Make “Fend for Yourself Saturday” a Thing

Boys watching TV

I assume my parents were home on weekend mornings when I was a kid, but I have no memories of it. What I remember is helping myself to cereal, putting on cartoons, and chilling, just me and my sister. I remember The Glow Worms, and Gummi Bears, and Alvin and the Chipmunks. But my parents? Crickets.

It wasn’t all Lucky Charms and Pee Wee’s Playhouse. We would plan surprise parties for our family, play elaborate games of house, and make creations. In fact, I know my parents weren’t there supervising, because we once made “Monster Liquid” by combining a full carton of egg nog with every other water-soluble and non-toxic thing in the house, then leaving it out in the sun to congeal. I definitely have memories of my mother discovering that delightful surprise. That was also the day I learned the price of egg nog.

It was wonderful for all of us. My parents got to sleep a little longer after a hard week’s work, my sister and I got some time to explore on our own without being under anyone’s watchful eye – it was great!

Fast-forward to Saturday mornings thirty years later. If my five-year-old hasn’t already crawled into my bed in the middle of the night, he does it at six-o’clock. He demands food before I can focus my brain enough to realize there is a child talking to me. He jams his feet into my husband’s back.

The ten-year-old has not yet gotten up, but soon will saunter into the room and commandeer our TV. He knows games are off-limits, so he will skirt the restriction by watching strangers play the games he likes on YouTube. I will try to doze back off, four to a bed, five if the cat joins us (and she always does), but it won’t happen.

My husband and I will play a game of Breakfast Chicken, and one of us will yield and lead the children downstairs like a disheveled Pied Piper to feed them. There has to be a better way.

“Wait!” I remember. “There is!” And thus began, “Fend for Yourselves Saturdays.” FFYS, as I call it, has but a few simple rules: No fighting. Big kid feeds little kid. Clean up after yourselves. Don’t touch anything sharp, toxic, or on fire. Watch as much kids TV as you want to. Don’t bug me before nine. No egg nog.

Glorious, glorious sleeping in, here I come. Do you see that? That’s me star-fishing in my roomy bed at eight AM, not making anyone’s breakfast or packing anyone’s backpack. That sound is my husband blissfully snoring. Oh happy day.

Won’t somebody think of the children? I see you over there, Perfect McJudgy-Pants. Shouldn’t I be giving them a hot, nutritious meal? Shouldn’t I be limiting their screen time? Shouldn’t I be spending every minute of our weekend together staring deeply into their beautiful eyes while I plan educational and fun family time?

No. Full stop. Okay, well maybe, but I’m not going to. Why? Because in addition to having one morning a week to wake up on my own time without people shouting demands at me, this time is good for my kids. It’s good for them to learn to be responsible for themselves. It’s nice for them to have one morning a week without anyone making demands of them too. It teaches them to learn to get along, because they know at the first hint of a fight, FFYS is over.

And quite frankly, I cherish the memories I have of my own unsupervised weekend mornings, and I want them to make those memories for themselves. We have the rest of the weekend to spend time together as a family, and we are here if they need us for more than pouring some cereal into a bowl. And if one day I wake to find hot, chunky dairy products on my porch, so be it.



Heather M. Jones is a mom of 2 from Toronto. When not writing, she can be found reading, worrying, and spending way too much time on Facebook.