Uncle Dad and Aunt Mommy

As I’ve talked about before, divorced parents can fall victim to competition. Buying, giving, visiting, travelling, planning….more activities, more parties, more, more, more. Instead of being a proper parent, they become the fun uncle or the goofy aunt.

But sometimes…less really is more.

I’ve seen many divorced parents schedule activities from sun up to sun down on the weekends the children are with them. Theme parks, movie theaters, mini-golf, restaurants, shopping, playdates…you name it, they plan it. The kids are at a constant high and their smiles fool their parent that they are doing the right thing.

Today more than ever, kids need down time. With ipads, ipods, iphones, portable DVD players, television shows on our phone, heck, there’s even TV’s for us to stare at while we fill our cars with gas…we are on a constant sensory overload. Do you ever end the day with a deep breath, a glass of wine and warm conversation with your spouse or curled up with a good book?

Kids need that unwind time too.

With the start of summer vacation, many parents find themselves with kids who simply cannot entertain themselves. They turn to us to be their built in party planner. Remember when we were little? Bike rides, catching fireflies, sidewalk chalk…and it was a blast.

A couple weeks ago, our day started with a trip to the donut shop. Then we went to the pool, and afterwards a friend came over for a playdate. After the friend went home, I had just closed the front door and out of the mouth of my stepdaughter came, “Now what can I do?”

I stood there, not knowing whether to laugh or cry. I got down on one knee and became eye level with her and I took her hand in mine.

“Honey, let me know explain to you this thing called summer. Summer has lots of different parts to it…Some days will be filled with lots of fun activities. Some days will be filled with running errands. Some days we will go to the beach. And some days we will just stay home. You are going to need to use your imagination to make your own fun on those days. Does that make sense?”

She nodded and off she went to her room. For the next hour, I heard her playing quietly with her toys. The next week, she had a particularly busy morning out and about. Upon returning home, I had some things to get done. I put her Frozen soundtrack on quietly in her room and she laid in her bed reading for 45 minutes. No electronics, no screens…just her and her books. And most recently, she had a playdate in our sprinkler in the backyard. After her friend left, I turned the sprinkler off and she asked me if she could sit in her beach chair in the yard for a bit to “do that relaxing thing.” So she did. She just sat there looking at the birds, and singing songs to herself.

Children with two homes already get shuffled around enough. More often than not their lives are filled with chaos and anxiety. They need “that relaxing thing” more than we realize. Roller coasters and ice cream cones are special, keep them special by not overusing them. Your kids may not realize it now, but you’re doing your job as a parent. Pride yourself on creating a safe haven of a home for them. If they’re craving an extra dose of goofy, invite silly Aunt Sally over or funny Uncle Frank over. Whatever you do, stay their parent. They need you.

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