I no longer leave the children a “To do” chore list at home. Instead, a new tactic has been employed. The name of the list is now called The Electronic Device Retrieval Guide. As such, each morning I swipe the kids various electrical devices (DS for the boy and Ipod for the doll) and hide them somewhere in the house. In addition, to ensure they do not spend their day frozen in front of the television, I’ve thrown parental locks on the DVR, essentially leaving only news programs available for viewing. The guide then lists ways the children can work to retrieve their items for the remainder of the day and night. As you might imagine, neither child is a fan of this new system. One might argue I’m being too harsh on my children. Perhaps, but one of my stipulations is they go outside-smell the roses, experience life; rather than staying inside, cooped up all day.
Last Friday one of my “tasks” asked the kids to go outside and walk around for a while and then write a 300 word essay about what they found. The doll called me at work “Can I just write a short story that has nothing to do with walking around outside?” “How about a short story about walking around outside?” I countered. “Mom, this is SUMMER not the school year. I think this exercise is totally unfair!” She replied. “Who said I was fair? Just write something…find some inspiration and use your imagination.” I encouraged. She hung up the phone as a loud groan was heard escaping from her.
The boy called me a half an hour later “Mom how about I tell you about my adventure” He asked excitedly. “Bay I don’t have the time to listen. Just sit down and write a quick essay” I replied. “Mom, there was nothing inspiring about my bike ride…so I can’t write you an essay.” “Are you saying you can only write when inspired?”I asked in reply. “Yes”. “Bay, 300 words is not that big of an essay…really. I have faith you can find something. You know when you two were small, we’d go on walks and see all kinds of stuff-real or imagined. Use some of that imagination now…” The phone disconnected with a loud bang.
When I arrived home the doll handed me a short story about pirates. “Did you imagine you were fighting pirates on your walk?” I asked. “No. This is something I began to write a long time ago, but abandoned. Now I found a use for it. Thanks” she said in a very droll tone. “Did you write any of this today?” I asked holding the notebook. “Yes…the last paragraph”-which contained almost 30 words. “You were supposed to write 10 times this amount” I pointed out. “Mom! For goodness sake. I went to the park, sat down and wrote the ending to the short story then came home.” “How long were you at the park?” I asked. “About a half an hour” the doll replied. Having at least completed the going outside requirement I gave in and she happily disappeared into her bedroom with her Ipod for the rest of the evening.
“Can I have my DS?” The boy asked. “Let me see your essay” I replied. “Mom! Nothing inspiring happened. I can’t write about a trip to the store…I mean seriously it was a boring exercise!!” “300 words will take you ten minutes to write…just do it” I replied. Frustrated he stomped off toward his bedroom while his father and I shook our heads at his behavior. “How difficult really is 300 words? I mean heck, it really isn’t that difficult!” I remarked to my husband. “I know I told him to just do it. I don’t understand why he’s fighting so hard against it”. “You know if he wrote the phrase “I went for a bike ride around the neighborhood” over and over again I’d accept that. At least then he would be using his noggin to get out of the essay instead his desire to just not do the darn thing.” I explained.
A while later the boy emerged from his bedroom and thrust a notebook into my hands “Here, where’s my DS?” he asked angrily. “When I finish reading, you’ll get the DS back” I said. “FINE!” He said then stormed off. “I rode my bike to the park. I rode my bike around the park. I rode my bike to the stoplight. I pressed the button to speed the crosswalk light up. It didn’t work. I rode my bike across the street and onto the sidewalk in front of the high school. They were putting new asphalt down and the road wasn’t ready for tires. I saw a homeless man. I avoided him. I rode behind the high school. I…..”
All in all he had almost a 1000 word essay which gave me a step by step account of his time on the bike. “Bay, you don’t make up any stories in your head while you’re riding your bike? Is everything this black and white with you?” I asked. “Momma…what I think about while riding is for my consumption only.” He explained. “Now can I have my DS back?” “Sure…it’s in your bedroom.” I said. “Wha? Where?” he asked. “In between your mattress and box springs. You’ve been lying upon it all day.” I smiled. “Mom you’re cruel!” he replied and disappeared into his bedroom for the rest of the evening.
“So what did you learn from this exercise?” My husband asked. “I think it was a complete success…they spent time outside and they actually, incredibly agreed on something–their mutual hatred for the essay” I replied with a laugh before continuing, “And what’s more, they went outside for a while…and survived”.
To which we both agreed was a good thing.
For those wondering-Today’s blog has 970 words not including this sentence. See 300 may sound large-especially to tween/teenagers, but really is not (987)