Thursday, May 13, 2010

TV-Free Summer (Gasp!)

My neighbor, Lisa, and I did a Lenten fast from the internet that was incredibly rewarding, eye-opening, and convicting. (I wrote about it here and she wrote about it here--both are worth reading, I think.)

She and I have been mulling over the ramifications of the greater peace and less stress we experienced, the increased joy in the small things, and the restorative quality of the activities in which we engaged during the time we had hitherto been online. The result? her challenge to me to go computer (internet) free during the summer and my growing interest in having my kids go TV free during the summer.

I don't want my children to grow up addicted to the TV, to think that the TV is what you do when you are "bored" or when you're "tired" or whatever. I want them to first think of books, playing outside, sitting quietly, playing a game with their siblings, etc. They're too young to even consider playing on the computer as a way to pass time, but that's just around the corner. I want to encourage them to develop good habits and skills NOW about how to pass the time constructively and in a way that restores them, not in a way that sucks it out of them.

Anyone else in with me for this challenge? Here are my rules:
  • Summer consists of June, July, August
  • I'm not going to be super-Nazi here and say they can't watch it at others' houses, the gym, and so forth
  • If someone is genuinely sick and truly lying around all day, then we can pull out a movie
  • If it's pouring down rain and has been for more than a day, then we'll consider it.
  • If they're watching TV, I'm going to watch it with them
How many times do you let them watch their favorite Super Why! or Disney movie by themselves while you clean up, talk on the phone, etc.? I do it often--I trust the content of what I let them watch by themselves, so I figure it's a "safe" activity while I get something done. But they LOVE it when I sit and watch something with them. It's instantly more of a family activity. And, I bet it will make me think twice about turning it on. If I don't "have time" or want to watch it, I'll work extra hard to find something else in which to engage their interest. That's going to mean less phone time, more creative employment of my children around the house while I clean (they can/will clean with me), and more thoughtfulness about the whole process in general.

I'm working up to it. Our former schedule was Super Why! regularly plus Dinosaur Train on occasion in the mornings and a movie in the afternoon after naptime ("movie" was generally limited to about an hour, but there were many times when it stretched beyond that!). That's WAY more TV than I ever expected to let my kids watch and there have been some legitimate uses of it with my three young ones. However, they now play pretty well together and are getting much more creative and imaginative. I've been weaning us off as follows: aiming for TV free mornings for a full week and letting the afternoon be whatever. Then, working off the afternoon by cutting back on time first. We'll go cold turkey soon, here!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Derby Day and Tradition

This past weekend was the Kentucky Derby--a long-standing ritual for many in Kentucky and the world of horse racing. For those of us who grew up reading The Black Stallion, we can envision the race and root for the underdog. Derby Day is full of ritual and tradition, from the big hats the women wear to the race to the mint juleps, Kentucky Hot Browns, and Derby Pie people eat.

How do traditions start? The best traditions are not manufactured or created; they simply grow over time, encompassing new people and new aspects with each new celebration. This year, we are having our final Derby Day party with some beloved neighbors who will move out of state in 10 days.

Our Derby Day tradition started a few years ago (no one knows exactly what year) and was merely a response to some musings about the grand Kentucky Derby tradition and the desire to try a real mint julep. We watched the race just to lend some credibility to our mint julep toast and the tradition was off... running down the track... rounding the first curve.... You get the picture.

Each year, we've added something to the festivities (first, we added Derby Pie... the world's easiest pie to make; second, we added Kentucky Hot Browns--also easy to make; this year, we're adding some extra neighbors). One thing has remained essentially the same: none of us follow horse racing, so we pool our combined ignorance of the race and its contestants while we gather around the TV for 2 minutes of glorious horse racing fame. We raise our mint juleps high, cheer on whoever is the underdog or has a fun name, marvel at the strange world of horse racing and the tiny jockeys, let the kids eat while we chat, and then finish our meal--thoroughly enjoying the good company and the fact that this has become an annual tradition.

That's how the best traditions are: they are organic and grow along with your family. Don't waste too much time creating the perfect experience that you then hope to replicate each year with exactitude. Just go on vacation, celebrate a holiday, do something fun. Let the good times roll and cherish the moment. If something is significant enough to repeat, you will find a way. It might even be better the next go 'round!