A disclaimer before I go any further with this post: this is in no way judging any parents and their rules on screen-time or lack thereof. Those who live in glass houses should not throw stones – AKA I am totally that mom that does not hesitate to give my phone to my whiny 2-year old in a store for the sake of completing an errand in peace. When Olivia was born, AJR dined exclusively with the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse gang because I didn’t possess the energy to goad my picky, reluctant eater into consuming his meals while also caring for a newborn. I’m that mom when I really need to get something done lets the kids have their Kindle Fires on the couch for ungodly amounts of time while the battling sounds of inane YouTube kids videos duel back and forth.
But this Monday I had had it. It was probably a combination of pent-up exhaustion and frustration from a week of illness that swept through the entire family minus me (knock on wood). The tablets and TV were on constantly as the virus made them so uncomfortable that they didn’t want to play. I know that all rules go out the door when you’re dealing with sick kids but I honestly couldn’t listen to the “Fancy Nancy” theme song one more time without screaming hysterically. Those melodic “oh la las” reverberated through my brain when I was trying to sleep at night despite exhaustion from playing nurse to every single person in the house except the dog.
So when AJR asked for his Kindle at approximately 7:42a.m. on Monday I announced, without any further thought or planning, that I was taking them away for the week.
And to be clear, I didn’t ban all screen-time for the week. I just took away the Kindles. I’m not some sort of monster nor do I really want to make our lives more difficult than they need to be, so TV was allowed. Some people may view it in the same light as tablets but I think they’re completely different. With a show you’re working with one continuous plot for 22 minutes. There isn’t the ability to bounce back and forth from video to video within a few seconds of each other if it’s not something that doesn’t immediately grab their interest. Plus, when the show is over, the show is over. Of course they ask for another one – they’re kids – but it’s not as much of a battle as asking them to turn off their Kindles while they’re in the middle of another dumb video despite the fact that the timer is blaring.
The ban is more about me. Habits I’ve allowed myself and the kids to slip into this summer because it feels like the only way I’m able to steal a few moments for myself. Habits that I’ve grown sick of, and like Mama Bear of our beloved Berenstain Bears, I decided I was going to whip this family into shape.
The result of this ban? I don’t know if it’s totally related to getting rid of the Kindles, but I’ve seen huge improvements in both kids’ behavior. To be fair, it’s hard to say whether it’s because I took away the Kindles or the fact that we’ve been running around enjoying this gorgeous weather by doing all the things. After the first day, they rarely asked to use them. You may be thinking “Well you told them they were gone for the week!” Well, I also tell my kids that Christmas isn’t for another four months but that doesn’t stop them from asking for any toy they see on a commercial. Even their requests to watch TV seemed to decrease.
Most importantly, for the first time in a long time, the two of them are actually playing together! Olivia is less destructive and rough because I think she’s so tickled that her brother wants to spend time with her! AJR is more willing to play with his sister because she’s acting better and the fighting has been much more infrequent.
AJR is definitely taking it upon himself to go into the playroom and play more. Before, he used to say “I don’t know what to do…” after the Kindle time was over. This absolutely drove me nuts because we have a house full of things to play with! The other night he didn’t even watch the show I put on because he wanted to play cards with me. Who knew that War could be so compelling?
Now, I’m not saying the Kindles are never coming back. But given how nice this week has been, I’m not in any rush. While I think a lot of the articles out there shame parents for screen-time, I’m sort of loathe to admit that they may be on to something. At least as it pertains to the black hole of annoying, mindless, weirdness that is YouTube Kids. I, for one, have not missed overhearing Olivia watch videos in foreign languages or the billion versions of “baby shark” that exist. So maybe, just maybe I’m rethinking our habits for the long-term to make Kindle time a treat rather than a daily habit. And since my kids really don’t have concept of time, I can stretch this week-long van out as long as I want.
Now I’m off to knock on anything made of wood in our house because I’ve surely just jinxed everything and their behavior will be so awful I’ll be giving them back before lunch.