I mentioned in my last post that I recently read a book, Simplicity Parenting, all about how a simplified environment, routine, and schedule helps children – and really the whole family – thrive.
The thoughts on environment were not all that new. I have seen first hand how less is more when it comes to toys and entertainment for children. Benji has never had a ton of toys. Plus, we have always made a point to keep his toy collection minimal. However, this is an ongoing project (especially after the holidays)!
But the last chapter in Simplicity Parenting was all about media and minimizing children’s exposure to the adult world.
You may have heard the media recommendations given by the American Academy of Pediatrics which says to avoid media (besides video chatting) with children under 18 months and then to limit screen use to 1 hour for children between the ages of 2-5. If I’m honest, I’ve heard the guidelines before and scoffed a bit at them because they seem a little unrealistic in an age when media and screens are everywhere. I can’t even get my teeth cleaned at the dentist without a screen being on in front of me!
My son has never been a sit and watch tv kind of guy. There have been moments I’ve really wanted him to be, but he’s more of the run around and do all the things guy.
Over the years, I’ve had a love-hate relationship with the technology. My senior year of college we lived without a tv, and that was one of the richest experiences of community and intentional living I’ve experienced.
All that to say, when I read the final chapter of Simplicity Parenting, it hit me in a different way than ever before. I dog-eared the chapter for Jesse to read so we could talk about it together.
For the last year or so, we’ve had an ongoing conversation about not having a tv in our living room. It’s always bothered me how the tv oftentimes consumes a room. Even when I tried to make conversation the focus of our spaces, if you plan to watch tv in the room, you have to orient the seating toward it in some way that makes sense and is comfortable.
Well, we decided to do an experiment and put our tv up in our attic for a time. (Don’t worry – this was after we watched all of season two of The Crown!)
The timing of things coincided for it to especially make sense at this time. Jesse got a record player and speakers for Christmas so we needed a place to keep that. The area on the credenza where the tv was is the perfect spot.
Then also, with expecting a baby soon, it’s so easy to in those slow and tiresome days to turn to media due to exhaustion, boredom, frustration. And so I really wanted to completely remove the option so that we had to choose rest and books and music and conversation rather than easy entertainment and in some cases, distraction.
When Benji was first born, I used an app for a little while to track his eating and sleeping. It turned out to be more stressful for me to track it all on my phone. But when I was using that app, I also used my phone a lot more. I’d scroll while nursing him rather than looking at him and letting the moment be slow and close and connected.
We are still using screens and media in our home otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this now! However, we are also working to find that balance of how to use it as a tool and not mindless amusement.
Thus far, the experiment has gone well. We love the way our living room feels without the tv in it, and haven’t felt the loss all that much. If we really get an itch to watch a show, we can pull it up on our laptop and watch. The act of having to set something up rather than just push a button helps it be a more mindful practice.
I’m not sure that we will always be without a tv; however, it feels like the right thing for our family at this time.