Christmas Vacation…A Day With No Tablets!!

I conducted a science experiment on the fourteenth day of Christmas Vacation. As I mentioned previously, I had four children that were getting more and more irritated with each other.  The night before, my husband took the tablets away from both of my oldest kids, as a punishment for fighting.  So I decided the next morning to make ALL of the tablets disappear for a day.  How many tablets do we have in this house?  I’m embarrassed to say, but our children should be thrilled with the electronic devices they have at their fingertips.  Yet they never seem happy, because someone always wants to play a game that someone else is currently playing.  So I decided to have a day without electronics.

This was a difficult decision, so I had to think long and hard that morning, before making it. I knew that if the tablets were taken away, I was going to have to provide the kids with entertainment.  I finally decided that it was worth a try.  I had enough energy at that moment that made me believe it would work out.  So the tablets were tucked away in my room and I made a conscious decision to not use my phone during the day either, except for phone calls.  It wouldn’t be right for me to play Cookie Jam or surf my Facebook account all day long, while my kids were not allowed to have their electronic entertainment.  So except for speaking to my husband on the phone, I too was making it a day free of electronic entertain.

My five-year old daughter Ann woke up first, which is typical.  She always wakes me up early, wanting me to get up with her.    She settled into her favorite chair and wanted the tablet.  I told her that the tablets went away for the day.  She started throwing a crying tantrum that was ridiculous.  It was like watching an addict quitting cold turkey.  She was yelling that she needed the tablet to watch “The 7 Ds” cartoon.  I told her she could watch it On-Demand on the cable TV, but she wouldn’t believe me.  Yes, I still allowed them to watch cable TV.  I wasn’t stupid, I wasn’t going to take away the tablets AND the cable TV from these kids.  I could have been murdered that day, if I had done that.

So I pulled up the cartoon on the TV and Ann finally calmed down.  She wasn’t thrilled that they weren’t the same episodes she could watch on the tablet, but she was content enough to watch the new ones.  So my first test subject acted exactly the way I thought she would.  I was pretty pleased with myself, because I didn’t give in and hand over the tablet when the tears and yelling wouldn’t stop.

Next to wake was her little brother, Christopher, and he wasn’t thrilled with the idea of no tablets either.  Ann made sure to announce this tidbit as soon as he woke up.  He cried around for a bit and then was distracted with breakfast.  So my second test subject acted the same I predicted he would.   The third to wake up was my oldest daughter, Marie, who had to put on a show and whine, “Mom, I didn’t get to play on it yesterday.”  However, she was willing to accept the rule with very little argument.  So far, every test subject acted the way I assumed they would.

The last child to wake was my 9-year-old son, Patrick, which I figured would throw a complete fit.  You see, he had received a new tablet from Santa for Christmas.  So his actions surprised me when he accepted it without crying or fighting me.  So my hypothesis was wrong, I had guessed that my son Patrick and his little sister Ann (who I like to call, Patrick Jr.) would be my toughest challenges.  Yet Ann was the only one that really threw a tantrum.  Wouldn’t you know it, when I thought I had my kids figured out, they go and change on me.  🙂

So after Cafe Mom was done serving breakfast to the masses, it was time to be creative.  I had worked out a system that allowed each child to be in control of the TV remote for an hour each.  Which meant we watched a variety of Disney and Nick shows during the day.  If the kids were not interested in the show that was on, they would play with a new toy alone or together.  Which worked out good, but I sure got tired of hearing, “Play with me Mom!”, when all I wanted to do was just chill.

Sometime after lunch the kids needed more guidance in keeping entertained.  Okay, let’s be honest, they started to fight with each other over stupid things, like the possession of a chair and such.  That is when I had to pull out my secret weapon…the Disney themed Monopoly board game.

My husband and I had bought it before Marie was ever thought of and I think we played it once.  Frank is not into board games, so it has been tucked away on a top shelf for a good 12 years.  But now that my two oldest were big enough to understand the rules, it was time wipe off the dust and break this box open again.  No, seriously, you would not BELIEVE the amount of dust that thing had on it.  Man, you would think someone would clean around this house.  I might need to fire the maid…oh wait, I am the maid.  Well that explains it all.  😉

Back to my secret weapon, Monopoly, the world’s favorite family board game!  The kids were all excited when they saw the game.  My son Patrick said he had played it at camp last summer, so he was a little familiar with the game.  As I was getting the board set up, the kids were shooting questions at me left and right.  As I think back now, I find it humorous how Marie kept telling them, “Just wait and Mom will explain the rules to us.”  She didn’t know how to play, but she was eager to learn.  I took that as a good sign.

So for the next FOUR hours, I played Monopoly on the floor with the kids.  All the kids except for Christopher.  He will be turning four years old in less than a month, so the only real interest he had in the game was to torpedo the game with various items.  LOL  I had put a movie in for him to watch, but when it didn’t keep his interest he would throw something at us from the recliner.  I guess it was his way of reminding us that he was still here.  Once or twice, when he felt his attempts of being noticed weren’t successful enough, he would play Godzilla and walk over the board game.  Which, of course, caused his siblings to scream at him for messing up their hotels and money.  Christopher may be quiet and laid back, but he knows how to get attention when he wants it.

