Wednesday, June 17, 2009

My sister's gift--taming the TV Monster

About 21 years ago, while we were living in Florida, we were driving by a field and one of our boys said, "Hey--it looks like some kind of animal or something." It was a cow!

Bob and I were horrified. How had two country kids like us, raised city kids who didn't even know what a cow was? We started talking after that about what is important and we decided that we needed to move back to Michigan to give our kids the kind of childhood we both had--complete with cows.

So, that started our pilgrimage back to Michigan. Bob secured a job transfer and we were ready to go--but, the house just would not sell. Convinced that it would sell fairly quickly, we loaded our four kids and my 4 1/2 month pregnant body, and headed north. But, since we hadn't sold our house, we really couldn't afford to buy another, so we decided we would stay with my younger sister Joy for a few weeks till our house sold and we could buy another.

You guessed it. The house did not sell. We ended up staying in Ken and Joy's basement with our four--I mean five kids-- for five months. It will take a few blog posts to tell you all we learned that year of our wandering, but for now let us concentrate on the gift of no TV.

Joy and Ken did not own a TV and did not want one in their home, so although we weren't really TV addicts, we did learn to do without it. It was a good lesson. The kids played outside more, we talked more, we spent more time on the deck after supper rather than huddled around a blue screen. It was inconvenient as it pertained to getting news, but other than that, it was great. I highly recommend taking your TV out to the garage or unplugging it for a period of time if you are addicted or if you think it steals too much time. I really do think that TV's steal a lot of time--and they are relentless, stealing from you day after day after day.

When we finally got a place of our own, we were much more intentional about what we watched and how much we watched. No more mindless TV playing in the back ground, no more TV interfering with our family life [except maybe during Football Season!]

We found that by limiting TV to about 1 hour or so in the evening, we--not the programming directors-- were calling the shots. Mostly, we left the TV off during the day [Saturday cartoons were OK], and then turned it on from 7:30-8:30 or 9 at night. At that time we watched TV or Videos/DVDs together as a family. Most of the time we watched what we lovingly referred to as "Old Shows" which were things like Andy of Mayberry, Gomer Pyle, My Three Sons and others. A lot of the time I made popcorn, so it really seemed like an event.

Years have gone by since our TV-FREE living, but we still keep to the hour or so in the evening of TV. Bob and I almost never watch regular TV, but we do work our way through various DVD's. Our current favorites are the BBC rendition of Sherlock Holmes, Psyche and some old Everybody Loves Raymond.

I really am thankful to my sister's gift of no TV. It changed our family dynamics, made TV time more of a family event and gave us back the time it loved to steal.

Take care,

Photo: Our kids on Joy's porch during our no TV living. Notice Kari holding Scotty.

[As a note, when we were homeschooling we did not allow the kids to do anything non-educational before 2:00 pm on school days. They could read, do crafts or projects, play board games, etc. Another suggestion is to employ a timer. Let a child play a computer game, for instance for 20 minutes. He sets a timer [keep on by the computer or TV] and when it goes off so is he. ] I know it is hard to do this at first, but if you make a few rules and stick to them, the kids will learn what to expect and it will be easy to limit TV and Computer time. I promise!

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