What on earth is she talking about you ask? I’m challenging you to an Un-plugged weekend. Why on God’s green earth would you do that? You like your phone. Your iPad keeps you happy. Your kids are quiet when the TV is on. I get it. Believe me. I do. But now, after my own 48 hours of being unplugged- I get the other side. (Those Amish may be onto something yet! And I say that with the utmost respect…and also realize they can’t be offended as they don’t know what I said because well, this is an online blog so well…you get it.)
Anyway- last week I had the bright idea that we would have an “unplugged” weekend at our house. Let me preface by saying I don’t think my family is on a phone, iPad or in front of a screen nearly as much as we could be (kids only get 60 minutes/day) - but we are no strangers to the screen (especially me and my phone!) OK. There. Confession time. This challenge was for me. I run two businesses online so I’m on my phone/iPad a lot running those. And while I try to use my phone when I’m not with my family- I admit that it’s on my mind likely more than it should be. SO – we unplugged. The originally idea was for just me to unplug. I was thrilled when my husband and kids joined the “screen free/unplugged” weekend. Here is how it went.
Friday Night at 11:45 p.m.
I have 15 minutes left plugged in. AH. This is actually happening.
Time to unplug. I’m still sitting on the couch uploading photos onto the computer. I add some to facebook. I want to finish them. Then people start to “like” the photos. I want to see what they say. AH. I didn’t get to finish what I was doing. My sister was over and literally takes the computer away from me and turns it off.
OK. This just got real.
I wake up and get out of bed. I head to the kitchen to make my Shakeology smoothie for breakfast. Grab my iPad and sit down at the table to enjoy breakfast and checking email, facebook and my Etsy shop as I do every morning. CRAP. Unplugged time. Sigh. Return iPad to the kitchen counter and drink my shake. I make a to-do list for the day. I finish my breakfast and to-do list making and am in the shower earlier than I usually am. (OK, so I may stall my mornings with my screen time. Noted but not accepted yet. This is a fluke I’m sure.)
Husband is up and complains he can’t read the news or check the sports scores (again, on the iPad.) He recovers from this trauma and then gets ready for the day…and actually takes less time than usual in the restroom to get ready! (Read – the score updates and news sucks some serious morning time for him. The jury is still out for me- I’m special you know!)
Kids wake up- stumble to couch and oldest grabs remote to flip on the TV. I remind her it’s screen free/unplugged weekend. I may as well have told her Santa Claus wasn’t real. “NOOOOOOO- why!? I want a show. It’s the weekend. PLEASE!? I WANT SOPHIA THE FIRST!” The youngest chimes in “Pleeeeeaaaase!? Just one show? Please Mommy!?” No. No screens this weekend. TV turns off. Remote is back on shelf. It’s breakfast time.
We sit and talk over breakfast about why we are having an unplugged weekend and what the kids want to do. The to-do list grows with kids activities….buy rollerblades, go on a bike ride, play outside, Legos, clean up rooms, color and get the water table out.
We shower- get dressed and we’re off for our un-plugged weekend.
By noon on Saturday we have accomplished more in a few hours than we normally do all weekend. The kids have cleaned their rooms (by choice). This wasn’t just a “shove it away” cleaning. This was an actual deep, get it all off the shelves, organize it, make piles of what to keep/donate/sell and then put it all away cleaning. WOW. The rooms look beautiful. Piles are loaded into the car to donate to Goodwill and items are ready to list for sale. Awesome.
In part of the cleaning, I organized the kids’ baby books and scrapbooks. My oldest has 5 scrapbooks (she turns 6 next week. Yes. A book/year. I used to be a good mom.) We all look through the scrapbooks and laugh and recall special moments. The youngest gets her books and opens it and asks a question that makes my heart sink “where are all my pictures mommy?” OUCH. Stabbed through the heart. Parenting Fail of the year. #worstmomever. The child has a scrapbook….but the pages aren’t…well….done. There are photos stuffed into the photo pages. Her sister had 2 completed and beautiful books by age 2. The youngest, well, she has a book of photos shoved into sleeves.
Note- this was corrected this weekend! The babybook for the oldest had its final pages completed. Baby books end at Kindergarten. So I shed my tear, finished her book and stored it into the newly created Rubbermaid tub for such special books. And, the youngest now has 1 completed babybook, photos for the 2nd have been ordered and will be completed by the next weekend. Maybe she won’t need therapy after all.(I’m starting to think there may actually be some merit to the fact that screens are time suckers.)