I learned a lot that afternoon about my kids and the board game Monopoly.  First, this game is a wonderful learning device for all ages.  The kids had to read the cards, add the numbers on the dice, count spaces and money.  I was refreshing my kids on their school lessons, without them knowing it.  Man, I even amaze myself sometimes.  🙂

I learned that my oldest daughter, Marie, should not be trusted with real money any time soon. She has not had enough exposure to money to know all the denominations.  If she had to pay $150 for a property and she didn’t have a hundred-dollar bill and a fifty dollar bill, then she didn’t know how to pay for it.  She struggles with math, but she isn’t flunking out of the class.  She has been taught the standard rules of adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing.  She is even able to calculate fractions better than I can, but understanding the value of and counting money is not her strong skill.  Yet, she wanted to learn, which is good.  She didn’t get frustrated and quit playing, she just asked for more assistance on the money transactions.

I discovered that my oldest son, Patrick, did very well at the money transactions.  Maybe that is because he is our one child most likely to save his birthday money and counts it often.  However, he struggles with reading, so playing Monopoly helped him practice in that area.  I think the fact that he excelled over his big sister in money counting helped boost his confidence in his reading.  So I was happy to see him work hard at playing this board game and not get upset and throw in the towel.

As for Ann, this game helped her too.  Yes, she needed help reading the cards and counting the money, but she was practicing her counting.  Every time she rolled, she would count each dot on the dice to see how many spaces she could move.  The one thing I had to teach her was how to move her token.  She was always trying to cheat and move to a desirable space.  🙂  Or she would use the space she was currently on to count it as the first space to move.  So every time she moved, she would be one space short.  But we worked on it and I think she’s got it now.  Thankfully, she enjoyed it too and did not get bored and walk away.

Along with noticing my kid’s weaknesses, I also thought of more ways to help them down the road.  Once I can get Marie to understand the different currency values, I can teach her how to break a big bill into smaller denominations.  Then my next goal is to teach her how to count back the change properly when she is the banker.  That was always a pet peeve of my mom’s, she would be so upset when she would have a young cashier hand back her change without counting it back to her.  I plan to get Marie to a level that her Grandmother would be proud of.  🙂

I also thought of a way to make a game continue for days on end, so the kids could get to the level of buying hotels instead of only houses.  Plus, venture into the mortgage value of the properties and using the properties for collateral on a loan from the bank.  These are life lessons that my kids need to learn.  Maybe they will be more knowledgeable than their parents are on that topic.  I can see great things that can be accomplished from playing Monopoly.  Who knew that back in the old days, when I was playing this board game with my siblings, that I was learning these valuable skills.  I just thought I was having fun and bonding with my siblings.  (Well, more like being the typical little sister and tagging along with my big brothers and sister, so I could be cool and be part of their grown up world.)

Believe it or not, the time just flew by and before I knew it, I realized my husband would be getting off work soon.  When I announced this fact to the kids, they all wanted to know if we could continue to play even after Dad got home.  In fact, they thought Dad should play with us too.  LOL  I told them that I doubted Dad would play, but that we could play after supper.  I even gave them an option to continue the game or start over.  Around that time was when Christopher decided to be Godzilla again and walked all over the game board, creating chaos and destruction in his path.  So, needless to say, we opted to start the game over after supper.

After Dad arrived home and supper was consumed, the game was on again.  It lasted for another good hour or two before kids started to get tired and cranky, so we had to call it a day and pack up the board game.  Yet, the strangest thing happened, no one asked to play on the tablets.  In fact, I had told Frank that this was a ‘No Tablet Day’ and advised (from the corner of my mouth) that he too should put his tablet away…but he didn’t go for it.  Oh well, I tried!  🙂

So my experiment was successful, we survived a day without electronic games.  Was there bickering?  Some.  Was there screaming?  Only when little brother attempted to wreck the game to get attention.  Did my kids have fun together?  Yes.  Did I feel like an amazing mom?  Of course.  So what do you suppose happened the next morning?

My five-year old woke up the next morning and the first thing out of her mouth is, “Can I have the tablet?”  At which time I said yes.  The other kids soon woke and all the tablets were available and were used.  So was the old Monopoly game put back on the top shelf to never be touched again?  Nope.  More than one child requested to play Monopoly that day and every day since.  I see now that I just created a whole new situation that will suck away my time, because they don’t seem to want to play Monopoly without mom.  What was I thinking?  Never the less, at least they are practicing their skills when they are playing it.  But mom doesn’t always WANT to play Monopoly.  Mom just wants to chill.  So yes, if you haven’t guessed by now, there is a new phrase in our household now.  “Stop fighting, or the board game is going away!”  Kids…Gotta love ’em!

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