Thursday, August 30, 2012

Warning: Never Multi-Task in Front of the Children!

Children learn by example. They watch our every move and listen to every word (especially when we think they aren’t!). So we, as parents, need to examine our own behavior and attitudes.
I saw last week on a news program that today’s teenagers are masters of multi-tasking. They engage in multiple text conversations and listen to music and play video games and work on homework. All at the same time! Many teens say they can’t even do homework without these other activities going on.
I’m shocked…and scared for our kids. As a young mother of five, I prided myself on being able to accomplish multiple tasks. Heck, I could make dinner while bouncing a baby in my backpack, quizzing one kid on multiplication facts, and participating in a spirited game of    I Spy with the other three! Did I feel good about being with my kids and getting dinner on the table? You betcha! But did I do my best at any of those tasks mentioned? No way. And that made me feel a little frustrated at the end of the day.
Take that situation and multiply by 100 to get a glimpse of what our teens (and even younger kids) are experiencing. Imagine not ever really concentrating on the thing at hand. Always keeping ears perked for that magic little tone with a message that indicates something is going on somewhere else that’s probably better than what you’re doing. Never experiencing that feeling of putting all of one’s self into an effort, a project, a conversation or … a prayer.  
I think I can rein myself in when it comes to preoccupation with gadgets, but I want my kids to understand this, too. So, I have made a decision. I will keep cell phones in a basket by the door when my kids come home for the evening. Sure, they can check once or twice to see if any emergency requires a response, but the rest can wait until the next day.
I’d like them to be present during our time together. How much more valued will our loved ones feel if we give them all of our attention when we’re with them? How much better will grades become when the work in front of a student is the main thing on his mind? And how much more interesting would conversations be if they consisted of more than abbreviated answers in the form of text messages?
None of this can happen with my kids unless I also embrace the motto: NO MORE MULTI-TASKING! I will turn off that cell phone and put down that i-pad when my family is around. I hope to set an example by being totally present in my interactions with loved ones, friends, neighbors, and most importantly, God…. Join me?

Monday, August 13, 2012

Latham Family Adventures: Grass Houses

     I’ll remind you here, reader, that we Lathams weren’t exactly country folk before we moved to the country! Our land was beautiful. It was mostly wooded, but a few acres were open pasture. Some people would have thought of using the pasture for livestock. Not us. We immediately set up a backstop in one corner for baseball and softball games. The rest of the field was left as a giant, meadowy playground for the kids.
     This pasture was where the Little Lathams played a game which they called Grass Houses. I remember the day they invented the game. It was springtime. I was mowing along our driveway beside the pasture. The grass in the field was new, but it was already 18 inches tall. On a whim, I pushed the mower into the tall growth. It was quite easy to cut. I knew the children liked to pick flowers and explore in the field, so it seemed like a good idea to make a path. I set out through the field. I made a few curving, crisscrossing trails and came out the other side.
     The children loved the maze. They ran laughing and chasing one another. Then things grew quiet. I looked out and saw that they had spread out in different directions across the field. Heads down, they were each working on something. That’s when I saw that they had raided our supply of picnic blankets. Each child used an old wool blanket to flatten the grass to make a place to sit. These little cleared spots became their houses. They were spaced out along the pathways. There weren’t any furnishings in the grass houses. The fun came with travelling around the trails to visit one another. As the days passed, the game evolved. Sometimes a picnic lunch was in order. Other times, the game turned exciting when there was a monster or bad guy loose! Then, the kids ran screaming to each other’s houses for safety.
     As spring turned to summer, the field kept growing and I kept the pathway mowed. This made the grass houses even better. I could barely see the tops of the kids’ heads as they played in the field. They were completely hidden when they sat on their blankets surrounded by the tall grass walls.
     All in all, it was a fun game. And,yes, there were times when I wished we had more farming experience. But if we had to do it over, I’d choose baseball games and grass houses in that field over a few head of cattle any day!