Sunday, May 5, 2013

I didn't mean it. (Screen-free week reflections.)

Mamas need to have down time: We need time with God, and we also need time just for ourselves.
So what was I thinking when I took away my favorite way to spend my down time?
Isn't my life challenging enough without trying to go “screen-free” for a week?
I knew it would be harder.
I thought it would be nearly impossible.

Monday, 8:05 am, I thought, Oh no, is is really only 8:05 am?
Tuesday afternoon I realized: The internet is a good source of calorie- free entertainment. I’d better watch it or I’m going to gain ten pounds this week.

But now, at the end of screen-free week, I wonder:
Why does everything seem to be going so smoothly?

We’ve had fights, but also, adventures. 
We’ve made memories. We’ve been busy.

And instead of feeling crazy and drained, I feel… refreshed. Calm. Grateful.

And I almost don’t want to feel like this.
I didn't mean for this to be a lifestyle change.
I just wanted to do a little experiment.
I just wanted to try something new for a week.
I wanted to shake up our normal. To force the kids to play outside.
To hear them singing silly songs on the trampoline instead of the theme song to Johnny Test.

I wanted them to learn and grow and interact and really see each other.
And yet, I’m the one who sees.

A normal morning
In the morning, after I send the big kids to school, I usually let the little ones watch cartoons while I regroup.
I relax with my coffee, in front of the computer, checking in with my calendar and my email and my social network and my blog and (theoretically) God too, at least if there happens to be nothing interesting on the internet. They watch a cartoon or two, until I am ready to engage with them again, or until they are fighting. They are almost always naughty before I am “ready.” And so it goes.

A screen-free morning
I wake up with a healthy fear of the new day.
It’s going to be more of a challenge without TV, I think. I immediately pray for patience and energy, and I form a game plan. Lately it has been warmer, so I dress the preschoolers while the big kids get ready for school. When they are ready, we are ready— at least, ready enough. I have a cup of coffee by then. I may or may not have brushed my hair. No matter. We go out, while the sun is barely up, and we walk the big kids to school. We walk slow, collect bugs, wave to the school bus. And the big kids hug the little ones, one by one. Then I hold my coffee out to the side when they run at me for a goodbye tackle-hug. Coffee spills on the sidewalk. Little ones have discovered an earthworm, or a birds’ nest, or a piece of bark that looks like a dagger. And they tell mommy, because everything must be told to mommy when you are little. And mommy is not in a hurry, so she listens. She really listens.

flower snow

I just wanted to force my kids to play in the treehouse, to get fresh air, to imagine.
I didn’t mean to breathe it in with them.
I just wanted them to read more books, hear the birds, notice the sunset.
I didn’t want to be swept up with them.
I didn’t want to realize I’d been missing things, too.
I didn’t want to… repent.

Saturday came, and with it rain. A movie night was in order, and the children were newly grateful for the privilege.
And I am grateful, too, for a week of moments to cherish, for a fresh perspective.
For spring.
For the mercy of God.
For technology, and for moments without technology.
For my vocation in this tiny home, and for the freedom to let headlines and social networking go for a time.
For the freedom to just be who I am in this little life, to these little people, and for His grace that makes that enough.

What I had thought would be a challenge ended up being (mostly) a break for my scattered mind.
It was a slow pace, and fewer things pulling me.
It was a week of ears, eyes, and heart opening.

All good things are gifts from God, and technology is certainly good.
But I start this new week with new motivation to keep boundaries around this good, that it does not crowd out those things that are better. 

How do you balance these things in your life?
Did anyone else go scree- free this week?

I know this isn't a typical health/fitness post, but I'm filing it under Weak and Lovely, too. This is the best thing I've done for my mental health in a long time.


  1. Emily, That was beautifully expressed. It would be a valuable 'experiment' for all of us to unplug for a length of time and spend more time truly engaging life apart from an electronic form of entertainment, not, as you say, for a total life change perhaps, but rather to shake life up a bit. Well said and very convicting. God bless, Maria at Delight Directed Living

  2. I love it. I too had this realization last October and...I quit facebook. It was torture. I actually went through withdraw for quite some time. But the realizations were monumental enough to keep me from going back. So now I check my email which is nearly empty because no one uses email anymore it seems and I have a few blogs I read. That, thankfullly, has limited quite a bit my online time. So now I'm free for all the other things. Oh, I also went screen free for about a month while detoxing from facebook. :)

  3. It sounds like your experiment was a lovely success! I love the poetic way you express your thoughts and reflections. You've reminded me how therapeutic it is to take things a little slower and a little simpler!

  4. Wow, this is so inspiring and so motivating! Emily, are you a true gem. Bless you for embracing this challenge!

  5. Love the challenge. Moms do need down time.

    Delighted to meet you today. I hope you don't mind if I splash around a bit. This looks like a refreshing place to dip into some serious goodness.

    Also, I would love for you to share this post with other mommas. We have a little link up started. Momma's sharing our notes, creating a melody. We could use your fave recipes, fun mom moments, encouraging words, the goofy, anything mom. I would be honored to have you join us.


  6. Thanks for your link and comment on my blog! Social media fast was enriching for me too!


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