06 September 2011

Simplify

It doesn't sound so hard to do, does it?

Do less not more.



It saddens me to think that these days, doing less has to be a conscious and deliberate decision. Living a simple life doesn't come naturally.

When did it all change? Was it the advent of TV? Email? The Internet? When did life suddenly get so hectic?

I read a great article last week, shared by Penny over at Little Feet, Big Shoes on Why Lazy Parents Make Happy Families. So much resonated with me in this article, particularly the part about not over-scheduling your kids.

Here's some of the best excerpts:
Rather than ferrying kids to music lessons, sports games and playgroups, it seems we should be saving our energy and staying at home, dragging out the dress-up or craft box, or sending the kids out into the backyard.



"We all think we can be better parents by doing more ... by enriching the child in some way - it might be a music or dance lesson or a sports activity, but it's not necessarily to the benefit of the whole family. I think we often forget to think of the benefits of doing nothing for the kids."
Brooks says every family needs to find their own version of downtime. It might be staying home and shutting the doors, going to the park or going to watch a sports game together, or cooking and eating a family meal.
"Kids eating together at the table is probably just as beneficial as going to a dance lesson. It's just as important for their development."

TIPS TO FREE UP THE FAMILY:
1. Eat together as a family in the evening. It promotes easy conversation about everyone's day.
2. Limit your child's activities to one or two per week - or whatever gives you the right balance as a family.
3. Check in with yourself to assess if your routine is making you stressed, and to make sure you have enough time to give your children unstructured play.
4. Get creative. Leave a box of random household items in your child's room and change the objects regularly, or leave random objects (an old hockey stick, a tennis racket or a ball) in the garden, or kitchen utensils in the sandpit.
5. Turn off the TV or computer and send the kids outside instead.
6. Don't apply the same rules for all kids - they're often very different.
7. If you let your children do an activity, let them choose what they want to do.
8. Don't be afraid of saying no to your child to one activity, or telling them they need to compromise.
9. Prioritise sleep (especially if you have younger children). All families are happier if the parents are feeling good.
10. Go camping. There'll be no distractions and plenty of time, space and inspiration for some good child's play.



The day I read the article I was watching the boys ride around the driveway on their bikes and scrolling through a few blog posts whilst keeping one eye on them. As soon as I read it, I had an immediate attack of the guilts for being too 'switched in' to technology so I put the phone down and proceeded to sweep and weed the entire driveway, aided by my two very helpful little harrys. It was an entirely satisfying afternoon. 

Interestingly enough though, Kelle Hampton, the truly inspirational mama over at Enjoying the Small Things wrote a great post just today about being plugged/unplugged into technology and I found myself nodding with all her sentiments. Seems like it is on a lot of people's minds right now. Like her, I agree that as great as it is  to have some 'unplugged' time (and I fully need to make myself do this from time to time), at the same time the very reasons why I enjoy being plugged in to technology is because of  exactly what she says in this excerpt:

The amount of people that are online or that have televisions in their homes or that have data and texting plans on their cell phones—it shouldn’t be alarming in the What-is-this-world-coming-to? way. It should be inspiring in that there are so many opportunities to promote change and positively affect such a mass of people who are plugged in. It’s a different world today. And while yes, I wish we still had petticoats and carriages, dance cards and phrases like “come a callin’”, we have American Idol, Skype, On Star--and fabulous opportunities to connect with people. To make their day with an e-mail or a text. To use the “evils” of technology to make a difference. 

It’s all about balance. Recognizing when we need to pull back and focus on our own families and yet embracing the modern world and using its advances for good. 



Back on the topic of Keeping It Simple Stupid (K.I.S.S) I also read a really great post from Dee at Dee*Construction last week.. here's an excerpt:
"we never had extra, and sometimes had barely enough, but security, acceptance and love have the potential to raise just as spectacular adults as gymnastics lessons and private maths tutoring, don't you think?
 
we are a single income family on a VERY modest wage. due to exchange rates and choices we made in early marriage we are fortunate to have a lovely home with space for chickens and vege gardens. we don't spend a lot of time running to and from activities for the kids. this may change as they get older, but for the moment their life experience mostly occurs in and/or around the home. (don't underestimate what skills and character can develop at home: exploring; co-existing with siblings; building; balancing; creating; communicating; sharing; climbing; planting; pruning; growing..."


So far, we have made a deliberate choice for Noah to only do one weekend activity per term, which was Little Dribblers football for a couple of terms and for the past two terms has been swimming lessons. Of course, we could also be doing gymnastics, football, music lessons or rugby. We are considering maybe one after-school activity like Kelly Sports but definitely haven't considered it while he is still in his first term at school.


His little brother is already showing great talent with a football, but does this mean that he really needs to be shoved into a Little Dribblers team the minute he turns 2 (the youngest age you can play?) . If he has a natural talent, what harm will waiting one or two more years be?


Now I'm not saying we have it right by any stretch, and everyone makes their own decisions they believe are right for their family, but for me 'free' time with my kids is already such a precious commodity to me that I'm darned if I'm going to just 'schedule' it away with a whole bunch of activities filling up our time together. And if I'm being honest, I'd say we definitely don't have it all right because I'm pretty sure we watch too much TV some days....but then how much is too much - and what's the perfect measuring stick? Sigh....I think that question in itself deserves a whole other post another day.

In the meantime though, here's to spring having just arrived which will eventually bring warmer weather, and with it the opportunity to get outdoors more, for more driveway biking, pebble throwing, wave escaping and other non-scheduled stuff! And continuing to seek out a balance in using technology in our lives.


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