Did you hear about this crazy social experiment called Screen Free Week!?? In case you missed it, it was May 1-7, 2017. I’m sure it will be back next year, so don’t worry you can ignore it then as well. My daughter’s school participated and I decided we would too, after all, it’s easier to try something hard when others are doing it with you; the “pack mentality” can really help pull you through.
My starting point:
I love TV. I like to watch shows with my kids, I like them to watch them so I can get things done AND I have my own Netflix and Amazon Prime shows cued up for my after bed momma time. I usually watch about an hour after the kids are in bed, but they don’t use it daily. We don’t have a set schedule (something I am working on) but when they do watch, the average is about 1 to 1.5 hours (let’s be honest here… 3-4 episodes can go by in a flash!). And yes I have gotten the Netflix mom-shaming question “are you STILL watching?” Yes, Netflix, yes, my kids are still in front of the screen. I need to get some things done!! Okay?? Just put Masha and Bear back on please. I do not watch TV during the day, but my phone is always close by, except when I lose it, which is often. When my alarm goes off in the morning I usually ease into the day by taking a scroll through IG or FB (I tell myself almost every morning that this is NOT how I should greet the day, but alas it has become automatic). Let’s see how this goes…
DAY 1: Monday. DETOX Day.
Whoa, it was a rough one. I had to stop myself from clicking that little icon on my phone about 100 times. The kids were mostly fine, no complaints. The only thing I heard was, “how many days until screen free is over?” Um, we are just getting started. Who had the hardest time? ME! I did not have my dopamine fix from seeing how many people liked my pictures or reading their “you are worthy, you are loved, you are funny, I like you enough to comment on your picture” comments. I was all “ALONE!”
I also did not have the saving grace of TV for my kids to zone out in front of so I could make dinner in peace. So by the time I managed to get something on the table and we all sat down I was on edge. I lost my temper on my oldest no less than three times between dinner and bedtime. It was awful. I felt like a terrible human being. Really? Are you are so dependent on screens that THIS is what happens when you don’t use them!? Mom FAIL. After bedtime, I totally broke down, sobbing. And let’s be honest, I fail on a daily basis even with the use of screens, but today I couldn’t escape my feelings by grabbing a glass of wine and watching the next episode of “Transparent” or “This is Us.” No. I had to sit with them and actually feel them. While it sucked to be so miserable, it was very cathartic to experience emotions in real life. Time for bed.
DAY 2: Tuesday. Okay, we got this.
We all had a much better day. I deleted the FaceBook and Instagram Apps from my phone. I decided to start reading Fahrenheit 451. I never actually read the book when it was assigned in 9th grade, so I thought I would make up for it now, plus it seems very relevant (I’m totally humble-bragging here, because I’m super proud of myself for picking up a book, especially a sci-fi one, not my normal genre).
My youngest started ISR this week so we were easily able to fill our day. We actually did have more engaged play moments, which were fun because I didn’t have that voice in my head “I wonder if anyone liked my picture yet, if so, who was it? Did they like it enough to comment?” This sounds so ridiculous as I type it out, but admit it, it goes through your head too. It takes up space and distracts us, for what? Oh, right, that Mr. feel good ‘dopamine.’ (Studies have shown that even hearing your phone ding can release this hormone, which is why our devices are so easily addictive).
After school we had our final Girl Scouts meeting, complete with a moving up celebration, then we went to the play park, then straight to CFA for dinner (that’s right, I learned from day one) then straight home for bed prep. No breakdowns from any of us; we won Tuesday!
DAY 3: Wednesday. A Near Miss.
Wednesday’s are early release days, don’t panic, I had a plan. We scooped up my oldest from school and headed straight for grandma’s house. Her neighborhood has a pool and I wanted to get my youngest some stress-free swim time. We did have to use a little screen time, much to my rule following daughter’s chagrin, but she is on the yearbook and we had to do a quick write up, after that, screens down, play time on. It was a really fun afternoon and a relief to me to see my youngest still loved the water even though she spent the last two ISR lessons crying her eyes out. She was all too eager to show her big sis her new tricks.
When we returned from dinner I let the girls go inside to say hello to their Granddad while I unloaded the car and grabbed their pj’s. As I came in the door I heard, “It’s the Mickey Mouse clubhouse, come inside it’s fun ins-CLICK!” I grabbed the remote and turned off the giant HD Mickey. My two-year-old was so confused as she stared blankly, my six-year-old had a momentary freakout, “NOOOOOOO! I want to watch!!!” I had to explain to Granddad that while I appreciated the thought, we weren’t watching TV this week. He then gave me the same stare my two- year-old was giving the blank screen. But all was well, we loaded up, headed home and got straight to bed.
