When I was growing up, my dad had a funny phrase he used to say when he forgot something.
He’d say “Too many penguins on the cliff!”
Which basically meant he had so many things on his mind that there wasn’t space for all of them and some of there were getting crowded out.
As a kid, of course, this seemed like the strangest thing in the world. How could you forget how old you were or not remember every darn detail of a book you finished last week or the word-for-word transcript of a conversation?
Now I know EXACTLY what he’s talking about (am I 32 now or almost 32?).
I frequently tell Bart, “Our children probably think I’m really dumb. But it’s just that I have so much on my mind!”
As I’ve gotten busier with more children and more responsibilities, I’m trying really hard to reduce how much load my brain has to carry.
The more things that I rely on my brain to keep track of, the more anxious and overwhelmed I feel.
So I’m constantly looking out for ways to reduce the things I need to keep track of.
Two dumb little examples:
- I set my alarm clocks on my phone so that it goes off at the same time every weekday morning. This way, I never have to think before I go to bed, “Did I turn my alarm on? Do I need to set it for tomorrow morning?” And same for Sunday morning – it’s set to go off at the time I need to get up to get everyone to church on time. No Saturday night fussing over whether or not I set the alarm and what time I need to get up. It’s one small thing, but I don’t have to think about it every night.
- I have a calendar alert set to remind me every week to renew my library books. Nothing at my library has a lending period less than 7 days, so nothing will go overdue between those weeks and then when that alert pops up every week, I go renew everything that’s due in the next seven days and I don’t have to feel a little sense of dread when I look at my library basket. It also means I can just trash the emails from my library that come in telling me my books are almost due.
And of course I live by my planner and to-do list because I just need a place to keep track of everything I have going on.
With school started now, there’s even more to keep track of – papers coming home every day, homework, school events and fundraising, and fitting family time around the school day.
And one place I don’t want to have to spend a lot of brain power monitoring is the girls’ screen time.
Like most children, my girls would play on the tablet endlessly, but when they’re watching something or playing a game, I usually am getting something else done, like making dinner or cleaning up or doing some work, and it’s easy to let the time just slip away, since I don’t want to watch the clock religiously the whole time.
And I really don’t enjoy being the enforcer when it’s time to turn off the tablet.
You can set the amount of time each child gets, plus what times they can use it between (the Bedtime setting means you won’t have kids up all night playing games, or using up all their morning school-prep time watching a show). I love it that when the time is up, it just automatically logs your child out so that you don’t have to be the bad guy.
I’ve felt overwhelmed by how much time it takes to find and download new books, movies, and games for the girls (and of course they ALWAYS need a new book right when it’s the least convenient time for me to try and find one), so having them all right there, sorted by age, is a lifesaver for me.
You can also use the Parent Dashboard feature “Learn First” which lets you set an amount of time they spend on academics before the games or movies are available, which is perfect as school gets back in. Plus there are Discussion Cards to that give you a summary of the content your child is watching or reading so you can talk about it together (and it even has sample questions and activity ideas to apply what they are reading or playing to the real world).
My girls think anything is more fun on a screen (and I can’t blame them – tracking my running manually? Awful. Tracking it via an app? Pretty fun!) and it’s a nice wind-down after school to read a few books on the tablet or do some math games during snack or watch a short episode of a favorite show.
One other thing that removes a lot of mental load for me? All the Fire Kids Edition tablets come with a kid case in a variety of colors and a two-year worry-free guarantee. If your child (or anyone!) breaks the tablet, you can send it back and Amazon will replace it, no questions asked.
I’m the kind of person who gets a case and screen protector for my phone thirty seconds after I buy it and if I don’t have one, I walk around feeling like I’m carrying a ticking time bomb in my purse, so that guarantee puts me way more at ease.
I’ve struggled a lot with screen time for the girls over the years because I didn’t know how to balance the educational and fun features of digital media with my desire to not having them spend all their time glued to a screen.
For me, Amazon FreeTime Unlimited has helped me find a balance I feel really good about.
And it’s not putting more penguins on my already-crowded cliff.
Photos by Brandi Hansen