We have made it through the first week of Lent somewhat unscathed. (For those of you just dropping by, our family decided to give up watching TV for the Lenten season. Check out my post here!) After sharing our decision to give up TV for Lent, it seems most responses have fallen into either one of two camps – the first one being the Encouragers – those who have also given up TV for a season (or even permanently) and are wildly cheering for us from the sidelines. And the second camp – the Bafflers – those who give us a tentative “high-five” with a quizzical look on their face, and say something like, “Better you than me.” I get it. Prior to this past week, my level of confidence that we could actually make it a week without TV (much less forty days!) was hovering at about -72%. But. We’ve made it a week. One week out of six. There have been ups and downs so far, but far more ups than downs.
Parenting without TV is hard. I’m not going to lie. Prior to this fast, I would usually turn on the TV for about an hour each night so that I could make supper uninterrupted. The girls had their veg out time. I was able to get supper ready. Thinking about the 4:00pm-5:00pm hour without TV gave me heart palpitations. But one week in, I’ve learned some things about my girls that I likely wouldn’t have been able to observe if I would have switched on Paw Patrol.
Things like my girls are actually each other’s number one fans. Yes, they fight. They fight a lot, like any siblings do. But being able to witness their relationship without the distraction of TV has been a beautiful thing. It’s like they have “re-discovered” each other, that they suddenly realize that they have this super amazing play mate who has been there all along.
Not only has their play together been more amicable, but their ability to play independently has increased. Our youngest, Elsie, has always been a very self-sufficient player. To be honest, TV has never really been her thing (which has been frustrating in the past when I just want her to stay in one spot while I get stuff done). For her, no TV has been no biggie. Zoe, our oldest, on the other hand, loves her TV time. We have a rule in our house that the girls are not allowed to announce that they’re bored. Zoe, being a typical kid, has found a way around this rule and will instead whine, “What can I do now???” (Usually, when she asks this question, she is wanting to watch TV, but she knows that if she asks for it specifically, there’s a higher chance that we will say “no.” However, she knows that if she whines that question out often enough, we are more liable to get annoyed and just flip the TV on. Kids are smart.) Yet now that TV is off-limits, the amount of times Zoe has posed that question can be counted on one hand. Instead, she’s been too busy either crafting at the kitchen table or playing kitchen with Elsie. It’s a beautiful thing.
It’s no secret that productivity around the house sky-rockets when the kiddos are preoccupied watching TV. Let’s face it – that hour when the girls are glued to the screen is probably my most constructive. I get SO much done. So, it’s not a surprise that things are not getting done with the same degree of efficiency now that TV time has been eliminated. We’ve been trying lately to live more intentionally, even through the mundane, even while cleaning toilets, or washing floors, or dusting bookshelves. Living without TV for this past week has forced us to embrace those mundane tasks with a higher level of intention by exposing and allowing our kids to be a part of that big, ordinary mess. Yes, I now have two little helpers, giving me a hand to wash the kitchen floor. No, that does not mean that it gets done in double the amount of time. Yes, it means that water is everywhere and the likelihood of my toddler putting on her yellow rubber boots to “splash in puddles on the kitchen floor” has increased a thousandfold. But the beauty is that my kids are seeing what it takes to be part of a family, to be responsible for our home, rather than taking for granted that Mum and Dad will do it all while they binge watch Peppa Pig.
As for us, Jeff and I, the lack of TV watching has given us the best kind of space, so much time to recall what made us fall in love with each other in the first place. I’m sure we’re not the only couple who when we first met, we couldn’t stop talking to each other, asking questions, figuring out what made each other tick. Without the distraction of TV, we’ve been forced to get to know each other again. There have been already a handful of times this week where we have both looked at each other, startled and said, “Wow! I never knew that about you before!” We’ve had a lot more meals after the kids have gone to bed, lingering over a bottle of wine, simply chatting, sharing, laughing, crying over the ordinary, wonderful lives we’re leading.
We’ve also had the time as a couple to accomplish a bunch of projects that we’ve kept putting off – this week alone we’ve managed to de-clutter our office (what a lot of paper!), downsize down to one fridge from two (no small feat!), reassess our financial goals and budget, and empty out our basement of everything unnecessary. We’ve had the time to unearth some long forgotten about board games. We’ve cooked together. We’ve prayed together. And when we’ve done all that, well….there’s actually been time for dot, dot, dot. (Sorry, Mom, if you’re reading this!)
For myself personally, the first couple of days after the kids were in bed for the night, I actually experienced anxiety over what to do without the TV. I felt that I deserved to watch TV, that I needed to turn my brain off, that I needed to have some “me time.” The truth is, my need for TV showed just how uncomfortable I was in silence, with myself and with those around me. I felt awkward in my boredom. But over the past few days, I’ve managed to read more, to write more, to listen to more podcasts, to be quiet with myself and figure out what makes me me. And that has been some of the best “me time” I’ve experienced in a long time.
I know that we’re only one week in to Lent. There are still five more to go. I’m sure there will be still be days where my fingers will be itching to switch on the TV to just get a moments peace. But hopefully, we can stay strong and remind ourselves of the purpose behind this decision.
I’m curious, though – have any of you ever given up watching TV for a season? Or maybe even permanently? Or is it something you wouldn’t even entertain the thought of? Even though I’m a newbie at this, I want to take the time to encourage you to give it a go. Not for forever. Maybe not even for Lent. Maybe just a couple of days. Just to see who you are, who your kids are, once you turn down the background noise. I can’t guarantee it, but there’s a higher chance that your house will be a bit messier without TV. That’s ok. The kid are busy being creative. Your home will likely be louder because it’s inevitable that the kids may spontaneously be organizing a Disney dance party. (Those are the best dance parties anyways!) And there’s the potential that you and your partner just may remember how amazing you are together.