I’m Sorry – A Letter to My Kids

I’m sorry. I’m truly very sorry.

I have gotten plenty of things wrong in your short lives, and there will be plenty more I will likely handle badly. This one is going to hurt.

I’m taking away your screens.

Permanently.

I know. I’ve threatened before when you couldn’t keep yourself together when I’ve said, “Times up!” Then I gave in, or we went on a long drive,  I “just needed a minute to myself” or any number of other excuses. I was lazy, and I’m sorry for that. It was far easier to hand you a tablet and let you play so I could get some work done, or to have quiet, or both. But I’ve done you a HUGE disservice. You see, you do not know how to be bored. You don’t know how to wait. You do not know how to let me have an adult conversation without interrupting.

None of that is your fault. It’s mine. I’m the parent and I should’ve done better. Technology is a WONDERFUL thing – and for some families it totally works and it’s awesome. For us, however, I will be a far better parent to you both and you will be better mannered, more functional adults if we leave the tablet behind.

I had it confused for a bit. I struggled with finding a balance  – many times – since these tablets were purchased. As you’ve grown, and your friends have them, it’s just become more and more of an issue of an inability to self regulate. You are both on the verge of needing computers for school work (you’ll use mine for a while). These toys are simply not necessary. I kept thinking that if I had it to do all over again, there are two things I would never have purchased: the dang Elf on the Shelf and the iPads. (Don’t get me started on the holiday tradition of hiding the elf in a new place every morning in addition to the already busy season!)

If I wouldn’t do it again though, why do we still have them? Honestly? Because it’s easier then going through what we are now. The transition to life without video games is not for the weak! I know this will be hard, for ALL of us, but here are a few things I know you will gain in the long run – and the end game is what I have to keep in mind because that’s my job.

*Better manners, fewer meltdowns and tantrums.

*The ability to be bored, and be okay with it.

*Long drives where you actually LOOK at the world around you. (Even if it’s south Texas and flat!)

*More outside time – especially as we move into fall and winter! Nature is a MUST – for all of us.

*More games, relearning co-operation and give and take. You know these things, you have the skills, but we are going to get better with fewer meltdowns.

*Better sleep. Science has proven this repeatedly. Less screen time, especially close to bedtime, equals more restful sleep. More restful sleep means more functional during the day and better prepared for learning and growing.

*More Creativity! You are both inventive and incredibly creative when forced to be. You make up games and play so well together. The whininess subsides, you handle life better.

*Better parents. Nope – you don’t get to trade us in, but  I will be a far more creative parent when my go-to bargaining chip is not the iPad. I’m tired of it, and if you are honest with yourselves, I think you are, too.

There are many more benefits in the long run, some that I’ve noticed even in this first day screen-less. It will be bumpy, to be sure.

I’m also sure that this is the exact right thing for our family. I’m sorry I didn’t get here sooner. My dream for you; to be creative, insightful, helpful, kind, co-operative, self-sufficient and well-adjusted adults, simply won’t happen with your face stuck to a screen. It just won’t.

I love you too much to let that happen.

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Push Pull

I think most people are the same in that we often have opposing ideas. Our ideals can often contradict our reality, such as our beliefs not always being aligned with our actions.

If I had my way, I would live in a world without clutter. Paperwork and “stuff” that litters our countertops in piles would be eliminated. (Immediately!) I am a sentimental person, but I’m also a purger. I can feel warm and fuzzy about memories, but I don’t necessarily need a tangible memento to carry for life. Part of this comes from our life in the military. We move every 2-3 years. We get accustomed to downsizing and resizing as the size of our living space changes. My personal motto is, “If it hasn’t seen the light of day or been used in 3 years, it’s time to go.” We typically donate it to someone who can use it or have a garage sale. I’m not a huge knick-knack person. It’s just more stuff to dust and haul around. Yet, in reality – we have knick-knacks and clutter and papers that are in need of a permanent home.

