Monday, March 10, 2014

Revisiting Gaming and Seeking What's Best

This gaming issue is not done for me.  I am wrestling with it still.  I snapped this picture in Target a while ago because it was so shocking to me that we would even think this way when planning for summer.  It is a lot to process for us mommas, a lot to evaluate for the children we love.

All of this came up for me again today as I perused facebook. I took a few minutes to read an article I have recently seen but had ignored.  I should not have ignored it.  The title?

Have you read it?  If not, please, PLEASE click on that title and leave here for a few minutes and read THAT.  Because, seriously... we need to take in what that article provides and find a way to apply it to our ordinary, everyday lives.   This article takes what we feel as mommas and shows us the research behind it, making our intuition all the more clear.  I don't know why we refuse to trust ourselves more... but we do.  Us mommas, we get this sense that something is just plain bad for our know, like excessive gaming or the quality of such... and we talk ourselves out of it because we are just so sure that we will be wrong, or we are being too strict or everyone else is doing it and that all of this matters more.  

Can we just not do that anymore?  

That little one in your arms or at your feet or who you drove to school today or put on a bus... that little one is yours.  And you get to be the expert on that child and you get to choose for that child and you get to offer up to that sweet daughter or son the best (and sometimes worst) that you are.  So, if there is a weight in the pit of your belly that says, "I think this is not what is best for my baby." then RUN... seriously, run... away from that thing and toward what you believe will help your child to develop into the adult they are meant to be.  

You get to do that.  And no one can fuss at you for doing what you feel is right.  

So I wrote this blog in January about gaming and I was terrified to post it because I was sure that I was standing alone.  And you want to know what happened next?  Two things.  

1.  People started reading it and passing to friends making that post the most read blog I have ever written. 

2.   People started writing to me and telling me how they felt similarly about gaming.  

I was shocked by both.  I went from being terrified about what people would think to feeling like I wasn't that alone at all.  Amazing.  Comforting.  

Though it did make me wonder why all the video game stores are still open.  Because now I can see that a lot of parents are uncomfortable with this whole scene.  And I am left wondering about how trapped we feel because something in us is saying that gaming is not what is best for our kids and yet the stores are still open and money is being made and our kids, yours and mine, are still gaming.  And yes, a lot of us are putting limits on what we buy and what we allow and that is exactly what we need to do.  We need to help our kids see that we can find a way to build in parameters that allow for the things they want to do while still living within limits we can tolerate.  

But, when I read that article today, I felt emboldened again.  And I find myself thinking about what our life would look like if we lived by the standards given here.  I wondered what we could do if we actually had back the time we often waste on screens.  I wondered how I can be so concerned about gaming and the quality of it all and yet still find myself allowing the overuse of technology in our home.  

I love that the article addresses all of this from a point of research.  Because seriously, seeing it all clearly explained from a point of view that has studied the impacts of technology on children is motivating.  And I think we are often overlooking really obvious signs that we are just not doing what we need to... in our homes and in our society.  

Many years ago when I was teaching, I asked the kindergarten teacher how placement testing was going for the next year.  Each spring, potential kindergarten students would come to school for "testing" that would help the teacher to prepare for the new year and also to help guide parents in preparing their children. Nearly 20 years ago, I found myself in this conversation and was shocked at the response.  My colleague (I taught first grade, she taught Kindergarten) sat with her head in her hands at the end of the day.  As we talked, she explained that year after year the kids she tested were actually able to do LESS.  She said that many did not know how to hold a pencil and a shocking number of kids could not climb stairs well (alternating feet).  She said that the children came to testing knowing the names of multiple TV characters and with tons of experience playing on electronics, but little experience playing outside.  

Nearly 20 years ago.  

Can you imagine her experience today?  

And we scratch our heads at the number of children who show signs of attention deficit disorder and sensory processing disorder at an early age.  We offer medication for low levels of Vitamin D and prepare for record numbers of children to be diagnosed with diabetes.

Yes, I know some kids are born with these struggles.  I believe this to be true.  But, I also know that there are far more kids with issues now than there were when I used to teach.  And I know that in my own house, we have had to remove TV as an option for one of my kids because that child's behavior was so much worse after watching.  Why?  Because she needed to move!  She needed to jump and yell and run and fall and feel the dirt beneath her feet and the wind in her hair.  Kids need these things.  And they will never get them from a screen.  Ever.  

So yes, there are kids who are born with struggles and there are kids who come from hard places and there are kids who have health issues just because.  And there are kids who need to move more and play outside and do a puzzle and talk a ton and who will find themselves with a hard road to walk in school because of the excessive technology they have been offered from a very young age 

At the end of the article, we see this: 

Dr Andrew Doan, Dr. Hilarie Cash and Chris Rowan

And I am left wondering again.  

I am left with our experience from Christmas.  I am left with the knowledge that experts still say that all online violent and explicit gaming is bad for our kids... even our big kids... and that these forms of media should never be used.  And there are studies that support these truths.  

Oh mommas, we know this, don't we?  We know in our guts that we need to be careful.  We know we need to protect their hearts and their minds.  We know.  What will we do with this knowledge?  How will we intersect what we feel is best with what we offer at home?  Where will we make room for our faith and a respect for human life to guide our choices?  

And even as I type that, I think, "Am I supposed to making room for my faith?  Or should I be making room in a faithful life for some of these other things?"  The difference in these sentences is small.  The variation in their meaning is great.  

