I’ve worked from home for the last 11 years. It’s been a challenge at times being alone, forever looking at the dirt that needs to be swept or the laundry that needs to be folded when deadlines are looming or deadlines are non-existent and need to be drummed up. I sometimes question why I chose this path, why I didn’t go out and work like “most” people do.
Moments like today however, when mere seconds after returning home from school great floods of tears are spilled and I’m there to soak them up, to try and help make some sense of the topsy-turvy life we all live in, that the decision to work the way I do makes all the sense in the world.
Sometimes what our kids need most, is just having someone there.
Working from home has its share of disadvantages. Laundry, filthy floors and other house distractions are always pulling me away from what I need to be doing. It also has its advantages like being able to set my own hours, a picturesque green space out our backyard, a stocked refrigerator and wildlife being chased into my home.
So it was just the other day when working at my computer I heard Indy come charging towards the front door. I literally turned and said out loud, “Dude, what’s all that about?” I watched as he stood as still as a statue in a classic hunting pose, tail erect and one leg up and crooked, by the opening to our hall cupboard. I then looked on in horror as he dove into the pile of shoes and boots and came up holding a chipmunk in his mouth.
This is exactly the kind of thing non-pet owners miss out on.
I shouted at him to “DROP IT!”, which he obediently did. Unsurprisingly it took off again. Into our living room.
Indy charged after it, his deep set animal instincts running at full throttle. Thankfully the follow-up to that instinct to chase, the actual biting down or thrashing the poor rodent to death, did not happen.
Still bewildered by the goings on I ordered him to drop it again. Which he did, resulting in a third get away and subsequently a third chase. By this time I’d raced to the kitchen to retrieve a spaghetti strainer (made sense at the time) and between the two of us we trapped the panicked and confused chipmunk under the strainer. Sliding a file folder underneath I was then able to scoop up and release the little beast back into the wild with the only evident casualty being it’s significantly damper and matted fur covered in dog drool.
Working from home with a pet in the house is never dull.
I’ve seen the article “Quit Doing These 8 Things For Your Teen This Year If You Want To Raise An Adult” zipping around FB and I like it. While “harassing your kid to be on time” wasn’t on the list it’s none-the-less one I feel caught doing most mornings. Can’t everyone see the time slipping by during yet another leisurely breakfast? How do they think they can make lunch, get dressed, pack their bags and get out the door in ten minutes when it’s never been done before? Most mornings I’m a buzzing time bomb, calling out “It’s 7:31. Now it’s 7:43!” No more. I’m adopting the mantra that learning to be late is a good thing. If you don’t like the consequences then change your behaviours.
My parental safety net default was put to the test this past morning. My daughter’s bus leaves at 8:03. As far back as 7:35 I could see things were going to go south. Come 7:55 I was sure of it. By 8:04 it was confirmed. I watched passively as the temperature rose and the tornado grew. When the bus whizzed past and the backpack fell to the floor, open, amidst a dizzying twirling teen I waited patiently for the realization to hit, options to be considered. I was available to fill in as the emergency taxi this time but I’m adjusting my routine to be around less during departure time. It’s not that I want to see my daughter stressed out in the morning. It’s more about wanting her to learn the consequences of messing up. Taking responsibility for ourselves is a lifelong pursuit and far better it be over a missed bus then something that has real effect later on in life.
Sometimes the best thing we can do for our kids is to stand back and watch. We’ll see how things go for the rest of the week…
My mom had an expression: “Never go upstairs empty handed”. This also included downstairs, outside, inside, into the garage… you get the point. Family living means things get left, placed, intentionally situated, all over the house. How long they remain in that spot is directly proportionate to your family’s adherence to the “never go anywhere empty handed” protocol. In my house, adherence is spotty at best. My tactic has been to place items that need to be taken to people’s rooms, the bathroom and linen closet, in the middle of the stairs that lead up to those rooms. Despite going up and down countless times these items can remain fixed on the stairs for days. Clearly I need to change tactics. If there is a world championship for indoor stair climbing my team would be in the final round.
If your home is also nurturing future stair climbing champs, send me a pic of your stairs full of stuff and I’ll pick one to draw an Art of Dad original!
Screenagers is a documentary film by Delaney Ruston that is currently making the rounds across North America. “Growing Up in the Digital Age” is the subtitle and the film covers a range of topics that include but aren’t limited to, gaming, social media and the pressures associated with it, addiction, digital citizenship and the role of screens in the lives of families. It clocks in at an hour and six minutes which was a bit long in the opinion of my teenager, but does a decent job of presenting some of the challenges facing teens and their parents when it comes to understanding the relationship we have with devices. I’d encourage you to see it should it be screening in your area. Please check out the following link for more details: Screenagers: The Movie
I brought my kids with me (kids 18 and under are free) and while they were reluctant at first (“Geez dad, will there even be any other kids there?” – there were), in the end they both felt it was worth while. The biggest take aways for us actually came from a panel discussion that happened after the screening. In it, we learned about the concept of “Goldilocks” – the notion that there can be too much screen time, too little and some that is just right. This amount will of course vary from family to family depending on their values but my kids liked this idea that there could be a happy medium. I fully support this notion. I work in an industry that creates content for screens, and my business was boosted when the iPad and like models came out opening up a whole new avenue for storytelling, so while I have a vested interest in content development I also don’t want screens to take over my kid’s lives. I’d prefer to have discussions with them about developing strategies to help them gain control of their usage and how to be good digital citizens rather than characterize screens as dangerous and addictive. Probably the best part of the whole experience was the talk we had on the drive home. Here are the ideas that stuck with us the most:
There can be a happy medium of screen usage and it’s up to kids and their parents to discuss this together
Self control takes practice and we as parents are there to help
One of the film’s experts, Laura Kastner, talked about the idea of high school students being “under programmed”. She quoted a stat that 40% of teens don’t have after school programs and are turning to screens to fill their time
Fake Likes. I had no idea what this was but my teenage daughter explained it to me. She pointed out that this can be better managed by making one’s online profiles private thereby restricting comments to people you know.
Parents need to take a look in the mirror and examine their screen time usage. Do you take your phone into the bathroom with you? Do you look at it as soon as you wake up? Right before you go to bed? Guilty…
The irony that we were watching a film about screen usage on a screen and that we were being asked and encouraged to post our thoughts online and to respond to questions and ideas, through our screens
If nothing else, this film provided another opportunity to discuss this subject together. I don’t know what is right or wrong, I’m not sure anyone does, but based on our family’s values we will continue to make decisions that support what we believe in. Perhaps the most important thing we can offer our kids when it comes to screen time is an open, non-judgemental door to talk.