Me

I was home sick from work when a public service announcement came on the tube. It was telling me that just "watching" my kids was not enough. I needed, apparently, to involve them in several organized activities to prevent them from becoming bored and turning their high spirits toward prostitution or building a meth lab in their tree house or some such thing. Well, let me tell you; I disagree.
I think just watching my kids was just fine. I'm not talking about laying on the couch while they ran amok. I mean that a certain degree of controlled amok running is a good thing. I wonder if we have taught our kids to be easily bored by so much heavy handed activity scheduling. I took piano and ballet as a kid. My kids learned instruments in band and played T-ball. Mac played football in high school. Jay was on the golf team for ten minutes or so. They attended youth group, went to camp and bowled. They were not foraging for berries in the wilderness and learning to whittle their own class rings.
But the majority of our time was pretty unstructured. Awake before 8 a.m. Meals were at the same times daily. Bath, bed, was all penciled in.
But play time was just for them to play and me to watch. They knew they were always in somebody's sight so they didn't stray too far. They learned to entertain themselves. Daboyz would wonder by on occasion to announce, "We're bored!" and my reply was the same that my own mom's was twenty years earlier, "Go find something to do."
And off I and they went to find something to do.
I think there were two lessons in this...
1. You, my sons, are not all I have to attend to. The universe does not revolve around your navel. Sometimes, you need to just entertain yourself. Children who do not learn this lesson are easily identified in social gatherings. They are the ones loudly interrupting adult conversations to demand attention, that they want to leave, that they are bored or my personal favorite, interjecting their two cents into the discussion.
2. You, my sons, are always being attended to. I will never forget you're around. I will always have one eye on you and probably both ears. If I don't know where you are, I will stop what I'm doing and come find you. You are always the priority. If you are sick, everything screeches to a halt so that I can care for you. A daily report of what has happened while we were apart is required. I believe that you can handle a degree of freedom so I do not have to structure your every minute. I'd rather watch you unfold day by day and year by year.

When I saw this commercial for the proper care and feeding of children, my first thought was that it isn't that hard to raise kids. Of course, that's a silly thought. It is not that hard to figure out the right way to raise kids. It is very hard to discipline the parent to do right. Much moreso than disciplining the child. Maybe that is why we think that just watching isn't sufficient. We try to hem our kids in with enough structure and activity so that they aren't running amok. Or maybe we just don't want to be on 24 hour watch so turning them over to some organization gives us a guilt-free reprieve. Or maybe we just don't believe in our own ability to see them through the hours between here and independence.
I think it really is just balance. If your kid's interests and dreams require a third party to fulfill, go for it. It is a gift you give them to help them stretch beyond your own abilities. It is good parenting.
Then again, average days are what life is made of. It's ok if your kid is hanging around the house digging holes in the back yard or making tents out of bed spreads.
The important thing is that today and everyday your kid knows one thing for sure...

"I've got my eye on you."

Jeremiah 24:6 My eyes will watch over them for their good...


Amber Land said...

I'm with ya sister! K still believes I have eyes in the back of my head!

Margie said...

amen!! And the kids at alive and fuel sometimes can't figure out how I always catch them.... I've got my eye on them.

Pat said...

It's no surprise that I agree with you. Too much structured activity stifles the imagination.
If you've ever taken a road trip from California to Michigan (as I have as a child) without an ipod, gameboy, or any other electronic really need your imagination working at full speed!