I was sitting on the couch trying to read last night, but my mind kept drifting off. I was thinking on how we are coming up on our last week, of our first 30 Day Family Challenge: Sans Television. The children were in bed, I had a hot cup of Bengali Spiced tea and it was quite. It was nice not having the distraction of the television on, my phone was set down on the other side of the room, with the ringer off, and I was just absorbing the quietness.
Any parent knows, quite moments like these are few and far between. When you have kids running around, with schedules to juggle, adult relationships to try to maintain, high-pressured jobs, bills to pay, you know the drill.
So I was using this moment to let my mind bounce around funny little thoughts about a nostalgic past that never existed. Where the hub bub and buzz of the day didn’t continue with you, but calmed later in the evening. Then, as day dreams will have you do, I started thinking that in this quieter time instead of just a phone, I would have had to fill up two rucksacks to carry half the stuff that fits in my pocket now: a calculator, radio, flashlight, alarm clock, maps, books, notepads and a book. Here let me reach into my Marry Poppins bag and find my outdoor thermometer and then we can find out the exact temperature.
The reality set in that this “quieter time.” A time before the onslaught of modern technology, with your fitness tracker, and email notifications, and appointment reminders would have been an awful time to be a parent. Constantly praying your kids didn’t catch polio or small pox, or that you could get amoxicillin for their strep throat. Actually, I decided after my little day dream that I’m pretty happy with being right here, right now, with all of life’s little amenities, where I spend a lot of time only having to worry if my child has had to much tablet time, or if they are learning to share more.
Daydreams aside it’s sure has been nice just taking away that one little distraction, television. Taking away the T.V. has given me much more time with my family. The -I wouldn’t have list- this month is much longer with the absence of television around . I wouldn’t have spent time putting together a 1000 piece Star Wars puzzle (even though I do despise those huge puzzles, with all the tiny little pieces and the constant dread that at the end you’ll be missing one). I wouldn’t have kicked my teenage daughter Katherine’s butt in Rummy 500…booyah Miss You Wear Dad Clothes. I wouldn’t have had so many spontaneous dance parties with my kids. My son wouldn’t have spent as much time focused on Lego sets that are for older children, but he now seems to be doing pretty much on his own. Our two youngest wouldn’t have spent as much time engrossed in a play world that I do not exist well in (I just don’t make a good baby, or dog, or mom I guess). I wouldn’t have spent so many evenings reading, drinking spiced tea, and chatting with my wife.
Not that huddling together, on the couch, after a long week, and having a Doctor Who marathon isn’t a wonderful thing to do. Cinema can be a positive force that inspires your children with new ideas and ways of looking at the world, but it will never be a satisfactory substitute for one on one time. It’s unlikely you will recall that episode of Power Rangers you endeared with your children, or that episode of Brooklyn 99 you watched at 10 pm, on a weekday, with your wife. It’s easy to let the television ease it’s way into our lives. We’re parents, we can get exhausted, and short on patience, and television can be a quick replacement for our attention. We don’t need to feel bad about that. It’s just important to remind ourselves that at-the-end-of-the-day the things that you remember, that count, that make bonds, are those tangible experiences you had with the ones you love. It’s the time we spend playing games, going for walks, listening to music, discussing our interests, these are what matter. That when you look back one day you’ll have all those wonderful memories that will come into focus. Not endless static noise, a signal that you can’t pick up.