Wednesday, October 7, 2015

A Method to (Some of) the Madness

a visit to the battery toys

Before I was a mother, I was a nanny. I worked with a lot of amazing kids from babies to teens, and I got a lot of experience. I sometimes joke that I should write thank you notes to all those kids and their parents for the practice I got prior to becoming a parent; it surely has helped me along the way. One thing that emerged from my years of being with children is an understanding of how to make things work for everyone, both caregiver and children. I use some of those insights in my own home now, and there are two things that work out really well for me which are a direct result of observations I made while I was a childcare professional.

First, I observed that some kids didn't handle television well, that it seemed to be overstimulating, even for kids over the age of two (which is the magic age at which the American Academy of Pediatrics deems screen time to be acceptable). They'd be cranky and irritable for hours afterwards, and I felt like it just wasn't worth it. Not only that, but almost all kids had a very hard time turning it off once it was on.

So I came into parenthood knowing that I didn't want television to be a regular part of our lives. I mentioned in a previous post that we only use screen time for specific situations, with the result being that my kids are very easily entertained by a screen when I need them to be because it is considered a special treat. While I made the decision in order to make day to day life more manageable, the side effect is that traveling with the kids is incredibly easy, as are difficult medical appointments, hairstyles that take longer than expected, and other occasions for which I want my kids to be firmly distracted.

The second thing I observed is that I have a very low tolerance for the noise of battery-powered toys, and that when I made the battery powered toys a little harder to get to, the kids in my care would often forget about them and happily play with something else. A trip to a park was always preferable, and even board games got chosen above battery toys that must be played with alone. My goal as the person in charge of much of our home life is for our house to be a place of peace and calm as much as possible, so I said a big NO WAY to nearly all battery toys (exceptions being a toddler camera and a couple of things that were gifts and were not too obnoxious, which I believe are currently forgotten at the bottom of a toy bin).

My kids love battery toys as much as they love screens, and this has turned into an opportunity to make a trip to any random toy store a big event, as long as they stock battery-powered toys. We don't go often, but it's a surefire hit if something hasn't gone according to plan or if there's a chilly day that will be better spent indoors. I get a coffee and sip away while my children have their visit with the battery toys. It's a little break for everybody, and then we go home to our own peaceful house.

I know that neither of the things I've mentioned are that unusual anymore, but when we first set out to parent with these limits in mind, a lot of people thought that we were crazy and/or that we clearly didn't love our children enough and want them to be happy. But I'm pleased to report that, five years into parenting, my children do not think I am an ogre for making these particular decisions, and both J and I still seem to be mostly sane (quite possibly more sane than if we listened to hours of kid programming noise and electronic toy racket). For us, these choices that were outside the norm have panned out spectacularly well, and I'm ever so glad we made them.

1 comment:

  1. It's so refreshing to hear that someone else feels their time working with kids pre-parenting was beneficial. Ideally I'll be a mom in the next few years and have started thinking about these things. I get so frustrated when people brush me off because I don't have kids. I may not know what it is like to be a parent, but I know a lot about kids and that is valuable knowledge! Thank you for reminding me of that!


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