I didn’t plan to get rid of the TV for the summer. I’m not even sure where the idea came from, probably just lots of little bits and pieces I’ve read, heard, or witnessed over time. But as the girls and I settled into our first week of summer break, I knew that the television had to go.
At first it was just less, no TV turned on during the morning wake-up before breakfast was ready. Then, because it was so nice outside, we’d be soaking up the longer days until moments before bedtime and we’d miss our nightly show used to wind down and settle the girls.
Then we went a whole, busy day without television and I decided we’d keep it up.
A summer without television.
At first it was painful, the girls (especially Ellie, the six year old) asking for the TV to be turned on constantly. It was their first reaction when they were bored, tired, or just being lazy. It was their reaction because that’s what we had conditioned them to do.
If there were no good toys to play with, well, let’s watch a show.
If kids were cranky or fighting too much, turn on a movie for some quiet time.
If the house was a mess and I needed some time to get everything back in order, turn on a cartoon so they would leave me alone.
I used the TV and the TV used me. It was a beautiful relationship that I had no qualms with. Until summer arrived and I decided I had qualms. We went cold turkey the second week of summer break. Although there was an incident where I was gone and Chris’ sister was watching the girls and I hadn’t thought to mention we weren’t watching TV anymore. So of course when I got home, everyone was collapsed on the couch and glued to the television.
Little kids be sneaky.
But we’re almost four weeks in now and things are getting better. The girls don’t ask for TV in the morning, afternoon, and evening. They’re playing with toys and each other more. They’re getting along better. They’re being more creative and adventurous. They’re entertaining themselves more and not relying on me or the television to do it. They’re spending more time outside. They’re reading more books and coloring more pictures.
I’m not going to lie and say it’s easy though. I have to be present more. I have to clean up more messes. There’s crayon on my wood floor and marker stains on my carpet. There’s sand all over my kitchen floor that I can never seem to sweep up and my kids are just dirty all the time. They’re always getting into something and creating mayhem. I’ve had to care less about a cluttered house and more about just letting them have fun.
They’re getting really good at just being kids.
It’s been the best way to push me out of my lazy-mom comfort zone.
I’m not sure how this will translate into the school year. I’m not against TV. We are still, even through the summer, continuing our Sunday evening family movie night where we all get in our pajamas, eat snack foods for dinner, and watch a movie together. It has definitely taken on a level of excitement that it didn’t have before because it’s the only TV for the week. We have an iPad that the girls play on occasionally (like twice a week, maybe) and they’re allowed 20 minutes a session for some educational apps.
In this season, this is working for our family. There was a time, when my kids were smaller, I would not have been able to do this. There were times when my kids were younger that I needed that TV babysitter or we wouldn’t have survived, I have no doubt. So this isn’t a shaming for you if you’re not there right now. Or you might not even have any interest in getting rid of the TV. Or your kids weren’t as dependent on it as mine were. We really loved the TV in the Graham house. (We still love the TV, actually. The minute the kids are in bed, Chris flips it on and watches it all evening. So they get their love of TV naturally.)
Last story then I’m done: one routine we had that has been hardest to break is turning on the TV after baths. While we lotioned and cleaned ears and de-tangled hair, we liked to distract them with TV. It always made the screaming and squirming less. Especially with Ellie who, I’m positive, thinks she is dying every time we comb or brush her hair. The drama that ends bath time in our house is epic. Epic. So giving up that distraction and listening to the screaming, which has multiplied, has been hard. The other day, I survived combing Ellie’s hair and moved on to Harper. She sat quietly as I combed her long, blonde hair (she’s much tougher than her big sister), and then, after a moment, started singing songs from her Sunday school class. Singing loudly and adding in the hand motions, I combed and she sang. Listening to this precious little girl sing worship songs to her God was just the most beautiful moment; songs about how strong and how mighty he was; songs about how there is nothing my God can’t do.
As she sang, I whispered a quiet prayer to God telling him how thankful I was that my girls loved him. I thanked him for giving me the strength to make it through some rough days breaking the TV habit so that I could have this moment. It made me wonder what else we had missed because the TV was up too loud and the girls were too distracted.
That moment, right there, is why we got rid of the television.