As a single parent, sometimes you are faced with the daunting task of keeping your kids entertained. Some parents take this to the extreme. Even here, I talk a lot about places to go and visit, sometimes by yourself and sometimes with your kids. But let’s be honest about this. Trying to entertain your kids with road trips, theme parks, swimming pools, and events is going to make you broke and them spoiled. Really the greatest gift you can give your kids, and really all they ever want is your time.
Time isn’t the same as attention. Attention can take many forms, usually negative. Drama at school, door slamming, temper tantrums, or even completely shutting you out are the methods teenagers ask for your attention. You see, they want you to work for it. They want to be the center of your world, and every moment will come at a cost. To sum it up, teenagers are going through some shit. And as any parent can attest, they wouldn’t repeat their teen years for anything.
Younger kids want your attention in other ways, which can be equally exhausting. They might act out at school, barrage you with their latest obsession (i.e. fidgit spinners, Fortnite, Five Nights at Freddy’s, YouTubers, whatever new fad is sweeping through the elementary school). You will find yourself indulging their whims on Legos, Nerf guns, video games, etc. if you aren’t careful. This will also make you poor. And it isn’t what they want anyway. Like I said before; they just want your time.
Time and attention are different things. Sometimes you can spend time with your kids and not even be giving them attention. Sometimes they just want to share the same room with you while you are watching TV. Sometimes they don’t mind piling into the car to drive across town to run an errand. If you set good boundaries when you go into the store, you can usually escape without buying them a soda, candy bar, toy, or whatever they want you to get for them. Buying things, especially snacks, is a way they are dealing with this weird divorced life they are also trying to navigate.
Chances are they are getting things bought for them at their other parent’s house, in which case, they start playing both of you from the middle. It doesn’t do anything for them. And it makes them expect to be indulged whenever.
Time at Home
This last weekend was busy. We didn’t have any plans to visit the grandparents, friends in the mountains, or take in the sights of the city where other single parents are indulging their kids with the Zoo, the museum, or the like because they are desperate in trying to figure out what to do with their kid all weekend long.
On Friday night, my son and I played with his remote control bumper cars in the kitchen, which he had gotten from a great aunt on Christmas. He smacked my car good with his and won the duel, sending my plastic guy flying, and then goaded me to try to hit his with my now riderless car. Try as I might, I couldn’t do it, so when his car came close, I kicked at it. My socks went sliding on the kitchen floor and from a standing position, I fell backwards, right onto the back of my head.
Once the black receded from my vision and the static faded from my ears, I was pretty sure I had a concussion. I felt the effects of this for the rest of the weekend. I have had them before, and decided to take things slowly, rather than go to the hospital in the middle of the evening. The next day, we had a Cub Scout event to attend. My son had placed in his Pack at the Pinewood Derby regionals, and we had to watch his car go up against other packs now.
Cub Scouts are different today than they used to be. When I was a kid, the parents dropped the kids off at meetings and then retrieved them an hour or so later. Nowadays, parents are just about required to attend the meetings and events. It reassures the parents that their kids are being appropriately supervised, while giving the kids that which they crave the most: Time. Just having a parent in the room livens the kids up, and if the parents can stay off their phones long enough, it gives them a chance to bond with their kiddos too.
My son absolutely loves Cub Scouts.
After the cars were raced on Saturday, we checked out the children’s carnival, and even rode crazy bikes together in the parking lot outside. Yes, even me, with the mild concussion. Hey, part of getting out more means that I’m not going to pass up the chance to ride a pennyfarthing or a giant scooter if I get the chance! So I did.
After that, I let him go nuts at a nearby park. I am always amazed at how quickly kids can make friends, especially other kids they will probably never meet again. By the end of this, I was feeling pretty puny and went home to sleep for the next three hours. My son came into my room to roust me every hour on the hour just to make sure I was okay. He’s a good kid.
Sunday was his best friend’s eighth birthday and so, we went to one of those family fun center places, with arcades, bowling, laser tag, and all the rest. He and the other kids ran around like mad while the parents did what parents do at these parties, which is to make small talk and talk about our kids. Still, kids really do love these birthday parties, and so no matter what you are going through in your personal life, if your kid gets an invite, find the time to bring them. And stick around. They want to see you there. You can bite the bullet for two hours if you have to, and sometimes, as was my case, you actually get to visit with some pretty cool adults. Sometimes you need to adult with people you don’t know that well.
Anyway, the Too Long; Didn’t read I want you to take away from all of this is you don’t have to make every weekend the best weekend ever. We were lucky enough that some free things were going on around us, but sometimes you can just spend the day at home with them. Throw in a Spiderman movie. Play a board game. Bust out the crayons.
Time is really the key in getting out more with your kids.