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Forest Bathing and Video Gaming

The longer I parent, the more clear it becomes: compromise is a crucial ingredient for a happy household. Compromise is defined as: an agreement or a settlement of a dispute that is reached by each side making concessions. My definition: everyone gets a little of what they want and a little of what they don't want in order to make each other happy. I can't say its easy, but I do think it is possibly the answer to keeping the peace among a #family with individual needs, interests and personalities. Especially when those interests involve an extremely controversial subject in our house, screen time.

We live in a technological world, and for better or worse, screens have become a part of our daily routine...and those of our kids. Do I wish that our boys could grow up playing outdoors the entire day and never lay eyes on a screen? Absolutely. Is this how we live our lives? Not even close. Because what I've realized is that we ALL have desires and some of my kids' desires just happen to include time spent on an iPad, Xbox, or tablet. It's fun and I get it. I myself, enjoy a good episode of New Girl after a long day. That said, I'm a HUGE fan of moderation.

In my experience, the all or nothing approach to parenting has the potential to drive a huge wedge between a solid relationship with our kids. Our boys are clearly happier when they feel like they have a voice, even if they don't get 100% of their requests - or even 50% for that matter. We moderate screen time, giving them a nightly 30-45 minutes of TV time during the week and a daily hour of video games on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays (which usually turns into more time following the predictable, "Can I just finish this round Mom?"). We feel that Henry (age 8) is too young for Fortnite, so he plays Minecraft and we try to keep him from watching Finn's (age 11) Xbox time. If someone could invent a privacy screen filter for the Xbox, that would be much appreciated and would work much better than the sheet we sometimes hang up (Sounds crazy, right? That's because it is). If the boys spend a good amount of time playing and moving outdoors, we give them extra video game time. My husband and I have never been afraid of a good bribe and I don't care what the parenting experts have to say about that!

This morning, Finn decided to join me for my morning woods walk. Full disclosure, he earned an extra 15 minutes of video games for coming along. Like I said, this is not a bribe free household. However, this was a huge deal because he is not a morning person and doesn't exactly love time in nature...and I love him anyway. As we walked, he commented on never having been in the woods in the early morning. I had the pleasure of exposing him to that magical morning light. Thank you Fortnite! It wasn't a long walk, but it meant the world to me and I felt like I'd accomplished something BIG. I also know that forest bathing (or as I call it, "coffee with my forest bathing") brought him an endless amount of hidden benefits that will enrich his Saturday - whether he's aware of it or not.

Henry has joined me on many of these walks, because he shares my affinity for the outdoors. A morning walk with Finn, however, that had never happened...before today. Searching for some clues, I reviewed the days leading up to this morning. I realized that I had actually listened, with my ears and my face, to Finn's excitement about the new Fortnite skin. In the past, I would have expressed concern over the violence in Fortnite and my desire for him to play something else. Out of my frustration, I would have shown little interest in his enthusiasm over the many details of the game. Then I realized that I'd been bashing something he really and truly loved.

Do I still dislike the violence in Fortnite, yes. That said, I have started to focus on some positive aspects of the game:

1) The dancing. Kids all over the world are doing Fortnite dances in public. Making dancing cool again does deserve some accolades.

2) The cute little animals that fit into the backpacks. Who doesn't love puppies and baby dragons?

3) The fact that Finn is always playing with his friends (remotely, but it's still somewhat bonding).

My point, expressing interest in Finn's game really meant a lot to him. Consequently, it opened him up to something that meant a lot to me, a walk with my son in the woods.

Accept your kids for who they are and be open to their interests, even if they don't always align with yours. Appreciate the moments when they join you in your happy places, but don't force it. I'm giving this advice as I'm reminding myself of it. We all want our kids to be the healthiest, happiest people in the world and can put so much pressure on ourselves. It is OK if your kids eat red #40 sometimes, if they go to school without underwear, or if they get an extra hour of video games on a rainy day. Relax, do you, and let your kids do them. Not only will this show your kids that you accept them exactly as they are, but it will make your job a whole lot more enjoyable! You may even get a morning woods walk with your tween, followed by some peaceful blogging time while he plays Fortnite. Compromise, it's a beautiful thing.


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