Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Stepping Out For A Stretch

For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. – 2 Timothy 1:7

This weekend, my daughter stepped out of her comfort zone and into a whole new world. My karate and baseball-loving tomboy went to a cheerleading camp. When a flier came home from school advertising the program, I asked if she was interested. “Sure,” she replied. “I’ll give it a try.” Just like that.

When presented with something new, I typically want to know what is involved, what is expected of me, and which of my friends will be there for support. My daughter didn’t ask any questions – she was just open to the new experience.

How many great opportunities do I miss because I simply do not see outside my comfortable little box? I remember when I first became a mom and everything was new and both exciting and scary at the same time. I didn’t need to look beyond my child for opportunities to stretch myself. I had my hands full just trying to keep my daughter fed and in a clean diaper! After a while, however, the daily care of a baby becomes routine. The time you spend simply staring and marveling at her sleeping body dwindles and the everyday caring of our families and homes can become drudgery.

This is precisely why we need to look for new things to try and new experiences to stretch our minds and our senses. I found lots of opportunities for this when I resumed writing and speaking after taking a four-year break when my kids were born. I continually face new challenges with both fear and a sense of thrill.

My daughter had these same sensations at cheerleading camp. When we first arrived, she grabbed onto my leg and quietly said, “There are a lot of kids here.” But when we picked her up five hours later, she said, “This was one of the best days of my life!”

What activities push you out of your comfort zone and encourage you to grow in new ways? Share your favorites.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Dangerous Decisions

The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord. – Proverbs 16:33

Last weekend, my seven-year-old daughter went to a birthday party at a local fitness center. It is a brand new, and very popular, facility with several rock climbing walls and a swimming pool with two slides. It is a great spot for a party.

However, in order for my daughter to participate, I had to sign a waiver stating that the club was not responsible for negligence in training the staff, providing medical assistance or maintaining the equipment. We have all signed countless waivers saying those providing services are not liable for accidents or known risks associated with different activities, but I have never seen a document excusing someone from negligence. The wording of this form made me question the quality of the facility and its staff.

Suddenly I had a decision to make. Should I sign the waiver and take chances with my daughter’s safety, or subject her to the disappointment of missing the party and questions about why she didn’t attend after saying she would be there.

What would you do? At what point do we, as moms, say, “I know you are disappointed, but this is not worth the risk?”

In this situation, I spoke with a staff member at the facility who assured me that despite the wording of their waiver, all of the staff members helping with the birthday party were certified to work on the rock wall and all were trained in first aid and CPR. Asking some direct questions put my mind at ease and my daughter had a great time at the party.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

When Gaming Isn’t Fun

Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth… 2 Timothy 2:25

When I was a kid, a neighbor boy had an Atari video game system. We would huddle around his little TV screen, taking turns with the joystick to play Donkey Kong or Jungle Hunt. We had a lot of fun, and I thought it would be even better to have those games at my house. However, my mom was not in favor of owning a video game system.

Now that I am the mom, I understand why I didn’t have video games. My kids don’t have them either. Maybe it is because the cold weather has kids cooped up indoors, but I have recently had a number of conversations with other moms struggling to get their kids to unplug. What strikes me about this issue is how few of the moms I’ve spoken with are willing to set or enforce limits when it comes to gaming. One mom said she sets a time limit, but her son repeatedly asks to play “just one more level.” Before she knows it, he has played for hours. Another mom said her child cries when she says it is time to turn off the games, so she just lets him keep going.

What I find amazing about this is that these same moms have no trouble enforcing limits when it comes to other issues, such as what time to leave the park or how many bites of broccoli must make it off the plate. Why would video games be different?

While my kids do not have a Playstation or Wii, my oldest daughter does have a Webkinz and enjoys playing in Webkinz World online. Shortly after she received it as a birthday gift, I read an article about a mom who was so fed up with her child’s gaming addiction that she unplugged the system, gathered up all of the games, and dropped everything off the side of her second-story deck. That’s one way to make an impression on your kids! I figured I didn’t want to do that with my computer, so I decided to set some clear limits before we got to that point. When my daughter wants to play, I set the kitchen timer for twenty minutes. She knows that when she hears the buzzer ding it is time to log off or else I will simply push the off button on the computer and she won’t play again until she shows me she can follow the rules.

Another video-ish game I let my kids play is Dance Dance Revolution. If kids are going to be electronically engaged, they might as well be getting some exercise. However, this game needs to be limited too. My kids usually turn it off themselves after five or six songs because they get tired, but on occasion I have to step in and tell them it is time to find something to play with that doesn’t require batteries or an outlet.

Do your kids play video games? How do you handle the amount of time they play? What ideas can you offer other moms for conquering video game addictions?