Teens Want Their Free Time

So it hit me recently that from the time our children start kindergarten until they graduate from high school is only 13 years. That seems obvious, I know. But here’s the thing: assuming we live to the age we are told is the current US life expectancy, 78-ish, our childhoods last only 1/6 of our lives, a little less than 1/4 of our lives if you count babyhood. Whoa, THAT’S why it seems to go so fast.

I have a great relationship with my kids, at least in my mind I think I do. I hope they think the same, and those most important things in life – safety, family, morals, learning and teaching – we have those pretty well handled. Enter the electronics. Let’s define “electronics” – phones, iPods, tablets, TVs, game consoles, computers and all the cool things that they do, like Skype or other Facetime-type apps. We have Netflix, a DVR (which I love, by the way), a Wii, a PS2, an XBox, 4 tablets, 5 phones, 4 TVs, and 5 computers. This is not an inventory for the purpose of bragging; this is an inventory to demonstrate how many distractions are taking us (all of us) away from wanting to interact with each other in our own home. Thankfully, we still enforce family dinners and discussions, and my dear husband and I do have our time that we watch movies or shows together after the kids are in bed, albeit we are using one of those electronic devices, the TV.

The electronics keep us connected with our college-age child and with family and friends who do not live nearby. We like to play board games on the weekends when we are not running around like crazy, but even that is something we are forcing a little bit. I am coming to a realization, but it makes me sorta sad. I don’t know that I can continue to limit my kids’ time on their electronics and force family time outside of meals and trips. They don’t want to do things with us, and they don’t want to do anything in their free time besides be on their electronics, which makes me feel like I am losing control, but I guess I am not. I am just losing my connection. They remind me that it is their FREE time and they want to do what they want to do, so I am in the background reminding them of their obligations, what they don’t really truly want to do, and then the headphones go back on and they mentally disappear until bedtime.

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