Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Dumbing Down (and loving it)

Like probably every other Mom with kids still in the house, most nights I collapse into bed exhausted and wonder where the day went.  I wish I had more hours in the day....more time.  Because there never seems to be enough time to do the things you want to do once you find them.  Wait, that might be a song.  But I couldn't figure out WHY it seemed I never ever, EVER had time to get things done.  Not only the things I don't really love to do (cleaning toilets and folding clothes) but especially the things I WANT to do (read a book, have coffee with a friend, play a game with my kids, go for a run).  And I realized one day when I tried to sit on the porch with a book, my iPhone (or Precious as we call it) went with me.  I sat down, saw that I had a message or a comment from someone, and an hour later it was time to cook dinner and all I had done on the porch was scroll through Facebook for a solid hour.  The book never got opened.   You know how a year to a dog is seven years?  Well five minutes on Facebook is an hour to me.   And an hour on the Wii/iPad/Xbox to my kids is three.  Or more.  

Truth, y'all.  

Believe me I've tried the whole "earn technology time by doing something creative/active/productive" schtick but guess what?  YOU HAVE TO KEEP UP WITH THAT CRAP!!!   Give tickets for tech time?  Keep up with a chart?  Whatever.  I have three kids and it nearly sucks the life out of me just to make sure they've bathed once every couple of days.  One time I put a notebook next to all the tech gadgets and remotes in a basket and they had to come "check them out".  The idea was that I'd write down who took what and what time and I'd tell them to bring it back in 30 minutes.  I think there was one entry on there and I didn't notice until three days later that particular offender never returned anything.  

And don't even get me started on the limits I've tried to put on myself.  I've removed apps, only to reinstall them when I went into withdrawals.  I've tried charging my phone across the room at night only to pick it up on my way to the bathroom for my nightly pit stop just to see what was going on in Facebookland.  And don't EVEN try to act like you don't carry your phone to the bathroom.  Don't.  Even.  I've sat in restaurants with my family, at the ball park, in the car (but not driving!), at church, at the library...staring at my phone, afraid I'm missing a comment, message, or text.  If my children and husband had to give a description to the cops if/when I run away from home, they'd only be able to describe the top of my head because THAT IS ALL THEY SEE!!!!

I became utterly disgusted at myself - at what I was allowing in my children and what our home had become.  It wasn't a place filled with laughter and joy and conversation anymore!  It was filled with impatience, avoidance, and solidarity.  Ugh.

So in an effort to reclaim my family, just like my recent closet re-do (next post), I knew that the only answer was to get rid of everything.   Not literally throwing it all away (even though I totally could).  But sort of.   The way we explained it to the kids was that this was NOT punishment.  It's just a lifestyle change.  Video games, (obnoxious tweeny bopper) shows on Netflix, anything that involves a gadget or a screen, is going to be the very rare exception, not the rule.  Don't even ask us if you can play/watch something.  We'll let you know when you can.   And if you need a list of things to do instead, here's a go-to list to get you started:

Read a book
Practice piano/guitar
Go for a bike ride
Climb a tree
Throw the baseball/softball to each other
Throw a tennis ball against the house and catch it
Play basketball
Ride scooters
Roller skate
Draw on the driveway with sidewalk chalk
Take a nap
Go for a nature walk and take pictures
Sit in the tree fort and journal
Build an indoor fort
Play a board game
Build Lego
Play with dolls
Write a letter to an out of town friend or grandparents
Walk the dogs

This is just a start.....and this is the fun stuff.  There's a whole list of not so fun stuff (cleaning rooms, washing windows, cleaning out the car) that we can move on to next if this list doesn't give them some ideas.

Now don't think for one moment that we're making our kids eat brussel sprouts while we eat cake.  Did you know that you can turn your smart phone into a good old dumb phone very easily?  Now I admit I have NOT taken away texting because it really is a necessary method of communication these days, but guess what isn't?  Facebook.  Instagram.  Twitter.  Know what else isn't really necessary on your phone?  A browser.  For me, I decided to remove everything except my texting, maps, and weather app and a few shopping apps.  I use my phone to listen to podcasts and music when I run, and what I'm left with is a way to communicate via voice or text and that's it.  There's nothing on it that sucks me in anymore.  And it's been an amazing. liberating experience.  So liberating that I'm contemplating getting a super old timey flip phone.  I still have my tiny iPod that I can clip to the side of my running shirt to listen to....and if I can't live without GPS in the car (which we all know I can't because I have no sense of direction) I bet I could get a cheap one rightaboutnow.

I've read two books just this past week.  I've experimented with some new recipes.  I've played board games with my kids.  And I haven't missed a moment of their ball games because I was on my phone.  My youngest son came in the other day and I could tell he was about to ask if he could play the iPad but before he got the words out he shook his head and said "nevermind....I'm going to take a nap."

Sweet success.

1 comment:

Cindy said...

YES, YES, YES!!! I need to do this. I have to do this. I feel like I'm much to do and so little time, and I know I could SIGNIFICANTLY improve my time management/productivity issues if I didn't have an internet connection.

Last night G was at lax practice while I sat in the car with some magazines I hadn't gotten around to reading. But you know what, I couldn't go 10 mins without still checking my phone to see if an email came in, or check in on FB real quick. It's absolutely an addiction. Did I get any sort of important emails during that time? Did I find out anything I NEEDED to know on FB? Nope. Complete time suck when I could have been looking at my magazine.

I was just complaining that I hadn't had time to finish reading a book I started a month ago, and I haven't hung some curtains I bought weeks ago, and the list goes on and's the FB/internet time suck. I end up reading and looking up stuff that in most cases, ultimately makes me anxious. What good is that doing? Sometimes I wish Al Gore hadn't invented the stupid interweb, and we were just living blissfully unaware of everything going on around us.

Don't even get me started on my husband. I loathe seeing him sitting around reading his phone, even though I know I'm not much better. Most of the time he's reading the news, but I feel like saying, here's the damn newspaper, read something NOT on a screen! The thing is, he really doesn't think he's on his phone much...gggrrr. G is playing on her iPad (gifted to her by her Nana...NOT by us!) right now...drives me up. the. wall. Although I know I can't say but so much until I am able to sit a good example myself. How can we tell your children they can't be on electronics if they see us on them all day long? I blew past an article, but read the headline, earlier today on my FB newsfeed about the Chinese blaming smartphones for an increase in divorce rates and broken families. Shockingly, right?

Seriously, kudos to you! Now I'm stepping away (and off my soapbox, and computer...thank you for the opportunity to rant), going outside to water some plants (WITHOUT taking my phone!). You've inspired me. Stay strong sista!