My soul feels good tonight. Refreshed. Cleansed. Quieter. Encouraged.
This is partly due to that sense of accomplishment that you get from completing a really hard goal...Like holding plank position for thirty seconds longer than you thought you could or holding your tongue when you shouldn't say what you feel like saying.
My soul feels a little like that tonight. (But I'm also kind of embarrassed to admit that the "accomplishment" of our family was in fact really hard for us. But it was.)
But also my soul feels quieter and refreshed tonight because life was, in a way, a little bit quieter for the last week. (And in other ways a whole lot louder.)
Tonight we completed a full seven days of being screen free.
(Disclaimer: Mostly screen-free. I still worked on my laptop in the evenings, paid bills online, and checked my work email a few times. Truth be told, I even perused my FB newsfeed a few times.) But the family screens - the family kindle, leap pads, and TV - they were all off for seven days. Our kids had zero screens this week and parents had limited screens.
It was hard. Sometimes it was even a little painful. It was also rather cold outside, which made it even harder. Many times I was ready to throw in the towel and hand a kid the kindle just so I could hear myself think for a few minutes (although then I would have had to hear all the annoying background music of the kindle games, and I wouldn't have been able to hear myself think anyway...)
But friends, it was good. So refreshing. Without the noise of technology, life seemed surprisingly quieter even though the decibels in our house certainly didn't decrease. Without our faces aimed toward screens, our faces were aimed toward one another.
I'd do it again in a heartbeat (maybe not when it's below zero outside though...)
Many of you have asked me about it...how it's going, why we did it, and what we've learned. Some of you have asked that I blog about it after our week. Thus, this blog.
So, why did we go a week with no screens in the middle of winter?
There were a few things that led me to declare a screen-free week in our house.
First of all, we've been reading Little House on the Prairie Books this winter. We just finished Farmer Boy, and I've been so deeply inspired by the simplicity of life long ago. I envy their screen-free living. So simple inspiration was the first thing that made me want to try it.
Second, I've been very frustrated with the begging for screens. We limit screens quite a bit, which causes begging when we say no. We haven't had cable TV channels since we had children...so all our kids watch anyway is educational PBS shows or movies of our choosing. Even on their kindle or leappads, the games are educational. So it's not like the screens are bad. (Being a blogger, I'm obviously not anti-screen. Thank you for looking at your screen as you read this!) But the begging was bad.
I needed a break from the begging, and I knew the only way to accomplish that goal was to ban screens for several days until the begging ceased. And that was a success. Days one and two included begging and even a few tantrums (which only solidified my desire to carry on with my screen ban). The next five days...no begging for screens at all. Questions, yes. Begging, no. Bliss I tell you.
Third, I couldn't handle the arguing over who gets the one family kindle we own, or who gets the leappad with the Tangled games, or who gets to pick which show to watch. The bickering over screens was just petty and unnecessary, and like the begging, I simply needed a break from it. And more importantly, I needed to break my kids from it.
Thus, the seven-day screen free declaration.
Paul was in agreement, so we jumped right in.
From the get go, I knew that it was going to mean nearly zero "me-time" for me. That reality made me really apprehensive to jump in feet first. From those of you that I've talked to about it, that's your biggest hesitation too. When would I shower? When would I wash dishes? When would I sort laundry? When would I breathe?
And truth be told, that reality was in fact real. There was almost zero "me-time" this week. Almost every time I showered, someone was playing in the bathroom, or there was tackling or screaming occurring outside the bathroom. Other than my dishes and laundry, zero housework got done this week. I checked my email way less than usual (not a bad thing). Kids were climbing the walls and swinging from light fixtures the one afternoon that I sat down to pay bills.
And now, after seven days of zero "me-time" my house is even messier than usual. We are tripping on legos every step we take. The piles of art are overflowing more than usual. It was a whole lot of chaos, I tell you.
But, it was so good. Here's why:
1. One on one time. In the afternoons, while his big sisters are at school and his little brother is napping, our four-year-old boy usually watches his own shows for an hour or so while I have my "me-time" to write, blog, shower, sort laundry...you know...Mom stuff.
