From the time we get up, until the time we go to bed, there's someone looking at some sort of screen around here. Whether it's OPB in the morning for the early risers, the teen on the phone, me on my computer (or phone), evening news on the tv while I make dinner, kids hovered around the computer or xbox after school, etc...our faces are stuffed full of media, entertainment and a constant flow of electric information daily.
I used to do "Turn the TV Off Week" when the kids were smaller, but we hadn't done it in years. Last month I discovered "Screen Free Week", and decided to jump on the bandwagon. When your 4 year old acts like he might implode if he can't use your phone to play "Chicken Boom" (Angry Birds) right.now.or.he.might.die..., your other kids say things like "There's NOTHING to dooooo" when you try to have screen free time, and your teenager's limbs are growing into it's cellular device, it's time to pull the plug.
There was an equal amount of sheer terror and desperate relief as I anticipated a week of distance from it all. I was stuck on a merry go round spinning out of control and preparing to jump, tuck and roll. And maybe kiss my ass goodbye. I had so many fears about it: Would the kids kill each other? Revolt against me in a parental coup d'etat? Complain nonstop? Would I end up crying myself to sleep at night frustrated and overwhelmed from the children suffering so? Would I be able to avoid using my Rights as an Adult to bend the rules and sneak in a little Mad Men? Could I trust myself? And then there was the big one for me...the voices in my head were quick to remind me that I've tried this before, and failed, miserably. So I had some doubts.
I preemptively decided to ask Reggie to take the modem. It wouldn't prevent me from going onto my phone for internetz fixes, but it felt like a good step. I also went onto my phone and deleted all my "frequented" apps. Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, etc. I decided that I would still allow myself to check email and text and call but that's it. No surfing or dwelling in cyberland.
Amy Meets Meatspace
Monday, April 30th:
I normally wake up with my phone alarm, and spend the next 20-60 minutes laying in bed catching up on Facebook. That morning, I turned my alarm off and stared blankly at the barren screen for a second, turned over and snuggled with Max. It was just that easy. The morning went totally smoothly. No complaints, no demands for reason or new parents.
I got the kids to school, and then rounded up all the books I could find to return and took Max to the library for Storytime and making things right with the Librarian. Storytime and crafts, check. Fines paid, check. Scary books sitting on the shelf, check. Checking out new books for a week of staving off boredom and possible delirium, check.
|scented markers crafts. The Library Wins.|
|wait for it.........wait for it.........|
We spent the rest of the day and that afternoon running errands, staying busy, reading books, doing laundry and snuggling. It's like a puppy pile any time I sit down...they all fight over the Privileged Spot next to me. Or on me. Zero personal space. No bubble. Drowning in kid hair and sinking into vibrations of their voices as they read aloud on my chest and the warmth of sweet little bodies next to me. I loved it.
That night as we were sitting down at dinner together, Aric was recounting something that happened that day and he said "Wait, what day is it?" I answered and he replied "It's STILL only Monday? This is the LONGEST DAY EVAAARRRR!"
I had to laugh because it's true.
The time warping phenomenon that occurs when your face is stuffed in a machine is remarkably obvious when you remove said face from said machine. Time resumes at a fixed rate. And that rate...is slow. I rather enjoyed life at a pace that allowed me to get so many things accomplished and still relish in my sweet beautiful life.
Tuesday, May 1st:
Morning went smoothly, nobody complained or showed any signs of screen withdrawals. In fact, everyone seemed to wake up easier and was in a better mood. Probably because nobody stayed up late watching tv or numbing their brains with computer games.
I took Andy over to Clark to see about getting him tested into Running Start, but it ended up he didn't have his ID on him, so we did other things instead.
Like went to the DMV to renew my tags and get a new drivers license for my new married name. Well, it's not a new married name, I've have it since Jan.1, 2011, but I never got off my ass to change it officially.
After Aric got out of school we went to Freddies and picked up some organizing things and spent the rest of the afternoon organizing a few things and just hanging out. I pretty much kicked ass and still have plenty of time left in my day to mellow out.
That night, Aric, Soph and Zach played restaurant and created menus for Reggie and me and made us dinner in bed. It was so hilarious and I was so impressed by their comical genius.
|Dinner Theater. They acted out a "Moon Minute" where they mimed out landing/walking on the moon. Broadway, hoooo!|
|Poor little sweeties suffering under the oppression and tyranny of Screen Free Week. aka future food industry workers...|
Wednesday, May 2nd:
Days Survived Without The Netz: 2
Nights Staying Up Worrying About Lack of Netz and Thusly Destroying Childrenz: 0
Number of Times I Stared Blankly At My Phone: a few. ;)
Number of Times Max asked if it was 10o'clock yet: a million (he is normally allowed to play Minecraft after 10am)
Number of Times I Thought of Funny/Amazing/Insightful/Important Facebook Status Updates: 2948.5
Max and I took Andy back to Clark with his ID to take the Running Start test. Which of course he passed with flying colors because my kids? GENIUSES. They can't seem to remember to brush their teeth, and matching socks are soooo last year, but they can pass tests with brilliance to spare.
