It’s Easter break, and the kids are home.
A week or two (or in this case, 17 freaking days) off school can be relaxing for kids. They have been learning their little brains off in both languages, and just need time to be kids.
My kids are smart, and know that they outnumber me three to one. My lofty plans for museum visits and cultural inoculation are often eaten up by the greater will of three kids that just really, really want screen time. Or, they want me to feed them up to six times a day, or get out craft supplies or set up playdates. They want me to entertain them continuously and also do laundry and clean up after them constantly. They want to make sure that, during their waking hours, I have no time to myself at all.
They are now, as a unit, bigger, stronger and heavier than me. And they know this. Also, it’s usually raining, and I don’t look good wet, so I’m less likely to leave the house in the rain. I’m weak.
Rule 1: Don’t be outnumbered
(Ok, maybe you have no control over rule #1 and it’s not a very good rule.)
Rule 1 (revised): Be in charge anyway
These are the same children that we have to drag, kicking and whining, out of bed at 7 am every school day. But weekends (and vacations), they are up at the crack of six, saying, “It’s morning!” and singing our good morning song (which is still pretty cute, even at 6 am).
So, in the interest of more sleep (for us) and more responsibility (for them), we’ve made them a deal. If they stay in bed quietly till 8 am, AND make themselves breakfast (milk, banana, and cereal or toast) AND all three take the dog for his morning walk around the block, they can watch one precious half hour of TV. If they want a second (30-minute) show, it has to be in French.
We, the parents, have to clean up a little mess (cereal) or a big one (toast with peanut butter) when we get up, but the kids are actively learning what mornings are for me as a mom and helping with the dog that they so desperately wanted. And, they’re learning the ever-important skill of delayed gratification, or work-first-play-later.
Screen time allowances on holiday are necessarily more lax than in Real Life, and with this arrangement, we all feel like we’re putting one over the other. But, in the words of David Mamet, “Old age and treachery will always beat youth and exuberance.”
Rule 2: Just because they’re on vacation doesn’t mean that they have no responsibilities
Living in London, we seem to have an excess of school breaks. All of these take me by surprise, despite the fact that they pop up every five weeks like clockwork. But, this time around, I am prepared.
I’ve made a list of fun-and-stimulating activities for the kids to do over these two weeks. These are things that they can do if they’re bored, or if they’re (again) bargaining for more screen time (again). I wrote them on our white board, and went through each item with the kids. They all agreed that they were reasonable, somewhat important, and possibly fun things to do.
The kids now feel like they have control over what they choose from the list, and when, and I’ve made a contract, in kind, to interact with them, to be hands on, to let them watch TV, and to encourage the arts over the break.
Rule 3: Make a list, but let them make their own choices
- Read a French book
- Draw a picture of a scene from a book you’re reading
- Write a letter to a grandparent (in cursive)
- Learn and perform a new song (instrument or voice)
- Write a poem
- Work out with Mommy
- Play darts
- Try a new craft: knitting, crocheting** or Fimo
- Play cards (we are just taking up Rummoli)
- Playdate with a friend (one each)
- Bake AND cook***
- Visit a gallery
- Watch an episode of Dynasties together
- Mornings: Breakfast, Dog, then TV
* three sets of grandparents / three kids – all bases are covered
** please, oh please, let them pick Fimo
*** helping me or Fis****
**** Ok, just me, because Fis can’t handle it