Family Unplugged: The Results Show
It is now 10 p.m. on Sunday evening. I have officially been "disconnected" for 24 hours, and I am ready to once again join the virtual world.
In case you missed my previous post, I was inspired by the Australian mom who made her family disconnect from all electronic devices for six months. So I made my family unplug for one day. We were not allowed to watch TV, play video games or use the computer all day. I called it Unplugged Sunday, and it was certainly an adventure!
I had expected to spend the whole day laughing and playing with my kids. I imagined the day passing like a movie montage from the '80s: One minute we'd be having a dance contest, the next minute we'd be making a craft, the next minute we'd be having a pillow fight, all the while laughing and hugging in slow motion with some Elton John song playing in the background.
I had expected to have some big revelation about the evils of the modern world and to report in my blog the next day that we had such a wonderful time during Unplugged Sunday that we decided to banish electronics from our home forever. (I didn't play out the fantasy long enough to realize I could no longer blog in an electronics-free home, but that's another topic.)
Unfortunately, Unplugged Sunday was not exactly what I expected. Things started off very well. We ate breakfast together, played with Legos, cleaned the house, and drew some pictures. I commented on how quiet the house was without a TV blaring or a computer humming. We talked a lot and listened to music. I found myself doing only one activity at a time, which is very rare for me.
Around lunchtime, Samantha helped my husband Jeff make his famous Italian meatballs. They had a wonderful time. Miles had a blast playing with toys by himself in his room, something he hasn't done in ages. I was able to run a couple of errands and brainstorm some story ideas (on paper, of course).
Then things started going downhill. Jeff tried to play a card game with the kids, but Miles started crying when he lost. He threw the cards across the room, and things just went from bad to worse. Jeff's mood began to deteriorate. All he wanted to do was take a nap. The kids were way too restless to sleep, so they started fighting with each other. I was jonesing to check my email and write blog posts about this disaster of a day.
I tried to keep things together by staging a family outing. I had to drag everyone out the door because no one wanted to go anywhere. We ran up to Party City to get some invitations for Miles' upcoming birthday party. I thought maybe being out of the house would inspire everyone to have some fun, but they just complained that they wanted to go back home.
We returned home with the family as cranky as ever. At one point, Samantha hit Miles and was sent to her room crying. Jeff kept complaining that I picked "the wrong day" to unplug because it was too cold and we had nothing to do.
I almost started crying myself. I told him it didn't matter what day it was because it was up to us to make it work. Of course we could "unplug" on some hot summer day and spend all afternoon at the beach, but that's not the point. The point is enjoying each other's company, no matter what we have planned.
I began to question whether our family was as close as I thought. Maybe we don't really have that much in common anymore, and by "unplugging" we are simply calling attention to this fact. Maybe we are so addicted to constant electronic stimulation that a "boring" Sunday with no real plans is a terrifying idea. Maybe our kids have finally reached the age where we can't spend "quality" time with them anymore. Maybe Unplugged Sunday has opened our eyes to the fact that we are not the family I thought we were.
Then Jeff brought up a good point. Even with electronics, the kids would be fighting. Even with TV, Jeff would be cranky in the afternoon and need a nap. Even with the computer, I would have worried and questioned and stressed about everything. Even with electronics, we would have all been bored and restless.
It wasn't the Unplugged part that went wrong. It was the Sunday part. It was actually a pretty typical Sunday afternoon for us! We had some good times and some not-so-good times. But overall, it was a pretty cool day that gave us all something to talk about and remember for years to come. Our family is more than OK. Our family is normal!
So what did I learn from Unplugged Sunday? I learned that electronics are not the evil force that I thought they were. They do not destroy families, just as a lack of electronics does not bring families together. Quality family time can be spent putting together a puzzle, playing a Wii game, or watching "Wipeout" together on Saturday night. It doesn't matter if electronics are involved. What matters is how you treat each other and the memories you create.
Will we plan another Unplugged Sunday? It's doubtful. I think we all learned something from the experience, and what we learned was that it's not necessary to "unplug" to spend some quality family time together.
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