4:19 p.m. Sunday afternoon has been the toughest so far -- and it's only day two of our TV-free week. My husband awoke early with the kids to let me sleep in a bit, and by 4 o'clock, he's discovered that no TV means a lot more hands-on parenting. And he's been a busy man: drawing with one kid or another, digging in the garden with our daughter, wrestling laundry and dishes in between it all while I video chat with the grandparents and do the grocery shopping.
At this point in the weekend, we could all use some downtime. Yes, it would be nice if the kids could find things to occupy themselves quietly, but it's not a sure thing like TV is. When we turn on Word Girl or Sid the Science Kid on a normal Sunday afternoon, my husband and I both exhale a giant breath that we've been holding in for what feels like two days.
Here's the thing: My kids couldn't care less that it's screen-free week, it's us parents who are suffering. I'm sure if we threw the TV out the window, we'd eventually fall into a workable rhythm, but honestly, I'm not sure the sacrifice is worth it. What's 30 minutes of a vocabulary-building superhero going to do to our kids besides make their parents happier?
Out of desperation, I review the TV-alternatives offered by the supporters of Screen-Free Week. But alas, they're no help. Here are their suggestions, among others, for what to do instead of watching TV:
Walk the dog.
Put on a play.
Ride a bike.
Play a board game.
Visit a park.
Now, these are all great activities to do with kids, but we do these things already (well, except for the dog walking...). It's not like we’re sitting home with the television on wondering, "What else could we be doing right now?" Actually, if the kids are watching TV, we're either:
Taking a shower.
Cleaning the kitchen.
Managing our finances.
For parents, a weekend with no TV is no less busy, just more stressful. On the positive side, I'm happy to have found some great podcasts (the audio version of Pinky Dinky Doo) and audio books for the kids that I'm sure we’ll use even when our screen-free experiment is over.
In other news, my son’s "weird-free week" is going surprisingly well. He's slipped a few times, but I think he feels bolstered by our family experiment to do his own self-improvement, and that – knowing how hard that can be – makes me proud.
Tomorrow we'll find out what it's like to get ready for work without the electronic babysitter.