Switched Off

Today marks one month of no tv for the family and no devices for the younger kids. Supposedly the teens and I have reduced our phone usage to two hours. But I haven’t got a good handle on how that’s going yet. 

 

I decided that I had a tv/device habit that needed to be kicked. So, the tv has been removed to my husband’s shop and the devices are put away in a drawer. 

 

Things I have learned since turning everything off…

 

I have been seriously dependent on the tv to calm my kids down, entertain them, give myself quiet time, babysit them when I’m gone, and just basically fill any gap that pops up in our day. 

 

It has definitely helped me to be lazy in my parenting. 

 

Let me just state for the record, there have been seasons where tv has saved my life. Even the last season we just came out of, I don’t know how I would have done it without being able to turn the tv on. Our devices have been a motivational tool during this pandemic that have gotten us through a lot of school work and chores with minimal pain. Tv and devices are good tools. As long as you are controlling the tools and the tools aren’t controlling you.

 

I think what has mainly been the deciding factor for turning everything off this time (cause, yes, I’ve done this before), is that I want to change the culture of our home. I want us to have a reading culture. I want my kids to know how to get creative when they’re bored instead of just whining to watch a show. I want us to have family time in the evenings where we have devotions and read books and poetry out loud and do music together. And somehow, I had let the tv take over the house and we had lost those things. So, we’ve turned everything off. 

 

Mentally, it’s been a big adjustment. I am having to learn that instead of just sending everyone off to watch a show when they’re driving me crazy, I can send everyone to their rooms, or send everyone outside. In the evenings, instead of retreating to my room, I am learning to settle on the couch with a giant pile of books that we read out loud. During the day I am offering piano lessons to bored children, crafts, learning games, trips to the library. I am also trying to turn a blind eye to random forts and clubhouses that are popping up all over the house, toys littering my bedroom floor, kids digging around in my drawers cause they need paper to write a book or a play. 

 

Honestly, I think turning the tv off has hurt me the most, not the kids. I have to be more engaged. Put up with more chaos. Deal with more messes. 

 

But, overall, we’ve had good results. 

 

My five and seven year olds have been keeping a list of all the books they’ve either read themselves or had read to them, and they are close to 100. The older kids have significantly increased the number of books they’re reading. My older boys have gotten very creative with their legos. My nine year old wrote a play. The three year old is sitting with books, pretending that he is reading, pointing at the words, making up the story as he goes. And, best of all, all the kids are desperately anxious for school to start. Me too. 

 

I told the kids we would do this for four months. We’ll see how it goes. 

Being Healthy Takes Energy

I have come to some conclusions. My tank is dangerously low and is about to run dry. 

 

Things that used to fill my tank up: Going to church, having all the kids in Children’s church and being able to sit with my husband quietly, enjoy worship and teaching together; going out on Wednesday night’s with my girlfriends and just talking nonstop for several hours; going on a weekly date night with my husband. 

 

The first two have been affected by the quarantine, the last by having foster kids who are a bit much for my teenagers to handle when babysitting. 

 

At the same time, the mental energy that has been required of me has quadrupled. I think what is mostly wearing me out is being the resident Psychologist of the home. 

 

I am what people call a “good listener”. Which is fine, until you are absolutely drained dry and then you just feel like plugging your ears and saying NO MORE! 

 

RIght now, I’m sure there are a lot of people thinking, well, why don’t you try this or that or what about this idea? Just get creative! You can still figure out how to get your tank filled. 

 

And here is what people don’t realize. Exhausted, worn out, anxious or depressed people, they really don’t have the energy to get creative. Getting creative requires mental energy.  

 

 I remember my momentous 6 week postpartum check up after Phoebe was born. The Dr was horrible. She came in, looked at me a little puzzled, “Were you the one that had a C-section?”

Uh no. Wrong patient. I reminded her of who I was and what my birth involved. Ah yes. 

 

Then, at the end she asked me if I was having any problems with depression. I said yes, this was something I struggled with. Her response. Well, for goodness sakes, go find some help somewhere, I don’t want to read about you in the news. 

 

Gee. Thanks. I’ll do that. Because a depressed person definitely has all the motivation and energy in the world to go figure out insurance and find a provider and wait the two months it takes to get into a first appointment. 

 

So helpful. 

 

Compare that to my yearly check up I had with my Primary Care Doctor recently. I told her about some of the things I was struggling with and she said, You know, we have a resident Psychologist here, if you’re willing to wait a little bit, she can come and talk to you right now. And then she came and we talked and then scheduled future appointments. 

 

I know that life doesn’t work that way most of the time. Usually, if you are needing something, you are really the only one that can make sure you get what you need. In the end, you are responsible for your own mental health. I think though, that people who don’t struggle in this area, don’t realize how hard it is to take of yourself. It’s really, really hard. 

 

But, understanding the problem is half the battle. And I guess, that’s partly why I blog. I start writing, and it helps me think through the problem. 

 

So, I guess that’s what I’ve got to concentrate on, getting creative, despite the exhaustion, cause it’s a matter of survival. 

 

Boredom is a Wonderful Thing

I read somewhere that boredom is essential to fostering children’s imaginations. It’s only when they are bored that they are then forced to come up with their own entertainment. They are forced to start using their imaginations. This past Friday I turned off the wifi at our house. I had several reasons, but one of them was to help my children foster their imagination. No more instant entertainment from a screen. Use your imagination.

So, obviously, I have set myself up for some trouble. Have you ever had a houseful of children all using their imaginations? It’s a dangerous thing. Using your imagination means taking your helium balloon (leftover from the graduation party) and letting it loose into the ceiling fan. (I just wanted to see what would happen!). It means taking a crayon and writing out a Yes/No quiz on the wall by the toilet. (I suppose so that people who are using the bathroom will have something to do?) Today one child took a bunch of our socks and gloves and made sock animals for all his siblings. (Who needs socks, after all, it’s summer.) It also means taking the hose and spraying it all over a pile of dirt so you can have a good mud hole to play in.  And while we’re at it, lets take these old bricks and stack them on the porch in a rectangle-box shape, and then try and fill it up with water, our very own swimming pool!

Of course, my kids have been doing these things all along, with or without wifi, it just seems that they now have even more time to devote their energies to these great ideas, instead of it being a once-in-a-while activity. And it makes me happy. Yeah, we’re going through a bit of an adjustment phase while we work out a new schedule. There’s been some whining because we’re not turning on some shows…but, I’m already seeing good fruit. Like the whole herd of children all running outside in the evening to catch fireflies. My teens gathering around a laptop to watch an old dvd together. (Still a screen, but at least they are doing it in community!) Little children are coming up to me with books they want me to read them. My older kids are delving into new book series. Boredom is a wonderful thing.

I myself have been experiencing boredom a bit more. It’s led me to start reading my Bible in the morning again, play the piano more, start thinking about some cleaning projects I need to tackle, pray more, listen to my kids a bit better. Boredom seems to have a roundabout way of making life feel sharper, more in focus. And yes, we do have plenty of fun things planned for this summer, there’s just going to also be lots of downtime.

So, my summer blessing…May we plenty of time to be bored and may that boredom lead us to great feats of creativity!