In my previous post, I hinted at the difficulties I’ve had with parenting a child who is so much different than I was growing up. He is headstrong. I am easy going. He is argumentative and I go with the flow. He is kind and passionate but sometimes a little (lot!) more than I can handle. And I don’t do this alone because my husband (J) is right in the trenches with me but we don’t approach it from the same perspective. So anything I write about the experience is wholly from my perspective which is why I use the word I a lot.
I also feel I am more engaged in finding solutions to the difficulties we experience with our son (L). Is this unusual in family dynamics? I don’t think so. It does make getting to the root of a problem that much harder if you’re not both on the same page. We have traveled a long somewhat difficult path over the last few months with a major melt-down at the end of last summer really being the spark that started the fire. We looked to a family counselor to help us along and we’ve made slow progress in areas only to be back at square one time after time.
The common thread of all the hiccups on our route to becoming a harmonious family unit is electronics and every time there is a big blow up, we can point to overuse of various screens whether it be the iPad, TV, computer or phones. There never seems to be a happy place of balance for us. We live in a digital world or so we are told time and time again and we are confronted with this reality everywhere we go with both kids and adults buried in their screens.
After many months on this roller coaster of a ride, I finally had a moment of clarity. One night last week, a few days after finally taking away his iPad for good after another epic meltdown, I found L hunched over the computer screen at 10:30 on a school night feverishly playing a typing game he plays in technology class. What?! Why?! I had put him to bed two hours before and so desperate for screen time he was unable to go through the night without playing again. He skulked off to bed and I was left stunned in the wake of this discovery but soon shot into action removing cords from all the devices (TV’s included) in our house. It was time to go cold turkey.
The time had come for a full on technology detox for our household. The seed of this was planted when I read Reset Your Child’s Brain by Victoria L. Dunckley in early 2016. At that point I found it interesting reading and a sometime-we-might-need this-plan in our back pocket sort of thing. The time had come and boy did we need it now. Unfortunately I acted in haste and pulled all the plugs before talking it over with anyone else. I was a mama bear disturbed from her slumber and you don’t want to mess with her.
I didn’t tell J what had happened prior to pulling all the plugs and how late L had been up the night before and how prickly he was going to be that morning. It was a rough hour or so but I managed to get them off to school and work while I worked at enlisting others in the ban. His teacher and after school teacher were the first line of resources I engaged and they were fully on board although I did choose to allow him to continue technology class for the remaining three weeks of school as well as the occasional movie shown in the classroom. I didn’t want him to feel ostracized or adrift because of the ban but it also limits his exposure as best we can through the next weeks.
The first days of unplugging rolled out without a plan and that was probably a mistake. In Reset Your Child’s Brain, Dunckley suggests a full week of preparing for the ban and that might have made things a bit easier. But I was familiar with plan and knew that I would need to fill in the downtime with other activities and had already started a list of options. We went to the library, Taekwondo and swimming. Friday night we had a sitter (his sister) who was thrown head first into the no technology zone. I’m sure it wasn’t an easy night.
I wasn’t prepared for our first full weekend day though and it was beyond rough. There was a bunch of structured activity – a lacrosse game, bike rides and we pulled out some board games but eventually we hit a wall and there were plenty of tears and fits of anger to absorb which we rode it out as best we could. I cleaned out his room and unearthed some projects he had left undone due to his preference for electronics and those kept him busy some of the time. Legos, an experiment kit, a puzzle. He begged to watch television. Just one movie. Please, please, please. It’s so hard to be unwavering in the presence of his tear soaked face. There was no choice, though.
Sunday was much better and while it required a much higher level of engagement from J and I, at the end of the day we’d had fewer meltdowns and only once or twice did he ask to watch TV. He kept busy playing basketball, creating science experiments, watching his cousin play basketball and a couple bike rides. He even dragged some lumber out of the basement with the idea of building a fort. We had a nice dinner out and no electronics were displayed throughout. It was the first time in a long time that had happened.
I’m not naïve enough to feel we’ve cleared any hurdles yet. But at least we are bringing a little more peace back into our lives. We are joining him on the ban so other than updating the blog from time to time I am removing myself from social media and other internet use as much as possible. I’ve also given up Candy Crush, my little secret addiction in solidarity with him. There is even a $5 fine to be levied against anyone who breaks the ban. If we need to use our phones at home we must announce the reason first or pay the piper.
I started re-reading the book we’re basing the ban on and came to a part where it asked parents to give up electronics (including my beloved kindle). It was fairly ironic because I was reading the book on said kindle. Instead of despairing, I requested the physical book from the library and put down my kindle for the duration. It’s a small price to pay. We’re finishing up week one and I’ll update our progress when I can.