What Happened When We Went Screenless?
Crazy, off-the-wall emotions.
That’s what happened.
Major meltdowns from every age.
3 years old, “Mommy, nooooo! (insert sad pout holding a phone like a baby doll).
I neeeed Subway Surfers! Can I PLEEEAAASSE play it, just a wittle?
I’ll give you a hug and kiss!” (insert gorgeous winking eyes and adorable grin)
5 years old, “Does that mean I can’t play on my kindle? Like ever? (tears filling big eyes) How long will this last?”
7 years old, “Okay, Mommy. But it’s just for this week, right? Just until Daddy comes home? Then we can have it all back, right?”
9 years old, “I’m so bored. I’m so bored. I’m so bored. This is the worst ever. This is the longest week of my entire life. I’m so bored. I’m so bored.” (then literally spends the next half hour counting to 1500)
11 years old, “But, I can still watch my shows at night, right? Like after all the other kids are in bed? I’ll be super quiet and they will never know.”
Every single one of my kids spent time sulking over their loss.
Of TV, people!!
I hadn’t taken away their snacks or time with friends or even texting. (They could still have their phones if they were using them to communicate via voice or text.)
That’s when I realized the depth of our addiction.
It wasn’t just my kids’, it was mine too.
In the spirit of the technical fasting, I deleted my social media apps from my phone and vowed to only use my phone for communicating via text or voice as well.
In the words of my 9 year old, I was kind of bored too.
But with time, I lost the urgency of checking media.
That “need to know” what pictures had posted or what everyone was doing today.
In place of that “need”, I became so bored with my phone that I…wait for it….
put it down!
I literally forgot where it was.
I realized that I had been hiding behind my phone a lot.
Kids would ask me questions and I was only half listening to my treasures as I checked in with what people were doing.
People I hadn’t seen face-to-face in years took priority over the children I had birthed.
I used the excuse that it was my “mommy moment”, my time to connect with adult life, but it wasn’t true; I was missing the life in front of my face!
But I wasn’t the only one.
While I wasn’t recognizing how much I was missing of real life, my kids had forgotten how to really play together to stave off boredom. Of course, they played together before, but now, when they got bored with Legos or Barbies, they had to actually use their imaginations to come up with a new game instead of flip on the nearest device.
Once we got passed the first 48 hours of
No Screens, Meltdowns, and Bored-to-Tears Frustration,
something amazing started happening.
Angry voices were taken over by giggles. Staring into space and feeling sorry for themselves was hijacked by camaraderie as they played imaginary games they hadn’t engaged in for quite a while.
Relationships started growing at a crazy, fast rate.
We were joking around and laughing and playfully teasing with each other instead of listening to the drone of television or mindlessly playing yet another iPhone game.
Dress up costumes were pulled out,
shows were performed,
castles were built,
the house became a pirate ship,
the backyard became a deserted island,
rocks and small creatures were discovered.
Older siblings took the younger ones and spent literally hours pouring into them
as they played.
Relationships that were stuck before (read: constantly picking on each other),
started to blossom again.
My house was messier, but my television was blank, no longer sucking away our lives or our time, and
I breathed in the beauty of real life and laughed out loud.
Our week of No Screens ends soon, and that’s okay.
Hanging out together with some pizza and a movie or a show really is a fun way to spend time. Facebook and Instagram aren’t so bad either.
But, I bet that when I check back in to social media,
I’ll realize that I didn’t even miss it because
“screened entertainment” is a pretty cheap substitute for the real thing.
I’m not deleting my media accounts or unplugging for the rest of our lives, but what I want to remember from “Screen-less” is that
balance is vitally important.
Letting screens go unchecked is ridiculously easy,
and drawing boundary lines can be hard,
but making memories that celebrate life and laughter and building relationships without devices
is well worth it!