I don’t know how exactly it happened, but it did. My 3 boisterous boys were sitting still and quietly. Normally this sight should make me jump for joy, but not today. Today it broke my heart. Their sitting nicely and quietly wasn’t some new discipline technique I was trying. My boys had morphed.
They had become couch potatoes.
For a few hours each day, they sat zonked out mindlessly. The Netflix library was at their beck and call.
What started out as something to buy me time to prep meals or do the dishes had grown in to a full blown TV addiction, especially for one of my children in particular.
Something had to be done. Imagination was dying, bad attitudes were growing faster than weeds, and honestly I was using the TV as a crutch to avoid actively parenting my children. Even though I was tired, TV was only making things worse.
I thought about doing one of those checklists that outlines the things that need to be done around the house before TV is allowed. Eh. I’m not really a checklist mom, and my boys would finish those lists by 8am. I want them to read a book or do something kind for someone else because they want to, not because it’s on some list they have to complete in order to get what they want.
I couldn’t see any other way to tackle this, except:
“Alright boys! Until further notice, there will be no watching TV. This is not a punishment. No one has done anything wrong, but it is just best for everyone if we lay off the TV until further notice. We all need a readjustment.” After having to explain what the word readjustment means, they reluctantly agreed.
The (re)adjustment period – The next day, I knew my 7 year old would wake up and carry on as normal, hoping I forgot this conversation ever happened. Of course, he and his brothers were not happy when they found out Mom was serious. Oh, the debates and arguments came pouring out. “I’m 99% readjusted Mom. I can watch American Ninja Warrior, right?” Despite hours of objection from siblings, my youngest boy could not have cared less about any of this and happily played with matchbox cars.
The first few days were tough, but it didn’t take long for my boys to find other things to do. They listened to audio books, designed their own comic books, and wrote letters to Grandma. They became voracious readers. My middle son loves to cook, so he took a liking to mixing his own spice blends. We enjoyed the outdoors. My oldest really enjoyed designing new American Ninja Warrior obstacles. Their imagination came back to life as they assembled a spy team and investigated our basement. (Of course, they used my phone to take approximately 4 million pictures of “evidence”). All in all, my boys spent their screen-free summer days getting in plenty of good-natured mischief.
Going screen-free wasn’t just for them, it was for me too. I took this time to readjust my own attitude and figure out how and why we got to this point. I found that instead of creating and nurturing relationships between me and my children, I had been seeing them as assets to manage. My kids are easiest to manage when they are distracted, so I distracted them. It is painful to see this in writing, but it’s the truth. I used it as a crutch to make my life easier.
When I took the TV crutch away, their personalities intensified. Holes in my parenting became impossible to ignore. The days felt much longer and even less productive than before. I mediated much more because they were interacting (okay, fighting) with each other constantly. Letting them experiment with spices and water and all sorts of things like that annoyed me. I needed to get over it. To let them climb up too high in trees and run around barefoot even though I saw a few bees flying low. I had to let go.
Expecting any amount of peace in my house is really an unrealistic expectation I need to let go of. The TV quiet was a false peace. Sure it was quiet, but it was still not good for them. And really, when it comes down to it, I’d much rather see them stretch their imaginations and learn to get along with each other, even if it’s loud.
So thank you, screen-free summer, for helping us all readjust. I probably needed it more than anyone.