Powerless Parenting

A few weekends ago, further proving that we live in the end times, a storm came through Richmond, Virginia, severely damaging homes, displacing families, and, less seriously, knocking power out at my house for four days.

The kids were gone the night of the storm, away at grandma “camp”, but returned the next day while I was at work charging all the devices I could carry with me. When I got home in the late afternoon, things seemed pretty normal. The kids were doing kid things—reading books, coloring, the usual. The house was quieter without the hum of the refrigerator, but that was it.

It wasn’t until we started preparing dinner over our camping stove that things seemed dramatically different. Everyone who eats eggs would get eggs, and with makeshift grilled cheeses and quesadillas as an alternative.

But then, our neighbors brought us ribs they needed to cook before they went bad. Our other neighbor brought over beer to drink before it got too warm, yet another neighbor brought over hot dogs and s’mores stuff to cook over the firepit fire that we all spontaneously decided to start. It was delightful.

The girls stayed up later than their usual bedtime, going to bed with the sun, not the clock. I may be mistaken, but it might have been the first time the girls have ever caught fireflies. When it was time to go inside, we all had our flashlights and exhausted kids went to bed right away. So did the grown-ups, as lack of light postponed our normal end-of-day chores until the morning.

We had two more days ahead of us, but honestly it wasn’t that bad. It was like camping, but at home. Normally the weekend is a complex negotiation about iPad use, but with the necessary battery rationing, the kids only asked to play on them once, quickly themselves realizing it was silly to ask.

The weather wasn’t too hot, so we spend most of the day just hanging out outside. We read books on a blanket. We walked around the neighborhood. We made excuses to go on errands. I took a nap. One of my daughters made a doll out of grass like it was a Little House book.

The lack of options made it easier to enjoy the options we did have. Do I want the dishes clean? I better do it now while there’s light. Do the girls want to walk to their beds without stepping on their toys? Better go clear a path. Are you hungry? This is literally the only food we have in the house right now.

When the power came back on Sunday night, I cheered, but part of me was a little sad. Only a little sad (I like things like refrigeration as much as the next guy), but I started to think about what habits I didn’t realize I had. I started to think about ways I could manufacture less choice into my daily life.

I didn’t very get far though. I could look at Twitter again. I could play Threes! as much as I wanted. I had work the next day and things fell back into routine pretty quickly. Maybe the next time the power goes out, I’ll be forced into actually thinking about this, but for now I’ll just go watch some YouTube.

Powerless Parenting

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