We did a TV and tablet free week in our house and it was one of the best things we’ve ever done. I don’t think I had been honest with myself about the amount of screen time our daughter was getting . I had held off on technology with her for so long but once those flood gates opened…it just snowballed. Because I spend hours with her at the park, I can justify one Peppa Pig turning into 4. ( If she’s spent over 3 hours running and playing outside, maybe she needs to just chill out..it’s good for her right? Maybe…)
How else can I get anything done? How else do you cook dinner or clean a bathroom, or make a phone call to your insurance company ? Put their face in front of a screen and you can do anything . It’s a magic spell really . Turning off was tough at first but now I prefer it and here’s why.
1.My daughter learned how to play with her toys . She is quite social and enjoys school and spending hours and hours at the park with her friends, but tell her to go in her room and play with her toys and she needs help. “Mommy come play with me “ is all I would hear when I would say “play with your toys…Mommy is busy” while trying to make dinner. But during no TV week, she knew there was no screen option. She knew that we were all taking a break from TV. If I was in the kitchen cooking, she would come grab pots and pans and set up a” kitchen” on the coffee table. She actually opened her toy chest and played with the contents inside! Books, puzzles matchbox cars, play doh, dolls, dress up ..Oh MY!
2. She listened better and had less tantrums. By day 3 when I asked her to straighten up her room, instead of being met with resistance, she said, ” Ok Mommy.” She said this in the sweetest voice EVER. When she finished, I went in her room and she ACTUALLY straightened it out. Everything was put away. This had literally never happened before. I made a HUGE deal about it and it gave her a great sense of pride. I had tried reward charts with stickers in the past but she never really cared or responded. This was much more effective.
3.We ate together as a family. This was HUGE for me. Because of our different schedules, eating dinner together never really happened. I was always feeding Issy and then waiting for her to be asleep until my husband and I ate. By doing this, I was also catering to HER specific meal requests. I would say, what do YOU want to eat, (which I fully understand is something I should not do but I found myself doing it to avoid any issues with my 4 year old! That’s nuts ! I know but I did it OK, and I’m owning up to it) But when there was no TV, I was cooking for ALL Of us. I was making things like roasted zucchini halves stuffed with turkey and sauteed veggies and there were no other options. She had to eat food with red things and green stuff. At the very least she had to try. Not only did she eat (sometimes it took hours), she wanted to set the table. I love sitting together and hearing her say, “So how was your day?”
4. We went to bed earlier and woke earlier. By 8:30, our daughter was asleep and by 11, so were we. Without the distraction of TV on in the background during her bedtime routine, we eliminated the ” Whats this show? Who’s that guy? and the ” Please just 5 more minutes” moments that added hours to the routine. After she was asleep, my husband and I had more time to connect with each other. (Let’s be honest, there is a very short window of time when I am awake in the evening.) In the morning without cartoons over breakfast, my daughter was ready to leave for school a half hour earlier. In fact, she couldn’t wait to go! And because I had gone to bed at 11 instead of 1:30, I was more alert and didn’t need too much time “waking up” and parking my kid in front of Nick JR while I guzzled caffeine.
5. I didn’t feel as anxious. I had not realized the negative effects of social media on my life until I turned it off. I picked up a very nasty habit of scrolling through Instagram and Facebook for no reason. The state of the country is not looking good. Almost everything we eat, wear, or rub into our bodies is composed of chemicals that are slowly killing us and it’s anyone’s guess which sunscreen is safe to use and which ocean we want the fish we consume to be caught at this point! I can become crippled with fear; it’s too much. I realize some public radio in the car is the best source for me. This way , I am informed. I know when shit is getting real and I should call my representative and sign some petitions. I also realized I can get some good deals on organic items at Costco so that is how I’ll handle the deathly chemical situation at this point. I will try my best to save social media scrolling for the end of the day if I so desire. (Also- full disclosure- it’s very hard for me . I was just searching earthquakes after the little one last night and now I am terrified there will be another or the world will just end entirely. See? There is no need for me to be scrolling through Facebook right now. I should maybe get an earthquake kit together though…)
Now TV is a treat for our little one. (My husband and I still watch TV during the week but considerably less because we are adults damn it.) On the weekends we sit down as a family and have popcorn and watch a movie. It’s an exciting family event . In the same way we must eat in moderation, we have to use technology in moderation. Look, if I have any hope of preventing the future version of my daughter from living with her phone attached to her face, I must do this. I MUST. I will always want her to ask how our days were while sitting around the dinner table.