This week, that time was solely dedicated to one-on-one time with that boy. It was so good. We played legos, blocks, board games, trains, cuddled, laughed, and read together. By and far, the greatest treasure that came out of the screen-free week was the one-on-one time with that sweet boy. I am embarrassed that it took me declaring a screen-free week for that one-one-one time to happen. But I'm so thankful that God made it happen nonetheless.
2. Creativity. A lot of art occurs at our house. This week, even more art happened. One afternoon my six-year-old painted "gloves" up to her elbows with green glitter paint. And since I haven't taken time to clean bathrooms, we still have green glitter paint all over the bathroom from when she went to wash it off. Oh, but the joy of that ten minute activity! The gleeful shrieks of "Mom!!! Look at my green glittery gloves!!!" Totally worth it. I'm so glad she was doing that instead of looking at a screen. Our eight-year-old spent her entire Saturday afternoon making a scrapbook that she's immensely proud of. The creativity soared when the screens got turned off this week.
3. Puzzles, Books, Games. All of them commonplace around here, but there was more of all of them this week. Which means more laughing together, problem solving together, and just more together.
4. Appreciation of the simple things. Because we took away the thing that causes the most begging and bickering amongst the siblings, the begging and bickering about all other things also decreased. Oh sure, it was still pure chaos with plenty of sibling arguing. Please don't think we were all "Kumbaya" calm and peaceful here this week. One boy threw a train at the other boy this morning and caused a bloody wound right before church. But there was certainly less bickering and begging about all things, and the absence of that was sweet music to my ears.
5. Simply learning that we don't need it. I think in today's screen-obsessed age, it's just good to realize that we can go a week without it. And not a week out in the middle of nowhere with no screens (although that sounds like pure bliss), but even a week in our own house without screens. And it's not that screens are bad. We like screens. We learn alot of really great things via educational games and shows. Family movie nights are some of our best family times. Screens can be very good.
But it's also just refreshing for the soul to realize that we don't need them. And that when we take them away and interact with each other without screens, creativity and laughter and appreciation for one another actually increases.
6. Soul Quiet. I don't know if that's a real phrase but it seems to fit. Shutting off the screens increase the "soul quiet" in our house. Soul peace. Soul calm. All media is considered noise. Even if it's actually quiet, like your FB newsfeed, it still goes into your brain as media noise. So it quiets and calms our souls to have some time away. It was good. I can see in my kids' faces and attitudes that their souls are refreshed too. Not that they had "so much" screens anyway...but a break was needed nonetheless, and our souls feel better.
7. The Bible says to fast. Not all fasting has to be from food. You can fast from whatever is drawing your attention away from the things of God. For our family, the screens were causing too much bickering and begging...drawing us away from thankfulness and into greediness. We needed a fast from it...to refocus and realign our hearts for gratitude. And God is faithful. When we fast, He comes through. And He did.
So, now what?
Well tomorrow we get to reintroduce screens. And honestly, I'm kind of excited to let my boys watch a little PBS tomorrow morning...maybe I'll wash away the green glitter paint in our bathroom.
And I'm not sure if we'll be making new rules for screen usage or not. But we have decided at a minimum to instigate Screen Free Sundays, taking one sabbath rest from screens each week. We're excited about that.
And it's too early to tell if this week had much of an impact on our kids' attitudes or not, but I think it did. From a very early analysis, it seems that they've learned that screens are a privilege and not a right.
But the goal was to simply take a break, and the break was really very good. Not easy. But so worth it friends.
So for those of you who have considered taking a break from screens, I say jump right in. You're right that it will require a "sacrifice" of your alone time. But, like I told my husband this evening, I can't even really call it a sacrifice, because the reward I received in return of spending those sweet hours with my children is such a great reward that I don't feel like I really "sacrificed" anything at all.
And when I look around my really messy house, I'm reminded of a week of a whole lot of good togetherness, so I'll take the mess.
So, it wasn't all sunshine and roses, and yes I wanted to give up many times.
But like most hard things, it was worth it. So much better than you'd think.
Seven days screen-free.
He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters.