Posted in mental health, mindset, parenting, physical health

Free time isn’t free: the sequel

So yesterday I wrote about the consequences of giving kids free time at school.

Those thoughts definitely 100% do not apply to kids at home.

Kids need free time.

Kids need free time to play, to be bored, to imagine, to create, to be with friends.

Also, adults need free time to play, to be bored, to imagine, to create, to be with friends.

We all need down time. Not crash-on-the-couch-in-exhaustion time.

If you’re having time finding it, schedule it. Make it a regularly-scheduled non-negotiable appointment.

It’s rare around here to have a day when The Kid doesn’t have some unscheduled time. Even with his crazy track schedule, he had some time after school to play or read or do whatever he decided to do that day.

(He doesn’t have homework, and he is, sadly, at an early-start school, so he had an hour after school. Those are variables I don’t have control over that happened to work in our favor. I’ll write more about homework soon.)

I have some unscheduled time at least three days every week, often more. (That’s not writing time, or time when The Kid is here but not directly supervised, which is often spent in tasks around the house.) The Climbing Daddy gets some unscheduled time regularly; he’s getting better at not protesting that there are other things to do.

So. Make time for yourself to play. Make time for your kids to play. (That includes the big kids!) It’s worth it.

Posted in connections, ebb & flow, know better do better, marriage, mindset, parenting, podcasts, thoughtfulness, vulnerability

Podcast quote: problem maintenance

As I mentioned a bit ago, I have been bingeing on Where Should We Begin? by Esther Perel.

The first episode of the second season (“You Need Help to Help Her”), she’s talking with a couple who has a young adult daughter with problems. Most of the details of the episode aren’t relevant to this post, but if you have a child with any sort of mental health issue, you might gain some insight from it.

Basically, there weren’t (known) problems, and suddenly, there were big problems, and the whole family dynamic and structure changed.

At the end, Esther is summing things up, and she says this (emphasis mine):

“When mom speaks of the holistic view, the way I would define it is this. I am a family therapist. I think systemically. I think about problems in context, problems in an ecology, not just what causes them but what maintains them. How is the relationship system, how is the family organized around the problem?”

Maybe you’ve thought about this before, but I’ve never thought specifically about problem maintenance (when the problem doesn’t start as a systemic one).

I’ve been thinking about this and am starting to apply it to my closest relationships.

  • What am I doing that maintains problems? (within my level of awareness)
  • How can I change that? (within my level of control)
  • Where can I connect disconnects to make life happier for everyone who lives here? (within my levels of awareness and control)

Hopefully, in time, we can all connect in to that, but I’m starting first, and we’ll go from there.

Blew my mind.

Problem maintenance.

Posted in gifts, marriage, mindset, parenting, thoughtfulness

Mother’s Day—advice for the guys

Every year, memes get passed around that say something to the effect of, “For Mother’s Day, I want to sleep in and wake up to a clean house.”

Lots of “ha ha ha” reactions.

But you know what? Based on conversations I’ve had with women in the past couple of year, that would actually be perfect.

So guys, if that’s what she said, that’s what she meant. Do it. Give her a few hours in bed to herself (sleeping? with a book? with her tablet? Mom’s choice…) while you and the kids clean the house.

Don’t farm it out. Do it yourselves.

Then make breakfast (or brunch by then?) for her (if the kids are little, you’ve already fed them at least once), maybe in bed if she’d like that (I personally don’t like eating in bed but for many it’s A Thing) and then clean it all up.

All of it.

As we say at our house, “Use your Mama eyes.” Don’t do a half-assed job that she’s going to need to finish later. Make it better than good enough; make it good.

If she says she wants to sleep in and have the house clean, she means it. (If this isn’t on her wish list, don’t do it. Seriously. Listening isn’t that hard.)

Posted in differences, know better do better, mindset, parenting, vulnerability

I used to write anti-abortion poetry

People change.

In fact, people should be (and in some cases, are) encouraged to change.

When you know better, do better. (That’s change.)

So I’m conflicted about judging politicians, for example, by stances they held 20 or 30 years ago. (This is also perhaps an indicator that we shouldn’t have career politicians, but that’s another argument for another day.)

In some cases, they’ve changed. Perhaps, like me, they were on the wrong side of history then, but they learned and changed.

In some cases, they haven’t changed a bit. But the fact that they were racist/misogynistic/homophobic 20 years ago still isn’t relevant, necessarily. Just that that’s how they are now.

(Of course, in some cases, they’re the same but pretend not to be.)

Outside of politics, part of the reason that families can become problematic is because so often they remember you from back in the day and refuse to let that person go. And sometimes argue with you about the validity of the new pieces. Especially if they feel threatened by the change, and/or the family culture is one of put-downs.

Longstanding friends can be like this, too.

In either case, we can see and honor change, or we can see and resist change. (Denial is included in resistance.) The fear of rejection of the “new you” is a big reason people keep quiet and don’t display their improved selves.

Embrace positive change.

(Two problems there: “positive” is subjective and change is hard.)

Let everyone around you have space to do better when they know better.

And when you do it? Own it. Your confidence is contagious and it bleeds confidence onto others, even if the people closest resist.



Posted in connections, parenting, socializing

“Can you play?”

The Kid had lots of energy the other night and wanted to play with other kids. It was too late in the evening to try to call around to see if any of his friends were available.

(This is a huge disadvantage to him not going to the neighborhood school—his school friends don’t live around here. Another story for another day.)

“You can go across the street and knock on the door and see if the kid there wants to play.” (They’ve played before when they and the kids next door happened to all be outside, but there’s been no doorbell-ringing.)

He looked at me like I was nuts.

“That’s what we did when we were kids. We just went to friends’ houses and knocked to see if they could play.”

He seemed unsure (and was completely uncomfortable doing it), but he wanted to play badly enough that he decided to go for it.

I went to the window to watch.

Before he made it across the street, the boy came out. A few minutes later, The Kid came back and said they’re riding their bikes to the park and can we go?

And so it went. (The park is far enough away that parents chaperoned.)

They planned to play again the next day. “When I’m ready in the morning, I’m just going to go ring their doorbell.”

He did go ring the doorbell the next morning, and they did play for a while. Later in the day, the neighbor came and rang our bell to see if The Kid could come over.

Feels like a little piece of the so-called “good old days” is back.