Felicity Huffman's What the Flicka-Teen Guide

Since we have put a limit on “screens” in my house (television/computer/video games/iPod), I am hearing the common child call, “Mom, I’m bored!” more often than ever before.  Because I am the one who set the screen limits, my children think it should be my job to help them fill the void.  I think boredom is great for kids.  It makes me happy that they are bored because boredom is the catalyst for creativity.  And although I don’t think it’s my duty to find something for them to do with their free time, I am happy to help them with ideas as they transition into creative kids.  I’ve started a list of things they could do that benefit me as well (if I have to help them, then they can help me).  So when my son or daughter come to me and proclaim boredom, I started a list for them.

The Boredom List (so far):

– Complete a household chore: Vacuum, empty the dishwasher, put their laundry to wash.

– Organize their toys:  Purge the basement toy closet and donate what they have outgrown to their younger cousins or children in need.

– Be Active: Kick the soccer ball around, shoot hockey pucks, or ride their bikes to the top of the street and back a few times.

– Make a meal: Look through the cookbooks in the house and plan a menu.  Help with the food preparation and clean-up.

– Create something: I have a space in the house dedicated to crafting with all of the supplies needed to make an original piece of art.  They could get a head start on Mother’s Day!

– Play: Find the neighbors and play outside, or take out a board game.  I had the second kid so that the first one would have a play mate.  Play with her!

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This seems to be a solid list so far, but I was shocked when a neighborhood crew of girls came to me and told me they were bored.  On a beautiful, sunny day, with four other playmates, these girls could not think of what to do.  So I gave them something to do that would be both active and fun, while also allowing them to be creative.

I quickly typed up a neighborhood scavenger hunt.  I wanted to break them up into teams, but they wanted hunt together and race the clock, rather than each other.  The challenge was this:  Take the list and find every item on it.  Use your phone/digital camera and take a photo of the item with at least one member of the group in the photo.  The list would have them walk to every house on the block.  I included finding a new neighbor, since a new family had moved in next store last week, and a farm animal because a neighbor keeps chickens.

The girls were so excited to go on the hunt!  We counted down and I gave them one hour to complete the list.

Within 25 minutes they were back.  So much for an hour!  But, they were out of breath and full of stories about each item they found.

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Although scavenger hunts have been around a long time, they are a versatile tool to engage children, whether it be one child with a list of items to find around the house, or a group of children with a list of activities to complete around a neighborhood.  Another variation would be to give each child a bag to collect the items, rather than using a phone or a camera.  On the other hand, you could have the children use a video camera and complete activities as part of the hunt; someone climbing a tree, someone jumping rope for one minute, someone straddle jumping on the trampoline.  You could even use a scavenger hung to disguise cleaning up the playroom: Find all the lego pieces and put them in a bucket, find all of the princess wands and put them in a drawer, find all of the empty water bottles and put them in the recycling bin – you get the picture.

What kinds of scavenger hunts have set up for your kids!

Originally posted at Beth’s blog.

My sixteen-year-old son has a girlfriend. She is sweet, and pretty, and when the two are together, they rarely come up for air. Oh, to be young and in lust. If you’ve read my previous post, Once Upon a Condom, or watched my video on talking to my children about sex, you’ll know that I am quite open when it comes to the subject of amore.

However, that doesn’t take away from the fact that I am not a teenager, still a mom, and super annoyed at all the heavy-petting happening in the backseat. So – I took it upon myself to encourage my son to wait before going all the way, and also, to interrupt their teenage passion at random, opportune moments. Here’s how it’s gone down so far:

1. Slam on the brakes. It’s amazing what coming to an abrupt stop in a vehicle does to two teenagers making out in your backseat. Foreheads clang, teeth cut, and belongings spill all over the floor, creating a five minute sexless diversion. A simple “Damn bird,” usually suffices for an explanation.

2. Loudly honk when approaching in a vehicle. My son needed a ride after school, and when I found him, he was neck-deep with his lady love. I found that pressure applied to the horn creating a loud, embarrassing sound not only caused the two to stop making out, but drew onlookers from near and far. Of course, I preemptively followed the honk with a giant smile and wave, pretending to be one of those super happy moms genuinely excited to see her child.

3. Point out every hickey. Two simple words, “What’s that?” said clearly with reasonable volume opens a vacuum of awkward excuse-making, trying to convince a mom who’s seen it all, that they aren’t suction marks, but bruises from accidentally bumping into wall corners and locker doors.

