Now, for a preview of tomorrow's events. A few weeks ago, I announced to The General that I had an idea I wanted to start implementing once a month here at Casa de OCH. With a look of pure fear in his eyes, he asked me to elaborate with noticeable trepidation. Alarmed at the amount of screen time our daughters have been racking up, I decided that it is time to make a pro-active effort in limiting how much time they spend during one 24-hour period in front of the various electronic devices in our home. I was quite aware that the idea I was proposing would not be the most well received idea I've ever concocted, but seeing as how we're a team in this whole parenting gig I wanted to make sure that The General was behind me on this. I'm okay with being the Bad Guy, but what I didn't want was instituting this hiatus while my husband snuck off to the hidden cove of his bathroom for a little Internet fix via his Android. It was a lengthy discussion which was immediately met with the following reactions: "Why are you punishing me?" and "This is my house; I'll watch TV if I want to" and "Just tell them to turn it off! Why do we all have to suffer?". In the end, he reluctantly agreed to go along with my crazy scheme under the following conditions - the 24 hour hold lifts immediately after the girls are in bed and Angry Birds is accessible (as long as sound is muted) during one very specific event.
So here's the general run-down of how this is going to work: starting from the moment they get out of bed until they wake up the next morning, all items with screens will remain off. No television, movies, Wii, Leapsters, computers, or cell phone use for texting/Internet access/game playing. Music is allowed via radio, CDs, Dish Network music channels, and iPods. The General and I will also be expected to abide by these rules (with the time limit adjustments as stated above). Basically there's going to be a whole lot of dancing, reading, board game playing, imagination using, playing outside and arts and crafts projects up in here starting at sunrise tomorrow.
The General asked for specific reasons why I wanted to do this. I'm not sure I eloquently convinced him as to the positive purpose of this exercise, but my reasons include the following:
- The TV in our house is always on. I am as much to blame for this as anyone. Even before we had kids, when I'd come home from work at the end of the day the first thing I'd do is turn on the television. Rarely would I sit down to watch it, but I'm the kind of person who just likes the background noise (which is ironic seeing as how I'm often working to get the general noise level in our house down about six notches). The girls have followed my example, and the first thing they do when they wake up in the morning or when we walk in the door after returning home is turn on the TV. Even now, they are in the back of the house playing in their rooms, but the Disney channel is playing in the living room. I would like to break this habit.
- This is a very true account as to what happens when we tell them it's time to turn off the devices. "Can we play Wii? No, that uses the television. Okay, can I go on the computer? No. How about Wii? No. The Leapster? No! Can I play with Dad's phone then? NO! Alright - but what about your iPod? There isn't even anything to PLAY on my iPod so no!".
- Despite that lengthy run down, our girls are easy to transition off a screen when told it's time to turn everything off. They'll happily go to their rooms, play games, make up elaborate make believe events, or find something more constructive to occupy their time. It might surprise you that Punkin is much more adept at entertaining herself than Shortcake. That my oldest daughter usually comes to me within a few minutes as says, "I just don't know what to do" concerns me. Open up that imagination, girl! Put those toys and books to use!
- Before becoming a parent I swore up and down that I would never be "that mom," and it's embarrassing to admit it but I totally use the TV or computer to occupy my children. When I'm trying to get things done or just want some time to myself, I'll steer them in the direction of the TV when other suggestions do not tempt them.
- I'm distracted by the pull of the computer as much as they are. Eliminating accessibility of these items is as much getting rid of distractions for ME as it is them. It sounds horrible to say it like this, but by getting rid of the distraction of the screen its going to force us all to interact more meaningfully.