Last week I told you our family was going to have an "unplugged weekend". I had been thinking about doing this for a while, and finally got around to discussing it with Hubby. With him on board, we presented it to the kids, starting out with watching this short message as a family:
As parents, hubby and I are pretty conservative when it comes to a lot of the technologies of today. We don't allow violent video games in our home, our children were probably some of the last of their friends to get Facebook accounts and I know that Bookworm (our only child with a cell phone for now) was the last of his friends to get a phone. It has nothing to do with not trusting our kids and everything to do with what we felt was or wasn't necessary for our family's circumstances and what we did or didn't feel was the most uplifting or healthy way for our family to spend their time.
Of course there is a fine line between giving them everything, and allowing them nothing. We have social media accounts, we have cell phones and ipods, and we have the natural tendency to let our personal electronics consume more of our attention and time than is needful or healthy for real relationships.
And I'm not just talking about the kids. I know I have been guilty of being engrossed in reading something on FB, or answering a text while one of my children is trying to tell me something, only to look up to their frustrated faces as we both realize I wasn't paying attention to a word they said. I have also felt frustration when looking around at my family and not seeing eyes, because Hubby is reading something on his phone, Cowgirl is playing a game on her ipod, and Bookworm is engrossed with the 3 conversations he has going on at once via text. Nobody is doing anything BAD, it's just that nothing really GOOD is happening with the time spent with our faces stuck in our personal devices. So we had a weekend that was unplugged. And it was awesome.
We started out on Friday around 4 o'clock. Everyone was home from school and we all powered down our devices and "turned them in". We had a few exceptions. Hubby's business and my business both depend on us being somewhat prompt in responding to our customers. So we were allowed 1 or 2 brief times during the day where he would check his voicemail, and I would check my shop correspondence to see if there were any customers who we needed to respond to. We also took Hubby's phone while the kids were home alone watching the baby, just so they could reach us in case of emergency. But that was it. The rest of the time our phones stayed powered down and in a little collection on the piano for the weekend. We all let people know that we would be without our phones, but they could call our home phone if they needed to reach us. Remember the days of not being "on demand"? Of being out with your family and really BEING with them, and whoever needed to talk to you would leave a message on your answering machine, and when you got home you could call them back? Remember how good that was? That's what we did this weekend and it was really, and I mean really wonderful.
One of the things I learned that has "gone away" (at least for me) is the art of planning in advance. Like a real plan, not "okay, I'll text you when I'm there". Grandma, the girls and I were meeting Hubby and Bookworm (they had been at violin lesson) at Wheeler Historic Farm. We went over a little early and when we got there, I realized that there would be no way for Hubby to contact us and find out where we were so that we could meet up with them. Back in the day we would have actually planned a meeting spot. Maybe some of you still do, but this illustrated to me that I put off the specifics until we can just text or call each other right at the very last moment. We ended up playing at the playground near the parking entrance until we saw them pull in. Then spent a wonderful, completely uninterrupted evening walking around the farm and seeing all the animals.
I did miss the convenience of immediately being able to look something up if I had a question, or text someone if I had a thought or observation to share, or just scroll through FB if I was feeling bored. But it also taught me that we (at least I) have developed into a people (person) who need(s) to be continually entertained or amused. Now that I have a smart phone, I am easily bored and need something to hold my attention at all times. One cannot just wait in the doctor's office, or at the bus stop, or ride along in the car without having to be entertained by something online. I even find myself reaching for my phone to check Facebook or Instagram when a commercial comes on during the TV show I am watching. This is a little sad to me.
I was proud of my family, who all participated without complaint. Tonight we had a short family discussion where we talked about what we missed about being "plugged in" this weekend, and what we enjoyed about being "unplugged" as well as anything we learned from the experience. It was apparent that the things we missed were really not that earth-shattering, and I think the consensus was that the benefits definitely outweighed the negatives. The things we enjoyed were really being "present" when we were with each other, and the conversations we had and the time we spent together without distractions interrupting us every 5 minutes.
I personally enjoyed not feeling tied to my phone, and feeling like I was truly giving my family, particularly my children, the attention they deserved. I was actually pretty sad to see our experiment come to an end, and although it is not too practical for us to be unplugged permanently in this day and age, I definitely think we will be having more unplugged days, and activities in our future.