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Forcing my kid to give up screens was an utter disaster

Theresa Edwards

by

Shark Wrestler

Theresa Edwards is a freelance writer and professional whiner. She lives in Dallas, Texas with her family where she enjoys reading, roller derby, and complaining about the heat.

I knew forcing my kid to be screen-free would be bad, but not this bad

You may not know this, but once a year America celebrates Screen-Free Week, a little piece of information you probably just read on the screen in front of you, which means you may or may not be terribly interested in participating. It's been through a few different iterations — the earliest being TV-Free Week in 1994, a concept that seems positively quaint now. If you want, you can use the same screen you're reading this on to go read all about Screen-Free Week on the website dedicated to getting off the internet for a while.

The concept of Screen-Free Week is basically that we all stop being screen-obsessed zombies for seven days at least, Jesus. I decided to try it with my own family because I'm apparently something of a sadist, and not a particularly smart one at that. So what happened when every Edwards switched their respective screens off? Chaos.

Chaos, failure and total suckitude.

More: My toddler's toy cellphone gave me the wake-up call I desperately needed

Day 1

My husband told me what I already knew on the very first day of our challenge, which was that it was going to fail spectacularly. He was on board anyway, but he was clearly trying to keep my hopes low. We decided to start off after school, switch off all of our devices and just soak up each other's company. So of course, my kid came home with a PowerPoint assignment to do.

Other challenges included dinner because I long ago purged every cookbook I ever owned (Why let them take up space? The internet exists, you know) and trying to navigate off-hours work. Dinner turned out to be sandwiches, so our family's usually long dinnertime chat turned into eight minutes of wordless chewing followed by blank stares. My daughter asked if she could go to bed early, and we let her because I actually had work to do that required me being online, and I didn't want to look like a total hypocrite.

I figured we'd adjust.

Day 2

We didn't.

I attempted to remedy the whole cookbook thing by picking up a few tomes at ye olde book house, aka the library, a place we actually know quite well. We go there a lot when we can detach our eyeballs from our screens. We got there around closing and my daughter saw a manga cover that reminded her she wanted to check for the newest installment in her favorite series but came back empty handed.

"Can you check and see if we can get it at [nearby town's] library?"

Nope. Sucks to be you.

She was disappointed, but not overly so, because when we got back to the car, my phone was beeping like crazy, a sign that my brother, aka the adult my child would happily forsake both of her parents for, was trying to get ahold of me. He does this: a machine gun series of texts, followed by four or five voicemails until I succumb to my migraine.

We don't have a landline, but I doubt that even if we did he would be anything less than just as lovably obnoxious in his attempts to make us talk to him. He lives across the country and we see each other every decade or so, though we speak practically every day. I answered finally and snapped that we were doing a screen-free week, to which he replied that he wasn't, and if I was going to suck, I should pass the phone to his niece. I caved, and the two of them along with my kid's cousin FaceTimed for about an hour.

So to say that we made it through the day screen-free would be a lie.

Day 3

I sort of touched on this before, but going screen-free means that work becomes exponentially more difficult for me and my husband because he works in tech, which requires an entire assload of screens to do, and I work remotely, which requires at least an internet connection and — shock of shocks — a screen to experience the wonders of the internet on.

I also work in hour bursts over the day. It's one of the cool things about working remotely — work when you need to, no need to be tethered to a desk all day. It also means that I had to give up my post-school hour block of work, so by the third day I was heading into a serious hole. Not only was my work piling up, but I was getting less sleep because I was sneaking screen time in for work after everyone went to bed.

So by this day, I was already falling behind and stressed out over work plus bone-tired and bitchy without my sleep. So when my kid asked if she could please for the love of God get online and mess around with Scratch to program a game she's working on, I relented before sneaking into my room and writing before taking a glorious impromptu nap.

Another fail.

Next Up: Adding more kids into the mix

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