Family Life: Unplugged
Back to Basics
By Ahu Terzi
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Not only did I have to mentally prepare myself but also keep reminding Maya that there would be no computer games, television or electronic handheld gadgets for a whole week. We planned to try new recipes, start a 500-piece puzzle, read from chapter books, go on walks and talk about our days spent apart. It seemed like a good plan.
The first day was probably the hardest. Looking back, I now know I shouldn’t have picked a Saturday to start the torture. Any weekday would have given us a roadmap, a routine to follow. With established school and work schedules, after-school activities and play dates, we could have eased into a life unplugged.
Instead, I woke up to Maya wanting to play Webkinz while I made breakfast, despite the frequent reminders the previous week. It was hard to take the whining and the pestering until the second cup of coffee kicked in; but once it did, my energy seemed to infect her as well.
Channeling Mary Poppins, I tried to make fun out of every household chore saved for the weekend. With no TV to babysit, I let her load the dishwasher (an incredibly messy activity that requires me to wash the kitchen floor afterwards), jump on my bed while I tidied up the room and sorted the laundry, and play with my make-up while I cleaned the bathroom.
In retrospect, the weekend was extremely productive and rewarding. With a photo session in the park, an extended trip to the bookstore, a fun birthday party and two play dates, Maya barely felt the absence of her TV shows. One of the most amazing things about children is that the more you talk to them about new and interesting things, the less they think and talk about the world on the computer/tv screen. With minds so fresh and supple, they’re able to find wonderment in things that may seem ordinary and mundane to us.
So once I got over the hump of the first morning, I found the experience to be increasingly fulfilling. It got easier and easier to suggest alternatives to Maya and it was incredibly fun to simply to talk to her about everything – from how leeks and onions are part of the same food family to why her best friend shouts when she’s frustrated.
In the evenings, I read and without the visual excitement of the television, I found it easier to go to sleep. I finally got to finish the book I’d been working on for months and caught up with friends over the phone (the telephone was not a part of the ban as I hoped it would encourage me to reconnect with friends in the absence of Sex and the City reruns.)
However, what I neglected to do was to warn the neighbors about the experiment. After all, it really does take a village to raise a child and I had seriously underestimated the time we spend in other people’s homes during the week. There were some uncomfortable moments when the host mom would suggest a movie to the children so that we could have an uninterrupted conversation. I would exclaim “No!” in front of the kids which often resulted in startled looks from everyone. After some explaining, she’d get on board and encourage them to try a round of Storefront Bingo instead of fighting over the computer mouse. We never got that uninterrupted conversation.