I’m shamefully addicted to my computer. I’d like to say it is mostly to stay in touch with the friends and family that I recently moved 1000 miles away from, but it started long before that. In fact, I put off getting a smart phone until this past year because I was well aware that I could never go back. True to my fears, I don’t hesitate to check it every time it dings for an email or Facebook notification. I spend way more time on the internet than I would like to admit.
And television? I like to say I don’t let my daughter watch too much television. I used to never put it on, but recently she has fallen in love with Mickey Mouse (who she calls “Hot dog,” due to the song they sing). Now she watches an episode every two or three days. Unfortunately, just because she doesn’t watch cartoons doesn’t mean the television isn’t on. I watch about an hour a day while she plays with her toys or naps. Though she doesn’t pay attention, she has to be aware. We live in the same house as my parents, and there is a constant stream of the news or some Law & Order show coming from the second living room where my retired stepfather sits. Though I hate to admit it, she is constantly exposed to media.
A few weeks ago I watched as my 20-month-old daughter “cooked” at her pretend kitchen while I was making dinner. She then proceeded to bring her baby doll to the rocking chair and “read” her a book, the exact same way that I do. She gave the baby a kiss, tucked her in, and said, “Night night!” I thought to myself, “My god, this child pays attention to everything I do.”
Although I was happy to see that she chose some really nice things that I do to imitate, it made me wonder what things I wouldn’t want her to mimic. I try to censor my poor language. I do my best not to talk about my weight and to only emphasize the good things that my body does. I involve her in many of my day-to-day activities so that she sees what I do and also feels like she is helping. In the back of my head there was that nagging guilt of having her see my daily media use. Is it the worst thing in the world? No. But would I want a teenage version of her spending as much time attached to a screen as I do? Absolutely not.
While I’m not quite ready to give it up altogether, I decided to make a change in my habits at least once a week. I started No Media Mondays in our house. This is a day once a week that we completely unplug. My computer is never opened, the TV stays off, and though I keep my phone on me for safety reasons, I don’t use it for anything other than that. Even my car radio is turned off and replaced by my terrible singing voice or just talking. It was a scary prospect. You really don’t think about the time that you spend — five minutes here, 10 minutes there — using electronics. A day without media doesn’t seem totally overwhelming, but when faced with the actual reality of it, it seemed uncomfortable.
You know what? It wasn’t as hard as I thought. Although I generally spend a lot of time playing with my daughter, this is a day that I do nothing else. When we keep busy, the days fly by. We’ve gone hiking and I slow down to her speed. I see so much more that way. I used to get a little exasperated that she would stop every few seconds, but when I really stopped to see what she saw, it was worth the extra time. We dance and play in the rain. Now whenever it rains she darts to the door, and when we pass a puddle, she has to jump in it no matter what she is wearing. We paint and do crafts. Cleanup in the hose becomes a lot of fun. We went fairy hunting in the woods.
Early imagination is not something that is taught on TV, and it is so much fun to participate in and watch in your child. We read lots of extra books. She runs to get another book before I even reach the end of the first. We spend tons more time one on one, and I see the twinkle in my daughter’s eyes grow brighter. I get a little anxiety as the day goes on thinking about how many emails I must have, but nothing is as urgent as how fast Avalon is growing and learning. When I watch her learning a new word or two a day, I ask myself where I want her to learn her new skills from. Is it from the background noise of the television or is it from the individual attention I can give her during our time together?
There have even been unanticipated benefits. I am more aware of my daily media use, so I spend less time in general “plugged in.” When you spend a full day a week without media influence, you realize how little you really need it. Yes, I need to search for jobs and check emails, but do I really need to spend that time on StumbleUpon or Pinterest? Maybe after her bedtime.
I actually look forward to Mondays now. I try to plan a fun activity every week. I like to make sure that there is some time during the day that we don’t have anything planned, too. I think there is something to be said about learning to be content without an activity or event going on. We as a society are set to GO, and we forget the simple things. As I watch Avalon at this moment as she breastfeeds her baby doll, I’m glad I made this choice now and I hope she continues to see my best side. I know I can’t protect her forever, but I love to cherish the time that I have now when her innocence and trust in me are so pure.
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