DAY 4: Thursday. Screen Free Sick Day.
This was the most challenging day yet. My youngest woke up around 5:15 in the morning with a fever. Poor sick baby. Is there anything more stressful, pitiful and sweet at the same time? All she wanted was to be held and all I wanted was to hold her. I managed to give her enough momma snuggles to coax her back to sleep long enough to get my oldest fed and ready for school. We dropped her off and then hit the couch.
This would be a great time for me to just pop on a show, I mean I can’t leave the couch anyway, so why not? But, no tv for me. Thankfully I am also a lover of podcasts and I still had two episodes of the not so kid friendly S-Town from the producers of This American Life. Have you listened? It’s so good. And a great way to pass the time while lying under a sleeping baby.
I was settling into the day when I got a call from the school, my oldest wasn’t feeling well and needed to come home. Of course, she does, okay, no problem. It was also very overcast and looked like it might rain. Here’s a quick math problem for you: 2 sick kids + 1 rainy afternoon = Netflix Marathon … Amiright!?? I have to admit, I feel very proud saying that we stayed strong! We made smoothies, read books, worked in the fairy garden, took a little windy walk between rain drops to gather more supplies, we scavenged food from the pantry that the girls could stomach and thankfully it was time for the bedtime wind down… we MADE IT!
DAY 5: Friday. Movie Night! Hmmmm, well, not tonight.
By Friday, I was feeling less and less dependent on my social media. I had no desire to log on and it was liberating. The girls didn’t ask about watching TV and we really had an enjoyable afternoon/evening. I even allowed them in the kitchen while I was preparing dinner. It is SO much easier to put them in front of the TV, but it was great to see them wanting to participate. My oldest even created a dessert recipe, which motivated her to eat her dinner so she could have one. She was proud of herself and that was worth the extra clean up on my part.
DAY 6 & 7: IT’S THE WEEKEND Y’ALL !
My husband had a crazy week at work and we barely saw him, so it was fun to have Daddy time on Saturday morning. We squeezed in some snuggles and errands before he had to go back to work that night. We didn’t do much the rest of the day.
Sunday morning started out as a leisurely breakfast and chill session when my daughter looked out the window and saw the cars arriving for church and asked, “when are WE going to go to church?” I looked at the clock, we had 15 minutes, so I said, “how about today!??” We rushed to get dressed and walked down the street. It was a fun morning outing since I have not been to church in a long time. We ran errands and went to my soccer game to finish up the day! (That’s right, my soccer game, I’m old and out of shape, but it is fun and a great way for my daughters to see me try something that is totally out of my comfort zone). And then it was time to go home and get to bed. WE DID IT!!
- I found that I went to bed much earlier (a real problem of mine… I usually stay up way too late trying to soak in all the adult time I can).
- I finally finished a book! It wasn’t War and Peace, but an accomplishment nonetheless.
- I beat my morning and night addiction to FB and IG!! It is so liberating! I actually did not want to log back into social media after this week. (UPDATE: I finally did not on Day 11 and since then I have it back on my phone, but I am not using is nearly as much. Although I think I need to take FB off again, it’s just too tempting).
- My kids had plenty of unstructured play time, it’s amazing what they can come up with, not to mention the fact that this is so crucial to their development.
- Set screen expectations. When kids know what days and times they can use a device ahead of time, they are more willing to let it go. We are going to do at least 4 screen free days a week. This is going to be a challenge with summer coming up, but I have a few tricks up my sleeve: 1. stay busy 2. down time can equal quality time with mom chilling with a book or even a hammock session. 3. Podcasts! There are so many great kid podcasts and story podcasts and audio books to choose from, this is a great way to entertain without being in front of a screen.
- Stay busy. This I agree with to a point. I think it is good to have activities or outings scheduled, at least for my family. My oldest daughter never wants to be home, or if we are, she wants someone to come over so I try to plan some type of outing.
- Boredom. To balance out my previous point, I am also a believer that being bored is a necessary part of childhood, even life. We NEED to feel bored sometimes. Kids need to learn how to entertain themselves. This is the best time for creativity to flow! I used to be so afraid of the bored kid, but as long as you can set expectations and get over that initial hump I find that my kid can usually spend hours imagining and playing, she just needs to start.
While I started this post with a bit of sarcasm, the truth is even though I love TV, I hate being reliant upon it. I do not like how I feel after binge watching with or without my kids. I really do not like seeing how easily my kids can become slaves to the screen. It is so easy to do, but like all things in parenthood, it is up to us to set limits and do what we know is best for them. I believe all things in moderation. Screens are not evil, but they can take over if you let them. The great thing is, you CAN beat it! And when you do, it feels oh so good!