Last year, with only a few weeks left of the school year, growing tired from relentless inquiries to “watch a show,” or the constant battles about how many minutes of screen-time remained, I hastily informed my upcoming 4th and 5th grader that we would be having a “screen-free summer.”
I immediately started panicking as the words left my mouth.
How would I entertain my older kids all summer, sleep-deprived, with a needy 6 month old, without help from Angry Birds, Mario, or our favorite nanny, “Jessie?” The kids received my plan with mixed and dynamic reactions, ranging from blissful agreement to full-on tween tantrum, but once Mama says something, there is no going back – the “screen-free summer” was a done deal.
Once summer hit, the kids had surprisingly embraced the idea, no screens, of any kind, from June 18th-August 26th.
On the first day of summer we made a “2014 Summer Bucket List,” comprised of everyone’s ideas of what would make it the best summer ever. The list was long and unattainable, but their ideas were genuine, innocent and from a simpler time. The list reminded me of summer days as I remembered them, leaving the house early, with brief stops for meals, but otherwise outside and on the go all day, embracing nature, friendship and adventure. We did not even come close to finishing our list, but their summer was full of bike riding, swimming, badminton, reading, writing letters (on paper with stamps), catching fireflies, stargazing, berry picking, gardening, making pickles, playing games and reflecting on blessings.
Being “screen-free” didn’t answer all of our problems; the kids still fought, talked back at times, occasionally forgot to do their chores, and rarely picked up after themselves. But they spent their days engaged in the world around them and did not ask to use a screen once, not once, all summer. I, on the other hand, found it much more difficult to go “screen-free.”
I ended up greatly reducing my screen time, but still found myself using screens on a daily basis. It was a wake-up call. Not only did our “screen-free summer” encourage us all to explore and participate in life more fully, it also clued me into the fact that by being connected electronically I was missing a far greater connection with my kids and the world around me.
As we approach the end of the school year, I am reminded of the power of our “screen-free summer” and have pondered a sequel. Though I have decided not to institute a “screen-free” policy this summer, I am encouraged by our collective comments and actions as summer fast approaches. Requests have been made for new journals and stationary for summer writing, bikes are tuned and have already clocked some miles, and both have mentioned hikes and trails they would like to explore. Today, my daughter found a jar “perfect for fireflies” and my son picked out a fresh piece of poster board for our “2015 Summer Bucket List,” which both kids have already started writing.
Eliminating screens from our lives is not realistic, but taking a break and reconnecting with each other and the world is an amazing experience.