I wish I could say it was a great epiphany or the culmination of the study of great parenting journals that helped me arrive at the decision to go screen-free for the summer. No, it was nothing like that at all, it was an honest to goodness, full-blown, hissy fit. One of those not to be proud of parenting moments wherein you make a loud, impactful declaration from which you cannot back down. Such is the birth of our screen free summers!
While I do not remember the exact nature of the exasperating behaviors of my children at the time, rest assured they must have pushed all of my buttons to their capacity. I do recall a beautiful, sunny, Cape Cod day in our lovely house with the big back yard and more toys than any children should own and what were my children doing, you ask? ….WATCHING TV! Three young children, completely absorbed by a screen and flopped on the floor like rag dolls. They were ignoring my pleas to go to the beach or out for a bike ride, when I finally snapped.
A decade later we are still screen free from June 1st to Labor Day weekend. I pine for the years when my kids thought that every family turned off their televisions and computers for the summer. For many years, they lived under this erroneous assumption and I did not correct it. Several years ago, one of them did become the wiser and confronted me with the fact that I had made up this rule myself… my simple response was “I never said that I didn’t”.
This decision to spend more time doing things that did not involve technology has grown, changed, and morphed over many years and there are some cold hard truths that come with this endeavor. The following list is in no particular order, however it represents the truth about “going screen free” in the summer:
* Your house will be louder in every way imaginable, guaranteed.
* “I’m bored” will be announced daily often hourly.
* Your house will never be clean for more than a few minutes at a time.
* Your children will whine, complain, connive, bargain and cry for their screen of choice.
* You will be compared to other families, better ones that allow video games all day every day!
* You will be referred to as mean, ridiculous and more muttered under the breath of your offspring.
HOWEVER… there is an up side (there has to be or I would have rescinded this declaration years ago – I’m not insane)!
* You will see books, board games, crafts, sports equipment and items you did not even know you owned come out of the proverbial woodwork.
* Your pets will receive more attention.
* Your children will read willingly – I know sounds crazy but it’s true, they will become desperate to get lost in a story.
* They will spend more time with you, and even take an interest in what you are doing because they are truly bored!
* Imaginations grow, projects get started, dreams are percolating and they actually DO stuff.
* Parks, beaches, playgrounds, libraries and even the grocery store will be repeated destinations.
* They will go outside for long periods of time and look to pry other kids away from their screens to come and play.
* You as CEO of the house will reserve the right to reverse screen policy on an as needed basis, e.g. a relentless heat wave, a sick or injured child, your need for a couple of hours of sanity, etc…
Of all the parenting decisions I have ever made, I cling to this one, as one of my best. In 2001 with three children under five years old, I was parenting by the seat of my pants. Today, more than a decade later with a house full of teenagers the screen-free summer is ahead of us. We make accommodations now, and adjust to teenage communication and lifestyle but the elements of unplugging ourselves and enjoying our lives for the next three months are well ingrained and for that summer day hissy fit I had, I am forever thankful.
Are my children grateful? No, not yet anyways, they would happily click, swipe, text, google and watch the summer go by. I can only hope however that just like eating vegetables and brushing your teeth, understanding the beauty of living unplugged, even momentarily, will be habit-forming.
Here’s to a great screen-free summer! How do you unplug with your family?