Today marks seven days into our family’s TV & gaming fast. The idea started years ago in my heart as a slooooow burn…and turned into a roaring fire a little over a week ago. I was fed up with the collective amount of time that each member of our family (including me) spent on mindless TV viewing, video gaming and computer gaming.
All of our addictions started out innocently, of course, and with careful moderation:
- My kids never watched live TV; only carefully screened programs that were recorded on our Tivo. But even my 6yo ended up watching waaay more TV than he should have.
- I used Tivo to record my “guilty pleasure” shows that I only watched late at night after everyone else was fast asleep and my body could work no more. But staying up until 12-1am only exhausted an already exhausted mom even more. In addition, that midnight hour quickly became a time for an unneeded 4th meal of the day.
- My husband would come home after work and innocently tune into the news but then would end up surfing…and surfing…and surfing…until he finally fell asleep in front of it.
- When the Wii came into our house, it did so with the provision that it would only be used on the weekends and that’s pretty much how it’s been used. However, it’s taken the place of other more beneficial ways for our kids to use their time during the weekend.
- Computer gaming was also very minimal during the course of the day except this past year it quickly became an obsession with our 9yo. At first, I observed his keyboarding skills improve and his spelling (as he chatted with other gamers), and I was surprised to discover that my ADHD child no longer seemed to have a problem sitting in a chair for more than 10 minutes at a time. Indeed, he was spending EVERY spare minute he had in that computer chair and becoming increasingly upset when it was time to walk away from it!
What was the straw that broke the camel’s back? It was a combination of many things:
- Consistently poor sleeping habits which resulted in fatigue in both my husband and I (and irritability on my part)
- Poor behavior of the children including a desperate and tearful attitude to rush through lessons in order to get their “computer time”
- The lack of good, old-fashioned exercise and playtime outdoors
- The decreased amount of quality family time
- The decreased amount of quality husband & wife time
As one would expect, my suggestion to start this fast was not a very popular one with my family. “I don’t like it” my husband announced. “Mo-O-om!!! 30 DAAAAYS???” wailed my oldest. “Let’s do it for 60 days, Mom!” said my smart-alec 6yo in an attempt to antagonize his older brother.
My plea was to do this only for 30 days with the intent to revisit the household climate and go from there. And so it began.
So how’s it been for this family with the first week under our belt? Let’s see:
- I’ve experienced angst in not being able to watch the first Oprah episode of her final season as well as experiencing significant angst in not being able to watch any of the fall season line-up of my other guilty pleasure shows.
- My kids ask me daily how many more days until the fast is over with.
- My husband is getting more meaningful sleep by actually falling asleep in our bedroom as opposed to in front of the TV.
- I’m getting to bed much earlier and getting upwards of 7-8 hours per night which has put me in a better mood during the days.
- Because we’re getting to bed earlier, so are our children which means they are getting more rest and starting their days earlier and being more productive.
- My living room floor has been delightfully littered with engineered creations of all kinds: train tracks, blocks, legos, puzzles, etc.
- My kids have been outdoors more during breaks and leisure time
- We’re playing more board games together.
- I’m slowly starting to play catch up on long overdue items (bill paying, taxes, follow-ups, etc.)
We’re still trying to navigate through this 30-day fast, however. Questions like:
- Can the 6yo play Leapster in the car? (yes)
- Can the kids watch DVDs when on long drives? (no – we listen to stories on CDs instead)
- Can we invite a good friend (who is disabled) to come over and watch the Eagles football game on Sunday? (the jury is still out on that one but probably yes)
- Can the kids watch a bible video on TV? (yes)
- Can mom sneak in a Netflix DVD of Ironman when know one is looking? (she hasn’t yet but is soooooo tempted)
I can’t say it’s been a terrible week on this fast. Challenging and tempting…but not terrible.
My prediction is that by the end of the 30 days, it will have gotten consistently easier to do without those things, perhaps even weaned some of us off the really bad habits, and overall turn out to be a much more positive experience than the majority of the family ever expected it to be. I would LOVE to repeat it for another 30 days but the rest of the family might feel the need to disown me if that happens.