Readers, we survived. Screen Free Week is behind us. This past Sunday morning, I asked my children for their reflections on the past seven days.
Seamus, age 7:
“This was the worst week of my life.”
Maggie, age 4:
“We are never, NEVER, N E V E R going to do this again.”
And then Connor looked up from his cornflakes.
“I don’t know,” he said. “It was a little bit good, when you think about it, because we did other stuff.”
It did not escape my notice that his siblings didn’t punch him when he said that. But it wasn’t until Monday morning, when screens were once again allowed, that I understood the full import of what we had just done.
It was 7:40 a.m., and for a change, everyone was already ready for our 8 a.m. departure, backpacks by the door, bedhead combed. (Our mornings and evenings had become very strangely peaceful over the past week.) As the kids had each morning the previous week, they sat down to play with long-forgotten Beyblades and dolls from the bottom of the toy chest.
“You guys,” I said gently. “You can have your screens back.”
They stared at me.
“Seamus, you can check on your Moshi Monster,” I prodded.
“Huh. Oh yeah,” he said, almost entirely without enthusiasm, and actually had a few more Beyblades faceoffs before casually strolling to my laptop.
The previous Monday morning, there had been such sobbing and garment-rending about how this Moshi Monster could not possibly survive a WEEK without being fed and walked around Monstro City, what was going to HAPPEN to him, he’d probably DIE and he would NEVER BE ALIVE AGAIN.
But after a week apart from the computer game he loved so dearly, my son’s relationship to it had changed. It became one of but many things he could do with his free time. And not the most interesting one, either.
“It’s weird,” Maggie told me yesterday, as we played Girl Scout Meeting with her dolls. “Because you think you need to watch the screens and you do a little but maybe not a lot.”
And then last night Connor said, “I kind of miss Screen-Free Week.” He then suggested that we observe it once a month.
“No, it should be a pattern,” Maggie said. “Yes screen week, no screen week. Yes screen week, no screen week.”
I do feel obligated to point out that Seamus vociferously and heartily disagreed with these sentiments. But I am absolutely floored at what my kids got out of this experience. And me too- I don’t need to spend as much time with the Real Housewives of New Jersey as I think I do. I’ll be hanging out with Milania and Don Draper this week for sure, but two weeks from now, I’ll be spending my evenings with the screenplay I finally got started once I turned off the boob tube and focused on the stories I have to tell.
I won’t be throwing our TVs and iPad off the top of Dave Letterman’s studio anytime soon, but I do see them differently now. I undertook Screen-Free Week thinking it would at least provide some horrible hilarity on which to reflect- what I actually got was a whole lot more.