As I go through life with my four kids, I know that I want what is best for them.  I know that I want them to grow up healthy and well-rounded with a solid belief system that guides their lives.  I know that I want them to know how to connect to others and follow their calling and value family and love their God.  And I want them to have fun and know joy and find room for downtime and rest.  

I just hope that I am teaching them to do these things with a focus on what matters most.  

This is not an easy task. 

Blessings on your day. 

Monday, March 3, 2014

What Can We Do Together?

I never dreamed I would be doing this.  When I was a little girl, I thought I would grow up and be a mom, a teacher, a writer.  I thought I would work with kids with special needs.  And to be honest, I did (or do) all of these things.  

But a speaker?  

It never crossed my mind.  

And yet, last week, I found myself standing on a stage at a church in the Chicago-land area having the time of my life.  I did the same thing the week before... and will do it again next week... and the week after that... And I just cannot believe that I get to do this thing that I love that I never saw coming at all.  

God is funny like that... planning and dreaming for the stuff we will do and smiling when it comes as a complete surprise to His children.  It keeps us on our toes some, I think.  At least, it does for me.  

And, as if it was not amazing enough that I get to do this thing, sometimes I hear back from the people I speak to from that stage.  I did today.  I opened my email box and found a story about a family and the part that my Sticks program might play in the life they are living together.  It made me smile and feel affirmed but honestly, it made me feel something more.  

That kind email made me feel eager. 

I want to do more.  

Because here is what I know from living life with my family and standing on those stages to speak... I know that we are all just doing what we can.  And sometimes, we find ourselves so overwhelmed that even if we could scrape up the energy to try something new in our homes, we may not then find the energy to see it through. We get up every day and try to do what we know to do and to love on our kids and to get it all done and then at the end of the day, we fall into bed exhausted and get up again and do it again and are exhausted again and so on and so on and... 

It is an awful lot.  

And then we add to that the things we must do that we never saw coming and are unprepared to manage because who ever trains you to be a mom?  We have kids who struggle, who are sad, who are angry.  We have kids with sensory issues, autism, learning disabilities.  We have kids who are shy, who are mean, who are lost.  And somehow we just have to figure it out?  And still get dinner on the table and clean the floors and remember our friends and find time to shower?  

Yep, some days it's just too much.  A lot of days, it is too much.  And we find ourselves living in survival mode which doesn't leave much time to connect to others, to save our own sanity, to reach out for help.  And every, single time I stand in front of an audience, I think of these very things.  That we are doing a big work, a hard thing, and we are in it together.  And I cannot believe I get to offer a bit of encouragement to a group of parents who, like me, know what it is like to feel like you are barely getting by.  And I cannot believe I get to see a little peek into what God can do when we take the chance to be real together. Because when we set down our guard and tell the truth, often we have created just enough space for something amazing to occur.  

We weren't meant to do this alone... He wants us to be in it together.  

Last week, after speaking on Sticks, I was taking questions from the audience.  Imagine my surprise when I was asked a couple of times about the role of video games in our home?  I don't talk about gaming in my presentation at all.  But, isn't it just like God to know that something that has been on my heart, something I have wrestled with here on the blog with you, is also something another momma needs to think about, too? And as I briefly addressed the subject (Aren't you surprised I could do so briefly?) I was reminded again how much we need one another.  

How easy that is to forget... 

Today, I want us to remember.  I want us to remember how important it feels to have someone tell us that they have struggled with the same issue that is plaguing us today.  I want us to remember how powerful it is when we take a risk and allow for some transparency and then someone says that they understand.  I want all of us to recall how calming it is when someone tells us they are sorry for our pain, that they want to offer help, that they have no words but want to come alongside.  

I want us all to remember... and then act.  

Because parenting is hard.  And we need to offer to one another fewer judgmental glances and far more words of grace.  We need to reach out today and call a friend or send a text and sincerely ask what we can do.  And that friend who seems to have it all together?  Don't be distracted by that image.  We all live in a place where some days are good and others are rough and we know what to do or cannot figure it out and all of us, even you and even me, need to know that we are not walking alone.  

You have a part to play, you see.  And I do too.  

And when I stand on that stage and look out, I see it.  I see the look in your eye, like the look in my own, that asks a million questions and wants to talk it through.  We were not meant to just figure it out.  We were meant to reach out and connect and process this work.  In doing so, we will find that this big work doesn't have to be so lonely.  This big work is meant to do in community with others... and we are better this way. Better together than we ever were alone.  

Yep, I feel eager.  

Eager to do more, eager for us all to do more. Eager to help.  Eager to write.  Eager to speak and to connect and to empower and encourage.  And I am not sure where God is going next but I sure love where I have been.  

So, I have two book proposals to polish and work to do and the desire to reach out is burning in me. Need a speaker?  Know a publisher, an editor, an agent?  I am ready for whatever is next.  

So, let's find something we can do.  Seriously.  Who do you need to reach out to today?  What note do you need to write, what person needs see your smile, who can you support in the midst of a trial?   Let's not pull so tightly in that we forget how important we can be to others.  Let's not just read a blog and go back to cleaning or diapering or doing whatever we were doing before.  Instead, let's open ourselves up to whatever is coming, whatever we need to do.  

What does that look like for you?  

Blessings on your day. 

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