A Texas Summer Without TV? Let’s Get Real
Summer vacation is in full swing, and the heat is unbearable — and sometimes the boredom is, too. How do we keep the kids occupied while striking a healthy balance? With lots of checklists, activities, and negotiations.
A typical summer vacation day in our house starts around 7:30 am. The first kid tumbles downstairs and I hear, “Daddy, can I watch a show?” Then, almost without fail, I respond, “You need to complete your checklist first.”
Shortly after summer vacation began, Laurie gave each of our four kids a daily checklist specifically designed so they DON’T begin each day asking for screen time. The checklist includes:
- Get dressed, brush teeth and hair, eat breakfast
- Read 20 minutes
- Draw and write
- Help out – ask Mom or Dad about chores
- Play 30 minutes
Amazingly, each kid manages to complete this checklist by 9 am most mornings. That’s when the boredom and chaos sets in. Part of the problem is that we live in a part of Texas where the heat is unrelenting. News meteorologists regularly warn us that even a trip to the mailbox can cause a heat stroke. So it’s hard to kick the kids out of the house and say, “Don’t come back in until either someone needs a ride to the emergency room or I let you know lunch is ready.”
I try to let the kids be kids and occupy themselves. They’re good kids, but they’re also wild and messy. So I tolerate maybe an hour of the rowdiness. When I can’t take it anymore, I say, “OK, you can watch a show for one hour.”
There’s a loud, collective “YAY!!!” then a brief melee as they bicker over who gets which device. Then they settle down, and we enjoy an hour of peace. Or maybe two hours if I don’t feel like facing the inevitable bedlam that follows my announcement, “Time to turn off the electronics.”
I look forward to the days when the kids have events — a week-long vacation Bible school, an event or special guest at the library, or a night practice for basketball/cheer/football. Other nights, my wife finds great deals for restaurants, or tickets to a minor-league baseball game or a second-run movie theater. I can barely keep up with our schedule, but I know that shuttling the kids across town is preferable to being cooped up in the house all day and night.
The kids look forward to the evenings when Laurie and I are exhausted and unlikely to put up a fight when they ask for screen time. Now that they’re older, we can’t justify the 8 pm bedtime. Which means she and I have been fighting the electronic fight for 14 hours. So we hand them the remote, and say to them, “You promise you won’t give us heck when we say bedtime.”
“We promise,” they say in unison.
Laurie and I make eye contact, silently communicating to each other, “That’s bull!” But we don’t care because we have another hour of peace to enjoy. Or maybe two hours. I mean, it’s summer after all. Besides, it doesn’t matter if we send them to bed at 10 pm or midnight: they’ll be up at 7:30 tomorrow to restart the whole routine.