Ladies and Gentlemen, the time has come! Football Season is upon us. If you are a woman who does not like football and has a football man, you, all you do, and all that needs to get done will be pushed to the bottom of his priority list every Saturday and Sunday. Prepare to be ignored.
If you are a woman who is a football fan, the exact outcome will happen. You will get stuck with the “To Do” list, making it harder to watch your game. If you are a parent, the “To Do” lists become more important and distractions more demanding, which makes it nearly impossible to participate in Football Season Saturdays or Sundays. I, being a football fan and parent, have dwindled my “To Do” list to the bare minimum on game days, which leaves me with one main “must”: Ensure the children remain alive while keeping them from distracting my attention from the television.
After we became parents, my husband and I went through the five stages of grieving for our B.C. (Before Children) football days:
Anger: We were angry that our friends without kids didn’t understand why we couldn’t just sit at a bar all day with kids in tow.
Denial: We did manage to attend a couple of bar gatherings when our first kid was still new and able to stay asleep while strapped in the car seat. We simply slid the seat under the booth and made like we didn’t actually have a baby at a bar.
Depression: We were positive that we would never be able to go to a game or watch a game at a bar again… and I cried about it.
Bargaining: We promised our friends beer and food if they drove all the way out to our house to hang out with our slobbery kid and distorted versions of ourselves that had been diluted from exhaustion and added responsibilities.
Acceptance: We bought a bigger flat screen television and upgraded our cable to include NFL Ticket.
Our emotional journey to acceptance has led us to spending our fall Sundays at home working on our abilities to entertain the children without them noticing that our attention is not (for once) on them. Over the years, we have gone through a variety of techniques: “You watch the first half, I’ll watch the second half” was nixed when my husband missed the Browns’ only touchdown of the season (I’m just kidding, I’m sure there were a few more…) because it didn’t happen during his allotted half. “We’ll just DVR it” was short lived because friends and family insisted on texting updates. We finally came to a decision that it is both forgiven in the Parenting Handbook to forgo Football Season Sundays as enrichment days, as well as perfectly acceptable to simply keep them busy and happy by any means necessary one day a week (We must choose between college and pro football day, but we will take what we can get!). In honor of the skim milk Pumpkin Spice Latte that I can enjoy while watching my calories, I call our Football Sunday parenting game “Skim Parenting”, because I can enjoy my fall sport while “watching” my kids.
The hardest part of Skim Parenting is collecting enough activities for your arsenal to keep the little ones busy for the entire game. Furthermore, it becomes more difficult if you have children of different ages and skill levels. You must have back up ideas for when your first string activities are not holding their attention or require more of your assistance than you anticipated. Any seasoned parent knows that anything with a WiFi connection is the easiest option for zero-work child care. That being said, when the movie is over, you need your phone to set your Fantasy line up, or their faces surface from the Kindle looking for the next activity, here are a few from our tool belts that may give you some precious time to sit, drink, and watch:
GIVE THEM THEIR OWN CORNHOLE BOARDS
A big part of a football gathering for us is playing Cornhole. You will find, though, that kids mess up the flow of your toss when they run in front of you and trip you. Also, it makes it incredibly difficult to keep score when they take the bags off of the boards and hide them… in the garbage can. The easiest solution for this is to get them a cheap set of boards that they can spend their energy ruining. For whatever reason, carrying the bean bags from one place to another is good for about 30 minutes of entertainment, and if you teach them how to slam the bags into the holes, that buys you 15 more.
Extra tip: Act like you really don’t want them to touch the bags. This will infallibly make them want to play with them more!
If you are feeling particularly motivated (You’ve had too much coffee or decided to drink a Red Bull to get pumped up for the game), allow me to offer a more involved option to set your mind at ease about your parental status:
WHOLE PARENTING OPTION: Have the kids help you make their own boards and bags on a predetermined craft day during the week. I found some you can make with empty diaper boxes (if you’re not already using them as a recycling bin for your wine bottles) and old socks (or socks that have somehow lost their partners forever in the laundry abyss)!
HAVE THEM RUN ERRANDS
There is a small window of time when the kids are young when nothing pleases them more than doing favors for you. Use this to your advantage during Game Day and send them on errands around the house. These could be meaningless trips (“Hey, buddy! Can you do me a huge favor and run to the top of the stairs, touch the railing, walk back down, then do it again?”), or you could put them to good use (“Honey, can you please put this bottle in the recycling bin, then go get a dog towel from the laundry room for the spill on the carpet?”).
Extra tip: If you put the beer somewhere they can reach, you can have them bring beers to your friends.
WHOLE PARENTING OPTION: Plan out a scavenger hunt with clues that the kids have to follow for various prizes around the house. This only works, of course, if they can read. If they cannot read, you can have pictures of rooms/spots around your house where they should look next. If you’re going to choose this more involved option: 1. Thanks for making the rest of us feel subpar and 2. Put the pictures on index cards and laminate them so you can reuse them for future Sunday Funday hunts.
PUT THEM TO WORK
As I previously mentioned, “things that need to get done” is not an item on a football fan’s priority list for Football Season weekends. This leads to a build up and overload of those “things”. If you are in a region where Autumn means falling leaves, a big, tedious chore on this list is raking them out of your yard. This is the perfect opportunity to teach your children the value of hard work!
Tape off a section of the yard and tell them to pick up all of the leaves in that area and put them in a designated bag. When the area is clear, they can have a reward (ice cream is usually the winning motivator). If you have multiple children, tape off an area for each of them and make it a competition.
Extra tip: The bigger the section of yard, the longer it will take them.
WHOLE PARENTING OPTION: Make a checklist with pictures of the different kinds of plant life in your yard and have your kids match them and check them off as they clean them up. For added time, you can put a picture of a different leaf on each of how ever many bags you desire and have them sort by leaf type! If the little helpers can read, put the tree or plant name on the list, too. Science lesson. Boom.
BEER BOTTLE BOWLING
Sometimes, you just have to work with what you have in your immediate surroundings to entertain your Mini-Mes. Save your friends empty drink cans or bottles and set them up for a bowling game in your yard. Grab any ball you have around (I know you have at least one of every kind around the house. You’ve probably stepped on two already today!) to roll the bottles down.
Extra tip: If you teach them once how to set it up, they can do this activity completely independently.
WHOLE PARENTING OPTION: I know that you’re thinking, “With a name like ‘Beer Bottle Bowling’, how can she find any good parenting in this idea?” Prepare to be amazed: Have the kids count how many cans/bottles are in each row and how many total. Addition! When they knock some over, they can count how many are down and how many are left. Subtraction! When you’re teaching them to set up the game, have them notice that it is shaped like a triangle. Geometry! Lessons in Mathematics = Whole Parenting. Nailed it!
We love our children and hope that one day they will grow up to be well-rounded, properly adjusted, functional members of society. We, as parents, all work toward this goal as much as we can. The rules of the skilled game of Skim Parenting says, “Hey, six out of seven days a week is a very healthy dose of Whole Parenting! Call day seven ‘Independence Day’ and let the kids show what they know!” Tomorrow is Sunday. Kick your feet up, finish your pumpkin drink, and have your daughter grab you a beverage. Its game time.