Also in my perfect world, I would have a library with floor-to-ceiling shelving loaded with books of all kinds. I love to read and love that my kids are now readers. I would eliminate iPads and iPhones and even though we use both (ahem, I’m typing this on my laptop!) I would love to drastically reduce, if not remove completely, the amount of screens at which my minions stare. If my son had his way, everyday would be iPad day where he plays endless hours of Minecraft and comes up only for lunch and the occasional bathroom break.

After our rough weekend, iPad went away. We are currently finishing up our second week (of 8 total) without tablets and I have to say that I’m surprised at just how much I have loved it. My kids (shockingly) have not had the same fondness for this experiment. Nagging in general has lessened. “C’mon, turn it off, time for dinner!” or “Mom!! Just 5 more minutes, PUH-LEEEEASE?” have all been eliminated. My frustration level has gone way down. We’ve been reading more. Playing games as a family is the new routine.

SONY DSC
Rummikub! Our current favorite!

The kids are not racing through homework salivating for that looming iPad time after school. We’re talking more. I’m listening more. The fighting when one “kills” the other off in their linked game is done. No tears. No fighting about virtual worlds.

Peace.

But….

It’s easy to hand them the tablet when I just need a few minutes. It’s convenient to have them occupied when Eric and I need to have an uninterrupted conversation. It’s wonderful on long car rides. (Let’s be honest – here in Texas, every excursion ends up being a long car ride! This place is huge!)

There is this push and pull tension I feel between what I envision and the reality. I still don’t have answers, despite having done these types of experiments before, here, here, here, and here. I doubt the tension will lessen any time soon. It’s hard to have balance. Given the choice, I never would have purchased tablets in the first place. I do think it’s entirely too easy to lean on it as a crutch, much the way we used tv before tablets.

I love having electronic “breaks” but wonder how, after our 8 weeks are up, to reintroduce the privileges without it becoming all-consuming. Am I the only one that has a kid THIS into electronics? Our daughter enjoys it, but can easily move on to other things and doesn’t seem to crave it in the same way that our son does.

What’s it like at your house? How do you set boundaries or are you boundary-less when it comes to electronics and screen time?

Giving up Gadgets. Again.

Okay. I know, I know. I’ve done this before but this time….well, this time – it’s sticking.

I know I struggle with spending too much time with my face stuck in front of one kind of screen or another. I love gadgets of all kinds and the technology really is amazing. (Especially considering I learned how to type on a Tandy 1000 from Radio Shack!) There is an app for everything – its fun! Facebook, ichat, Amazon, and the internet at my fingertips all the time!

For the last few months (since the attempted amputations) it’s been nagging at me… It’s all cool stuff…but at what cost?

Now, let me be clear. I in no way think that smartphones, apps, iPads, Kindles, Nooks etc. are bad, evil, or wrong.  I’ll be the first to profess my love of technology and the wonderful things it can do and how it can keep us connected in all kinds of ways. (Words with Friends? Bejeweled Blitz, anyone?) What I do think, for me, for our family, is that gadgets have become a time eater. I think to myself, “I’ll make lunch after I check messages,” and what started out as a 5 minute task turns into 30 minutes later. It happens all the time. Or my favorite is when Eric and I are on opposite ends of the couch, the kids are into a movie, and we are messaging each other on our phones. Hello?!  Can you say ridiculous?! That’s not keeping us “connected”. It’s disengaging us from being really together. Yes, we are in the same room, but we are in our own little worlds around a silly little screen. And it doesn’t get that way overnight. It eats away time very subtly, and very slowly.

A teacher friend of mine had relayed a conversation with a student of hers via Facebook: The student excitedly said she got to go to her mom’s that weekend. When asked what she usually did with her mom, the student got a dejected look on her face and replied, “Mom is usually on her phone doing Facebook, so I just watch TV.”  This conversation cinched it for me. It struck a chord and made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. This could so easily be my kids saying that about me at school. Is that the kind of parent I want to be? Of course not. I’ve been reading blogs like Hands Free Mama and Finding Joy for quite awhile now. It all rings true for me – the letting go of stuff and the unnecessary to enjoy and LIVE in what REALLY matters.

