I was determined to raise my kids with no screens. They were going to be the kids who were creative and could entertain themselves with their imaginations, not mind-numbing TV shows.
And I succeeded, for a little while …
B’ut then they went to cousins’ and friends’ homes, doctor’s offices and stores, and the allure of movies and shows was too much for them to resist.
I eventually compromised because they started asking for it so much. But also because sometimes, I needed a rest from my high-energy children and screens were the only way to keep them safe and keep me sane.
We started out with an hour or so a couple of times a week. But as the older kids got older, the younger kids started screen time younger and younger.
Recently, that’s all my 6-year-old son asks of me, all day, every day.
Can I do screen time?
What can I do to get screen time?
Why do they get screen time?
Every. Five. Minutes.
One day, I told him what to expect, “We will watch 30 minutes after dinner”.
What time is dinner?
What time is it now?
Can we have dinner early?
I’m hungry now. I’m soooooo starving.
And so on and so forth.
“How did I get here?” I thought. I am so far from where I aimed to be.
What’s worse is this treatment is almost better than the treatment I get by letting them have 20-30 minutes or even two hours of screen time. Every single time after letting them watch something, turning it off leads to screaming and crying and whining from the younger ones and then even more screaming and whining from the older ones at having to listen to the younger ones.
All of a sudden, everyone is starving and can’t move because they are so tired and hungry.
But then we came across a show called “Bluey.” It was recommended to me by Lane Anderson from the Matriarchy Report. Apparently, it has won a slew of awards, including an Emmy (I didn’t know children’s shows could win an Emmy).
One day when I needed them to be quiet for a few minutes, I turned it on. Mind you, the ages of my children are 6, 9, 11 and 13 year old.
When I came back to turn it off, I saw beaming smiles on all their faces. Turning it off was met with, “Mom we love this show!” And they proceeded to tell me all of the funny things that happened, then went off to play.
No whining that it was over, no crying, no complaining.
As we kept this pattern for a few days, I noticed something else. My youngest two who had developed a habit of fighting and picking on each other constantly, were playing better together. There was less fight-playing and more fun-playing.
They made up a Harry Potter game. They used sticks as pretend wands and the only rule was you had to act out whatever spell the person cast on you. It was hilarious to see their acting ability as well as their joy in playing this game the entire afternoon … without a single conflict!
I had an inkling it was because of this new show.
One evening my partner and I sat down to watch it to see what it was all about. Essentially, it’s 7-minute episodes of two girl dogs who take turns doing imaginative play with their parents, who are a mom dog and a dad dog. It was so simple. But what drew me in was the sense that I could step it up as a parent, easily. I learned simple ways to inject fun and imagination into my day-to-day interactions with my kiddos.
To be fair, I tried to do imaginative play with them before. But they never got the concept. They would always complain that I wasn’t doing it right or wouldn’t play along when I had ideas. So I gave up.
But “Bluey” had come in and saved us, in a way.
I still have a love/hate relationship with screens.
But for now, I’m content with our nightly routine of snuggling on the couch, just about to turn on the show and hearing my teenager walk in the door from soccer practice, rush into the room and yell, “Bluey’s on? Wait for me.”
Stacey Carruth is a mother of four in Arapahoe County
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