Monday, September 6, 2010
My kids aren't normal....and I am so glad. At a time when normal for kids is living indoors in large sealed climate controlled homes watching Disney, Nick, MTV, PS 1, 2, 3, X-Box, WII, DVD, Blue Ray, Chat, IM, Text, Face Book, and 15 different practices/camps/private lessons, today my kids played with card board boxes, crayons, spray paint, and a dolly for most of the day.
Here’s what we are doing these days. We are fasting media. But before you call CPS, let me explain. We have never been much of a media family, in fact in our 16 years of marriage I think we have had cable for about 2 years. Not because we’re broke and it didn’t make the budget, but because we always had an intrinsic gut level feeling that it is a huge life sucking brain vacuum. So rather than participating in a voluntary TV brain lobotomy, we talk, play and hang out with each other, read, or work around the house.
Have you ever gotten one of those chain e-mails that talk about the good ole days when kids were free to roam and play, the kind that make you long for a time when life was more simple? Yeah me too, but guess what? It still exists if you can unplug long enough to notice. This brings me back to our media fast. We had noticed our kids being unusually restless and discontent over the past several months. Comments like, “I’m bored” and “there is nothing to do” or “it’s too hot” or "its too cold” became normal. In the past the kids loved to read. In fact, I would at times pick up 20 to 30 books Gretchen had on hold at the library and the kids would bombard me when I got home to see if the books they ordered were there. We realized that we had unwittingly let media/games via the computer take a dominant role in their daily activity. Not unsupervised, but stuff like lego.com, Godtube, WebKinz, and NetFlix. We said we didn’t have TV, but streaming cartoons and family flicks through the portal of Netflix is kinda like TV. Right? So we wanted to simplify and get back to basics to see if it impacted our kids attitudes. Guess what...it had. It’s been amazing to see the kids become content again with sketching notebooks, board games, books, and yes, cardboard boxes. I have not heard I’m bored for awhile now and loving it.
Here is another great benefit. They don’t want a bunch of stuff or think they are fat because they are comparing themselves to toothpick girl on whatever teen rave sitcom. Advertisers spend millions and millions of dollars and thousands of intellectual hours figuring out how to make our kids discontent. Not just with stuff like toys, but with who they are. All so they will go out and drink their earth saving water or wear their hip (or far below the hip) jeans, or use their sport equipment so they won’t be losers anymore and will finally attain “coolness” ..... for a moment.
So don’t go and throw your TV out the window or bash your computer screen just because my kids dig playing in cardboard boxes and read books, but give it a shot and see for yourself. Set aside a period of time, unplug and watch your kids (after they start breathing again from an anxiety attack) begin to master the art of creative play and thought. It may take a bit of an adjustment period, so don’t, after only missing ONE of their favorite shows, give up. And don’t give up because your neighbor, or family members think your are a freak. Hang in there and see what exciting and creative being your child will become.
And by the way, don’t worry about peer pressure. Your kiddos might become influencers on your street when they cruz their tricked out cardboard box by.