Somehow I have made it through five weeks of the six weeks summer holidays without blogging. I wonder how that could have occurred.
Could it be the full-on, mindfulness-themed summer programme I delivered alongside amazing young people's charity Lifeworks for the first fortnight, whilst simultaneously cashing in on infinite childcare favours from friends / chucking fish fingers at the Lads of an evening / praying they'd go to bed nicely without having to threaten their PS4 with imminent death?
Could it be the amount of time dedicated to our lovely visitors from up North who were so gagging for a bit of Devon sunshine that I felt it was necessary to take them to EVERY sun-drenched spot imaginable?
Or could it be the fact that the Muslim celebration of Eid charged into my consciousness with demands of home-baked goods, expensive shopping trips and anything else to keep my Muslim kids and hubby happy?
This is not to mention the internet / supermarket dash for school uniform, the endlessly impossible task of performing household duties with children constantly performing Fortnite dances in my face, and / or any of the complex and energy-sapping negotiations I have had to have over bed times / ice creams / sleepovers and bloody screen time.
Ah hah! What I can report though (now that each of my children are happily having their fix of screen time and I am wrapped in a blanket on my mum's sofa - the ONLY place to blog), is that I have figured out how to sort the screen time conundrum. Actually, I haven't sorted it. Facebook sorted it.
Just as we were approaching the last week of the summer school term (and the panic-induced sweat was starting to break on my brow), the hubby sent me a picture he'd seen on Facebook. It pinged into my phone with a good dose of irony, considering what it was about.
At first, this didn't do any favours for my sweaty brow. In fact, I think my whole body got involved in a worrying way that made me want to slam down my phone and declare screen time a free-for-all forever more / nip down to Boots for some extra-strong deodorant. After all, who was it that would be spending the majority of the time with the Lads over the summer? It certainly wasn't that pizza-baking, bread-winning, long-shift-working hubby of mine.
But then, as my awareness shifted into something a little more mindful, a little more accepting of the panic and the perspiration, I breathed into it and thought, why not? It wouldn't be me saying no to screen time, it would be me making sure it was balanced with some other good stuff. Some stuff that would get oxygen in their lungs, thoughts in their heads, ideas out in the open and stronger beats to their hearts.
The more I thought about it the more I loved it so I prepped those Lads good and proper. I got that poster up on the fridge in plenty of good time so they could really feel out what I was proposing and come to terms with the fact that yes, I was serious about this.
On day one of the summer holidays, however, I was not quite prepared for what happened. Big Lad shaking me at seven in the morning and shouting, "Mum, is there anything I can do to help you? I've done everything else on the list. I've been up since six. Now I've just got to help a family member or friend but everyone is asleep. Is there anything I can do to help you? Well, is there?"
Now I think we all know if I'd really told him what he could do to help me then I may not still be here to tell the tale. So, like a good mum, I moaned, "Wipe the bathroom sink or something."
So off he trotted in his fully-clothed, glistening teeth and tangle-free haired glory to give the sink a once-over.
Let's just say the Play Station had some lurrve that day.
And whilst Big Lad has continued to approach the summer rules with all the fastidiousness of a sergeant major on speed (albeit a little later in the day thank the lord), Little Lad, on the other hand, has beautifully demonstrated his character in his employment of them. He's shown willing, a gorgeous sense of playfulness and a commitment to the rules that means some days it is 5pm before he picks up an iPad because the painting of the smiling skeleton was simply too engrossing. Or the completion of the Where's Wally 1000 piece jigsaw just too important.
Some days we have even - shock horror - unanimously agreed that screen time is just not necessary that day. This is usually on the way home from an exhausting trip to a museum or the beach or a fun park. Now I never, in a million years, would have thought either of my Lads would voluntarily shun the seductive ways of electronics, but during these summer holidays I have been proved wrong.
In your face electronics.
Sometimes I think we can be scared of rules as parents. With pressure coming at us from billions of angles we can be worried they will make us 'too strict', or 'no fun', or - let's be honest - that they are too much like hard work. But my experience of rules (as long as they are fair and well considered for your particular little family unit) is that they can bring more joy, more space and more love into your world.
And who couldn't do with more of any of those?
So, as I consider how to gently convert these 'summer rules' into 'weekend rules', I'm off to tell the Lads their screen time is over. As is mine.
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