|Biggest and Smallest together, hand in hand, going into college. Tearful nostalgia in 3...2...1...|
|Max dancin' around campus, with his Dora PackPack, like Fred Freakin Astaire.|
|things got a little goofy|
Thursday, May 3rd:
I spent pretty much the whole day at Andaluz Waterbirth Center working on a photography project for them, so by the time I got done with the afternoon shuffle, picked up pizza and settled in for the night, I was ready to watch some tv and chill. But I ended up reading some book about Curing ADHD instead and making a plan for us all to go on a gluten/sugar/dairy/everything free diet, which I told Aric about, afterwhich he went storming around the house like a banshee wailing about how ridiculous I am. (I talked to the family psych about it, and decided not to...with no complaints from Aric!)
|stopped in traffic on the way to Andaluz. It's like Facebook in Meatspace, leaving me little messages of love and hope!|
Friday, May 4th:
Details start getting fuzzy towards the end of the week, as the trauma of the abrupt lifestyle change began to wane. I did have to put some work on a project, which I needed internet for. I also needed to get onto Facebook to get details about a couple upcoming events happening the next day. By this point, I was enjoying the internet sabbatical and did NOT want to even get on my computer, let alone face Facebook at all. And though usually I would have been tempted to sneak around and see what everyone had been up to (and secretly question how on earth anyone could be functioning without me up in their Facebook faces...), I was ALL business...posted what I needed to, got the information I came for, and I was OUT of there. I didn't even stop to glance at the 75 notifications glaring at me. I spent the afternoon finalizing a project, sent off a few emails, and shut that computer DOWN. Then I looked up and it was 5pm, my shoulders and neck were jacked up, and my eyes were totally bugging out and strained. I was exhausted. The house was a wreck. The kids were antsy. So naturally, Reggie took me out to a movie. I didn't even consider that this would have been a total cheat on SFW, but it totally was. Hi there, big huge SCREEN! We saw The Lucky One, which was a sweet little movie with Zac Efron acting all sexy and macho (but in a really humble, I-don't-know-I'm-a-total-hottie kind of way). Then I felt kind of weird having sexy feelings for a barely out of teen years High School Musical actor.....
We came home to this:
|When you don't have tv, you have The Holy Mother of All Forts.|
Saturday, May 5th:
I spent the morning/afternoon doing a boudoir party at a friends house, and it was so awesome to feed that little hole that was hungry from being abandoned by Facebook! Sophia was off to a slumber party after that, Zach disappeared to his friends house, as did Aric. Which left Family 2.0 to celebrate Cinco de Mayo ourselves. I pretty much gave up on SFW when Aric called from his friends house begging to play video games. I figured, the kid CALLED AND BEGGED ME...he could have just played and I wouldn't have been the wiser, but he chose to call, and I wanted to support that stroke of awesomesauce!
Sunday, May 6th:
Aric spent the day with his girlfriend's family, going to church, having lunch, going to see Journey 2 and dinner before coming back home. I picked up Soph from her sleepover and hauled down to Portland to take Andy to his hair appointment, shuffle kids around and meet up with a friend home recovering from surgery.
|Mr. Awesome coming out from his hair appointment sporting a shiny new mohawk! :D|
|Fresh from a sleepover, where they didn't really sleep at all.|
We were minimally prepared, got a little off target at the end, but it was a great, fun adventure, albeit a few snags. Haha!
Parting Observations on Going Screen Free
I had a couple of pretty strong observations during the course of the week.
#1. It's extremely easy to avoid life when you're checked out on the computer. Even when I'm not on the computer, I'm still thinking about it constantly. I was shocked at how much I really do live my life online and how it rules my time, thoughts and attention. Which leads me to #2...
#2. The Internet (Facebook in particular) is an amazing accelerate for ADHD symptoms. Even being on Facebook for a few minutes after being screen free for 5 days was completely overstimulating. I mean, you have your main news feed updating constantly and moving down, the side bar on the right ticking away with every minute update on every comment you can imagine, the updating ads, events, notifications popping up on the bottom of the screen, the number of update notifications on the top of the screen and on the side bar on the left, etc. When I'm on the computer, I must tune everything else out or I'd go nuts. I've taught myself how to hear what is going on in my environment (kids talking/playing/fighting) and not actually process it. Even though I'm hyper focused on what I'm doing online, my attention elsewhere is completely and utterly shot, and when I stop, I'm drained. Which leads me to #3.
#3. There are serious physical side affects from screen time. When we are so intensely tuned into Facebook, playing video games, and computer games, we are hyper focused on that activity. Eyes, posture, shoulders and neck are totally tensed up, and then coming away from that leaves the body sore, the energy drained, and the mind exhausted. I snap at the kids, my breath is shallow and stressed, my eyes pound from straining, my back hurts and I'm one grumpy girl. Which leads me to #4.
#4. When I'm grumpy, stressed and overwhelmed, it directly affects everyone. I think this is why we didn't encounter a huge amount of fighting and stress that I was expecting. I had energy for everyone, and everyone seemed to handle themselves using more inner resources. When things did get intense, I was able to help them resolve conflicts with more compassion and humor...things I totally lack when I'm mentally exhausted!
I think my biggest lesson was the time warp factor.
I got a little sad thinking about all the time I waste online and how quickly time flies by. Offline, time was generous, and the kids and I got to spend a lot of time talking, cuddling, reading, making smoothies, working together, coloring, and just being a connected family. It felt amazing to have plenty of time to get done with I needed to do, and still have time for more things. We went to bed earlier, got up in the morning easier, and went about our day with plenty of energy.
Being back on Facebook, I'm careful to remember the habits I made, and I'm trying hard to keep that time limited. It's hard, but there's so much to do...and I don't want to waste it!