I hit a snag in my perfectly-formulated stay-at-home-while-working-at-home-with-three-kids-and-a-dog-mom plan yesterday: I got triple booked. It was 3:30 pm–the time that I usually feed the baby while playing Uno with my older kids. But, I got a last-minute call from my boss about an important conference call with a client and it was too late to call my babysitter. I panicked. How was I going to keep my older kids busy, my baby quiet all while dealing with a picky client on a call?
I put on my thinking cap. I envisioned setting up an elaborate fort upstairs or creating an amazing craft activity that would keep them entertained… but with only 20 minutes until call time, I had no idea how I could get everything set up before I had to hop on the phone. So, I called my mom. And what she told me was shocking: The kids can entertain themselves. And, even more, it’s not entirely unreasonable for me to expect them to entertain themselves, stay quiet and get along for a half hour while I did something else.
I gave it a try.
I sat my kids down and explained to them what was going on: Mommy had a conference call for thirty minutes. During my call, I’d be holding the baby and they’d be responsible for taking care of themselves for 30 minutes. I told them they were allowed to play outside, play upstairs or play in the kitchen, but no matter what they did, they could not make a huge mess, fight with each other or make a lot of noise. They repeated their expectations to me and then I warily dialed the phone.
As soon as I got on the phone, I saw their minds start to crank. They went and got out their markers, glue and scissors and set up a work station at the counter. Then, my son went and fished two empty cereal boxes out of the recycling bin. Together, they created “space robot arms” out of the cereal boxes, decorating them with glue, stickers and markers. It took them 43 minutes. They stayed quiet. They did it all on their own. And, aside from a small incident where they dressed the baby up as a birthday cake, they were productive.
My point? I always feel this pressure to keep my kids constantly entertained– like if I’m not creating some entertaining adventure or activity for them at every moment, I’m somehow failing as a mom. But it’s simply not true. Kids are creative and inventive and have the ability to entertain themselves– and I’m starting to realize that when I don’t give them the opportunity to create their own activities, I’m stifling their creativity.
So there you have it– my new not-parenting mission: to give my kids opportunities to create their own adventure.
QUESTION FOR YOU: What do your kids do when they’re entertaining themselves?