A few days a week, I’m a sort-of den mother to a few other kids, and that’s obviously awesome for my deprived child who now has additional people to help keep her occupied. I did explain to the extras that our family was trying out an experiment so please keep the TV off, and they all shrugged in what I took as agreement. They’re all incredibly sweet, but three post-school girls with voices at post-school volume is a lot to bear on a little sleep, so I sent them outside.
They promptly charged back in and informed me that my yard was overcome with fire ants, because duh, Texas. I assured them the world was not ending, but at least one staunchly refused to return outside when she saw a wasp knocking into the back door, so I relented.
At this point, I had other mom garbage to do like schedule a surgery for my daughter, so I invited them all to give the dog a bath. They did, and after everyone went home I didn’t really have time to miss screens and neither did my kid because we were busy cleaning up the afternoon’s luxury dog spa.
I didn’t even leave to get the kids from school before I’d cued up a two-hour movie for everyone to watch. Extreme failure.
This day was actually fine. It started out questionably because my daughter takes guitar lessons with an instructor who uses an iPad to pull up the chords she should be learning and records the exercises for later, but we all agreed that didn’t count toward screen time. I wasn’t going to subject the outside world to the special form of torture, just my loved ones. Also, my daughter and one of her friends use this day to build and mod in Minecraft, and I had to nix that but that wasn’t a huge issue.
We played tabletop games all afternoon and evening, but not because we were trying to take our minds off of screens. That’s just what we do every week on this day. Of course, we couldn’t play any games with companion apps, but that’s what Monopoly is for.
This is the day we officially gave up and just let the sweet radiation of our screens wash over us. It was raining, we had exhausted every craft in the cabinet, my daughter had read the books we’d picked up at the library, and everyone still sort of hated each other from the previous night’s game of Monopoly. I threw the towel in and accepted defeat.
So what did I learn from Screen-Free Week besides the fact that it’s a sucker’s week? Honestly, not much. I figured it would be challenging, but that I might come away from it with a new appreciation for my family and a desire to extend the week because my heartfeels would inspire me to be a better mom.
Instead, I ended up arguing with them about whether or not they should be able to: talk to family they never see face-to-face; engage in creative play; do a weird but supposedly fun version of math; cook a meal we liked and yeah, veg out a little. The only person who ended up more engaged was my husband, who wasn’t able to check work email at home, but that’s not even a result of Screen-Free Week. That’s just my husband’s piece of crap phone crashing the week before and him never bothering to hook it back up.
Going screen-free isn’t as easy as it was in 1994 where all you had to do was shut off the TV and go outside. And even if it were, the fact that we have more screens now doesn’t make me less likely to tell my kid to do exactly that. It just makes everything else harder. Screen freaks aren’t the zombies that all of the PSAs make them out to be. They might not even be freaks. It’s not a reflection of character that everything from guitar lessons to board games use screens. It’s just a reflection of the tendency of time to move forward.
Not everything new that makes your life easier is bad. Indoor plumbing, for instance. I mean, no one’s calling for a Flush-Free Week just because people used to get more exercise getting to and from the outhouse. So maybe let’s stop pretending like screens are what’s wrong with kids these days and just accept that they’re here to stay.