4. Hang. Some call this stalking; I call it “Surprise, I’m here, too!” Mall tongue-gouging sessions are frequently interrupted this way. I found that a peace offering of free food not only soothes an angry teenage son, but also keeps the young lovers occupied while having to separate their mouths to chew.

5. Ask really complicated, long winded questions. Whenever my son’s girlfriend is in my presence, I make an effort to ask conversational questions like, “Tell me your plans after high school” often followed by “Why’s that?” or “How does that make you feel?” which, like the free food mentioned in #4, keeps her mouth occupied for long stretches of time.

Do you have any great cock-blocking techniques for your teenager? Share them below. One more thing: I’d like to apologize to my elders for being an obnoxious, horny 16-year-old. I had no idea how repulsive I behaved. I hope they can forgive me.

Knowing your gut and standing by it is the holy grail of parenthood.

As a mom of two boys, twelve and eight, there are some circumstances where it’s easy to follow my gut: swimming lessons, completed homework, good manners. Other times I waver, caving to “please” for junk food (why must Gatorade be so red, Cheetos so orange?).

Right now my gut tells me to bury my twelve-year-old son’s smartphone in a cement grave. But do I have the fortitude to do it?

Last year, in anticipation of him becoming a middle schooler, we gave him his dad’s old Android. We thought we were being moderate, in a neighborhood where kids get iPhones for elementary school graduation. We wanted to be able to get in touch after school—and Dad wanted a new phone. We should have given him a no frills, just-for-calls, flippy deal. Because that old clunky Android still had games and texting, giving him his first addiction to tech, and leaving us nagging him about putting The Damn Thing away.

Mistake number two came less than a year later. As The Damn Thing got slower and older, our sweet, mostly-responsible son asked if he could buy an iPhone with his own money. We were caught off guard. We consented, sliding down that slippery slope.

Pay attention, learn from my error. Don’t take your eye off the ball like I did. It doesn’t matter that he used his own money. Because buying a kid an expensive gadget is only part of the problem. The other part is a kid having a sleek, user-friendly pocket full of video games, 24/7 social interaction (and attendant hurt feelings), instant gratification, and increased addiction. Add to that my saying “yes” to Instagram under the naïve misimpression that it was an outlet for artistic photography, not a Facebook alternative, and we had ourselves a problem.

It’s not that he’s using his phone to search for porn (yet). He uses it for appropriate things—checking scores, keeping in touch with friends, playing a few games. Even if (hypothetically speaking) he screws up and sends a less-than-kind text, it provides life lessons—how to make a sincere apology and take responsibility for your actions.

It’s not that it’s inherently evil. It’s that it’s always there. It has become another member of our family. It comes with him everywhere, and if it’s not with him, he is jonesing for it.

I’m no saint with mine. I get the addictiveness. But at least my habit started at age forty, not twelve. That’s forty years of having to find other solutions to boredom, like books and bike rides and conversations. Forty years without radiating reproductive organs (he may want children someday).

The first generation iPhone was released on June 29, 2007—six years ago. In my defense, in the scheme of things that’s not much time for us parents to have figured this stuff out. Here’s my dilemma: if my gut now tells me that my child should not have an iPhone, one I gave him permission to spend a lot of his own money on, how do I take it away? How do I extract him from the social connection he feels from texting or “following” his friends? Have I gone to a place from where there is no turning back?

I hear the voice of the Mommy and Me facilitator from toddler years: You are allowed to change your mind. You are not stuck with every mistake you make. It’s not all fun, after all: having an iPhone bought us more rules, more bending the rules and more nagging about following the rules. And it brought me the unease you feel when you are going along with something that feels wrong.

Now that’s a feeling a middle schooler can relate to.

I know what I should do. If I can work up my nerve, I should explain that we tried something, I made a mistake, and my gut is telling me this isn’t working. The added benefit is modeling how to listen to your own values, not your peers, when figuring out the best way forward.

I’m not expecting this to be easy. The tantrums of a two-year-old who had to give up my keychain-as-toy are going to be a delightful memory when facing the tantrum of a middle schooler asked to give up his iPhone. If I work up the bravery to take this step, you’ll know from the sound of wailing wafting from our direction.

This post was originally published on Laura’s Confessions of Motherhood. For more from Laura, check out her blog and follow her on twitter.