Before my husband and I were married, someone gave us the advice to not own a television for the first year of marriage. I don't remember who gave us the advice but I'm glad we followed it. One year turned into two and two into three. And then, somewhere along the line of our fourth year of marriage, a friend handed off an old television to us. It was a welcome distraction that year. My husband was loaded down with work and fourth-year seminary classes and I was pregnant, sick, and tired. I worked two jobs that kept me happy yet busy and by the end of each day, I'd come home to an empty home, with my husband still at work, and I'd watch whatever was on until he came home or I fell asleep, whichever of those options came first. At the end of that year, as we were packing up all of our belongings for our move to Oregon, we decided the television had to go. It's a decision that neither of us has ever really regretted.
And so, for nearly the last decade, we've lived free of a television in our home. But I'd be lying not to admit I wouldn't be clothed and in my right mind without the help of Fireman Sam, Bob the Builder, and Postman Pat. (I do play the piano by ear but there is a very good reason why I can play all of the theme songs for my boys upon request. Ahem.) Even though we don't own an actual television, we own plenty of paraphernalia that serves the same purpose minus commercials which, in my opinion, are perhaps some of the most harmful parts of television.
Recently, though, things started spiraling and I knew something needed to change. What had began as a little Fireman Sam here and a little Postman Pat there during the afternoons for Graeme (while Job and Wren were napping) had become a full fledged, all consuming lifestyle for Graeme. As in, he would hurry me in putting Job down for a nap and proudly announce-- now it's the time we watch something! And it didn't stop there. In the mornings, I would crawl up the stairs, weary from the newborn stage, and give in at the drop of a hat if the boys asked to watch a show while eating breakfast. All of this wasn't an every day occurrence but I could feel things slipping farther and farther away from what I knew I wanted for my children.
Complete viewing abandon seemed impossible and out of reach. But after reading this article, my hope grew substantially. And after talking things over with my husband, we agreed to try it with the addendum of keeping our weekly family movie night. I expected this change to be very difficult. Not so much for the boys but for myself! (How in the world would I be able to take a shower? Or take a nap? I kid, I kid, No, actually, no I'm not.) But it surprised me in that it was quite easy. And not only that, but the rewards have been so much greater than just that of an easy transition.
Two major changes have taken place in our household and they are so profound that I wanted to take the time to write this entire blog post over them. First, I noticed that my boys began playing together on a more agreeable level. I feel that my boys are pretty good friends to each other but I've noticed that the bickering has slowed down considerably. Of course we still have our problems. Just today I made my boys hug each other until they were giggling and snorting because I had caught them playing tug of war (the push down kind!) with a toy. But on the whole, the whole being key words, I've seen such an improvement in this area.
Second, I have seen a dramatic improvement in their creative play, their imaginations, their vocabulary. Graeme's drawing skills have all of the sudden taken off. My guess is that their vocabulary is growing by leaps and bounds because we are reading even more than before. Also, they are talking to each other, pretending, imagining, and drawing more than ever.
This change has been a welcomed breath of fresh air. We began this metamorphosis a little over a month ago and I am more determined than ever to keep this change in place. And I'm doubly committed to keeping our home free from a 'big box' telly. I'm writing this out for my own encouragement, a note-to-self sort of thing. But I also wanted to write these words for those who desire this change but are dreading the process. I'm here to tell you-- if I can do it anyone can. I promise you.
Currently, I am working on scheduling out one activity to work on with Graeme each afternoon, whether it's baking, folding laundry, writing thank you notes, or an art project. And aside from that, he has been soaking up the quiet time to play on his own, making up elaborate stories about his Lego figurines, and on and on. I'm not much for the idea of resolutions but I do like the idea of forming new habits. And this particular habit is one I'm very thankful to be forming.
For those of you who are already on this pathway, I'd love to hear your encouraging words, your favorite outcomes of this choice, and anything else you'd like to add. Here's to keeping on!
p.s. Don't forget to read the article that I linked to above. It will light your fire and encourage you.