Screen-free week is fast approaching and I wanted to get things started by reposting last year's blog, not only to open it up to a wider audience, but to remind myself how effective the changes I made were at that time. Over the next couple of weeks, I'll be talking about my family and our approach to media both for ourselves and our children, but for now, here is the warm-up.
Screen-Free Week: Confessions of a Wannabe Waldorf Mom
May 8, 2012
It’s 11:30am, you’ve just finished up three hours of work and you have an hour in which to feed your 2 ½ yr old son and ‘attempt’ to get him to take a nap (which he stopped doing about 6 months ago) before your next three hour block of work. Here’s how it goes down: you plop something down in front of him while you go about cleaning up from the morning’s events; checking and replying to email; preparing and eating your own lunch and constantly reminding him that he better eat his lunch (which he is currently ignoring) so he can go take a nap. With about 30 minutes to spare, you declare that it’s time for a nap and take your little one upstairs completely wired from the morning activities and then get frustrated when he can’t wind down and fall asleep in the 20 minutes you have left to accomplish the task. Eventually, you give up and finish preparations for the afternoon which is bound to be extremely difficult with an over-tired, under-fed toddler on your hands.
Fast forward a week; same scenario; same 2 ½ yr old; same 1 hr before the hustle and bustle begins again. On this day, however, you give your child two choices for lunch: he can have a sandwich or some hummus. He chooses the latter and you oblige. You tell him that after lunch he can either choose to take a nap in his bed, or have quiet time upstairs in his room. He chooses quiet time and asks if you’ll join him upstairs for a few minutes. You agree. He finishes eating, helps put his food away and starts upstairs on his own. After a story, a few minutes of dress-up and some marbles down the homemade paper towel tube marble track, you tell him that you have some work to do, but he can choose to have more quiet time in his room or take a nap in his bed. He asks you to stay, but after a gentle reminder that after lunch we have quiet time, he settles into the rocking chair with a book. When the hour is up, he happily rejoins you in your daily work and remains agreeable for the remainder of the day.
What happened here, you ask??? Screen-Free Week, that’s what!
Yes, I’ll admit it; that was me up there in that opening paragraph completely unaware (or perhaps blissfully ignorant) that my personal computer usage was causing my child’s unappealing behaviors. Let me backtrack a bit.
For Christmas 2009, my older brother sent me a copy of Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne. I devoured it and realized that I was on a path with my newborn son that I didn’t want to be on anymore. We simplified, getting rid of ‘stuff’ in every aspect of our lives from clothes, toys and knick-knacks all the way down to credit cards and debt. In addition, I very quickly eliminated television from my life and when we moved into a new home, we chose to leave our ‘living room TV’ behind, keeping only one that would reside quietly in my husband’s office for use after our son was in bed. After a few months without a TV as the focal point in our home, we realized how little we used it and cancelled our cable. My son hasn’t seen a moment of television since he was about three months old; and I would never, ever compromise on that fact; because, really, a television is a completely useless, time-consuming and energy-sucking device.
Until now, I refused to say similar things about my computer; always making excuses about needing to get ‘work’ done or waiting to hear back from someone about something or some other nonsense which really didn’t matter. When my old desktop took a nosedive and my husband’s appeared to be doing the same, he opted for a new laptop to serve as a ‘family computer’. Unfortunately, the best place to house this new screen was in our kitchen. For a long while, it was easy to ignore. We were embracing a more Waldorf-inspired, simple lifestyle and I didn’t want that screen distracting my child from his real work: play. I managed to get all of my work, communicating, etc. finished after he was in bed and the laptop remained closed the rest of the time. I even remember getting upset with my husband after we first got the new computer for spending hours on end organizing music files and other odds and ends to get things the way he wanted them. I even took it upon myself to ask if we could move the laptop from the island in the center of our kitchen to the farthest corner of the kitchen table where you literally sit in a tiny nook to use it. It went on this way for months. I’m not sure how the change happened, it was probably a slow process, kind of like the ‘frog in a pot of water’ scenario that Kim John Payne describes in Simplicity Parenting….you have no idea what’s going on around you until you finally look up and realize you’re in boiling water and you’d better get yourself out now!
That was me – the frog. Wondering why my sweet little boy who always played on his own and was rarely disagreeable was turning into the very definition of a child in the ‘terrible twos’. Then one day, it hit me; it was me; I was the cause of his inner frustrations. I was also the target and decided a change was in order.
The Plan: No computer for an entire week and then after Screen-Free Week, no usage until after bedtime, just like the TV. Reestablish a connection; this means meals together and a predictable daily rhythm. Reread Simplicity Parenting.
Obviously, from the opening paragraphs, you can see it was a successful endeavor. There are still a few arguments here and there; like when he wants chocolate for breakfast and I have to remind him that it’s oatmeal day or when he declares that he ‘doesn’t like’ the dinner that he helped prepare even before tasting it and I have to remind him that ‘this is what we cooked, so this is what we have to eat tonight.’ Overall, I’d say, we’re sticking with it!
Of course, there were a few other lessons for the week; such as, when you decide to go screen-free for a week, be sure not to find a baby bird in your sandbox and attempt to know what to do with it. My husband made fun of me on that one, and I did, in fact, have to utilize the internet to learn that I could feed the bird a paste made from egg yolks. Does that seem horribly wrong to anyone else??
I’ll never say a computer is a completely useless device, but I will say that when it comes to a choice between my child and anything else; my child will always come first. He’s going to have a little brother soon and it’s a relief to know that all we have to do is stick with this new rhythm and adjustment should be that much easier. We’ve simplified our lives so much over the past couple of years and I’m proud to say I feel I have finally taken that last big step toward being able to call myself a