To this end, Eric and I decided to go back to life before smartphones.

woman-scared

AAAAAck! How will we ever survive?!

I think we will manage.

We were so productive yesterday without our phones and time seemed to go slower. The day didn’t just fly by like it usually does. Something tells me that spending more time really with our kids as a family (not just in the same room disengaged) will be a decision we will not regret.

And maybe…just maybe, our kids won’t grow up faster than they already are….

Failure with caveats….

Well, my little iphone experiment is a bit of a failure. Sort of.

I haven’t turned it back on yet, but I am going to shortly. With an upcoming deployment, the awesome hubbs has offered to give his up (since he won’t be able to use it anyway) so we can still save a bit of change but then I can use mine. That way I’ll still have my calendar, running GPS apps, music, etc.

But with that said, I have decided that there will be a couple of caveats with this return to my beloved iphone!

No Facebook.
I have such a love/hate relationship with Facebook. I am such a nosie nellie – its fun to see what everyone is up to…and sometimes the only way to keep up with friends and family who live far away. But I do get tired of every little post of every sneeze and sniffle everyone has. (Totally guilty of that myself!) And I’ve also tried very hard to not be negative on FB. Sure we all have bad days, and mostly my bad days are outlined here on the blog (hilarious anecdotes about life with preschoolers!) But constant negativity gets VERY tiresome on Facebook. So I’m continuing my “no negatives” when it comes to FB status’.

No idle phone time when kids are not asleep.
This week or so with no phone has opened my eyes to just how much time can be eaten up with “just a second” here and there so all in all its been a terrific experiment. It’s just time to employ a little self control.

Sigh. Good ol’ self control.  But, just like patience, I feel like if I ask for more – I’m going to be given opportunities to exhibit it! We’ll just leave it at that….

Baby steps…….

2 Heads and Second Thoughts

I am seriously having withdrawals.  We went in and did it last night. We downgraded the iphone. I don’t think I will ever forget the look on the guy’s face that was helping us. I seriously think he thought I had two heads.

“Downgrade? Really? From the iphone?”
“Yes, we are looking to lower our bill. (Among other things!)”
“Ok….this hardly ever happens….”
(Really Dude? Do I look like I want or need your commentary?!)

I have to admit that it was way more fun GETTING the smartphone than it was going the other way. And while all the positives of getting rid of it still are positives (less time wasting, distracted, etc.). I really REALLY miss the calendar, the ease and quickness of texting, my running GPS, music, and having it all on one gadget. Sigh.

I know I have to give it more than one day….but my 4 year old self really REALLY wants to reverse time and forget I ever had this crazy idea!

Yep. My idea. I think I’m going to keep my next one to myself until I REALLY think it through!

Amputation Time Part II

Tomorrow I will be disconnecting my iPhone. And while I will miss the gadget-y features (yes, gadget-y is a word! 😉 I’m actually looking forward to it.

In the past couple of days I haven’t been checking my phone as much in “preparation” for the “surgery”. Surprisingly enough, I’ve felt more relaxed and much more “in the moment” with my kids.

Instead of half listening to them and muttering a distracted, “uh huh,” I’m really listening. And hearing. With eye contact. It’s been noticeable in their behavior and responses as well.

Instead of reading what others are doing, we are going out and doing stuff! Today we went to my sister’s coffee shop and rostery! The kids got to see their uncle roasting coffee beans…such a cool field trip!

I played trains with my son. I love him so much and the things he says crack me up. When I am engaged and not distracted, he opens up even more. (Even if it is only to tell me how much he loves Thomas the Train!)

I am WAY more productive!! I got the lawn mowed, laundry put away, dishes done, coffee shop field trip, and gas in the car before 11am!!! As the saying goes, “multi-tasking is doing many things…badly”. Gadget/facebook distractions exemplify this principle precisely.

So tomorrow on our date night, we will bid adieu to iPhone fun. And I know that my arms and legs won’t fall off….

Here’s to going back to a phone being just a phone, unitasking instead of multitasking, REAL conversations, and truly engaging my kids by being present.