By the afternoon the thought of screens was out of everyones' minds. I couldn’t even tell you where my phone was. We had gone on a bike ride, the hubs had finished his ENTIRE to do list for the weekend (note, this is rare- that list usually carries over to the next weekend), kids rooms were spotless, floors were cleaned (not just a brief sweep- but actually cleaned, mopped, baseboards cleaned and I even switched the vacuum bag.) We had spent time outside, oldest had a play date (those things are a lot easier to arrange when you can call someone. Instead, we walked to the friends house….asked her to play…then walked home to play. It worked. It was very, well, Amish. All that was missing was our horse & Buggy, but it worked). We had dinner on the porch with family and sat around talking, laughing and enjoying one another. Someone asked what the weather was to be like tomorrow- and everyone started to reach for the phones- then remembered “oh, we can’t.” So we just accepted “we’ll see what it is.” On our way inside from our picnic, our oldest picked up some items from the yard- took them to their “home location” and then came inside. She did this on her own, unasked, just did it. When we thanked her she simply said “I saw they weren’t where they belonged so I wanted to help.” Um, WHAT!? OMG. Call 911. My heart just stopped.
We played a game as a family, read books together, then the kids went to bed. The kids were asleep and the hubs and I poured some wine (OK, let’s be honest- we took the bottle and a couple glasses to the porch) and sat there for a couple hours – alone- in peace- sitting, talking, drinking. No interruptions. No phone “pings”. No checking of emails or looking at the latest text or notification that buzzed. Just us. Wow. It was great. The kids didn’t get out of bed to see us. They didn’t complain when we put them to bed. They went to bed, let us have our adult time and they didn’t wake until ….
Sunday morning at 9:15 a.m. That’s right. They went to bed without compliant (especially rare for the youngest), slept all night, and woke up nearly 90 minutes later than normal. WHAT!? The kids slept in on Sunday- but so did we. We were still asleep when we heard the kids wake up. But they didn’t come to our room. They didn’t turn on the TV. We woke when we heard the sound of laughing and Legos drawers opening. They woke up- let us sleep- and started playing with Legos together. Oh. My. Gosh. Is this Heaven? I’m feeling like Mother Teresa. Clearly I have provided such an environment for my kids to thrive while I lay in bed sleeping in.
Sunday continued to amaze me with the difference from being plugged to unplugged. We went to lunch as a family. No one asked to turn on the TV in the car. No one asked to play a game on the phones or iPads. We talked uninterrupted. The kids were cooperative. They played together. We heard more polite manners from them than I’ve heard in a long time. You’d have thought Recuse Nanny 911 was in the house.
The Amish life had a few “oh my gosh- I use my phone for that too” realities such as needing to deposit a check and instead of using my phone, I actually drove to the bank and used the ATM (who knew those were still around?!) I also needed directions and instead of the typical plugging into the phone GPS, I used a map. Yes. Something with paper and lines and a legend. I felt very 1985 doing so. AAA and their trip-tiks would have been proud. I filled in our weekly family “fridge calendar” and when I asked the hubs his schedule, we realized that it was on his phone and I’d have to wait until Monday to find out his details. When driving, I believe I was a better, more focused driver. I knew the phone was at home so I wasn’t tempted to call, text or use it at all. I just- well- drove (novel concept huh?!)
Why did this work? Well, despite Steve Jobs best efforts….life beyond the screen is pretty awesome!
Everyone was fully present with one another. No one was distracted with a screen in the face. No one heard “Just a minute while I check this”. No one was interrupted mid sentence by an incoming text. We were focused and present.
The kids didn’t have any influence other than our family. They didn’t have any behavior they saw on TV or movies. They didn’t have an excuse to tune out and play brain dead while a box entertained them.
Hubs and I are always very busy- but were so much more productive unplugged. We didn’t have the option or planned distraction to plop on the couch and do nothing, to watch hours f sporting events (even if it was a true interest), or flip channels until something caught our attention.
The kids didn’t see us tune out. They saw us active and making steps toward goals at the house. They did the same.
And on Monday morning when the phones, iPads, computer, remotes were allowed back in our lives….they still weren’t reached for as quickly as they were last week. I had 64 texts and 50 emails to review. But you know what- the world was just fine without me checking those messages over the weekend. It was still spinning without me. So much for my self esteem. While we did check our emails, texts, pings, etc.- the feeling of being unplugged was definitely on my mind and one I am going to try to channel more on a daily basis.
So…..now that you’re done reading on a SCREEN that is likely PLUGGED IN or CHARGED somehow….go unplug. You may be amazed just how much you learn! I was.