Monday, January 11, 2010

Unplugged

Child 3 is experimenting. This sentence has sent a frisson down the back of all adults who know Child 3, so I want to clarify at once:

1) The experiment is ON ITSELF
2) It does not involve any explosives at all. None
3) Nor does it involve fire, projectiles, spinning things or combustion engines
4) Except incidentally

What happened was last week some time Child 3 looked up with innocent blue eyes and began to muse about modern life (you know, as you do) and electronics in general and specifically its own reliance on these electronic devices. I provided my usual high level of parental support and interest (non-committal grunting and, every third paragraph, a short comment demonstrating ongoing awareness of the general gist of the conversation) and somehow, by the end of the evening, It had decided it was going to try going for a week without any electronics at all. That meant no cell phone, land phone, computer, iPod, television, video game, keyboard or electric guitar.

We did iron out a few things, such as giving Its friends and family a bit of warning so It wouldn't suddenly disappear off the electric grid, and deciding NOT to impose Its experiment upon others. It also decided that the one exception to the electronics rule would be five minutes or so at the end of each day when it would records Its thoughts on the experience. Then Child 3 laid down the iPod, backed away from the keyboard and logged off the computer.

I have to admit that while I was entirely supportive of Child 3, and intrigued by the idea (and Its plan of documenting the whole thing), I was also comfortably sure that it wasn't going to cause ME any difficulties.

However, when you have one member of the family who can't sit down for the evening brain rot of choice you suddenly realize just how often the television is actually on, and how frequently 'doing something together' is really just 'watching Buffy/The Good Life/ Top Gear etc.' While Child 3 has been learning a lot about time and distraction and focus and other things I have, unintentionally, been seeing a great deal about family choices and my own habits. Although Child 3 has been charming about the whole thing, and has never once complained if someone wanted to watch a movie meaning Child 3 often went back to its own room to play acoustic guitar or read alone, it was a stark reminder that just being in the same room isn't being together if everyone is gape-mouthed before the television.

Granted, as a family we do have the irritating habit of talking through shows which means there is a constant conversation happening which is fun and healthy, but when one person suddenly cannot be there for that conversation it rather points out just how much time is spent on that one kind of activity (or... okay, INactivity). So a few days ago we all sat down together to play a game (and I LOATHE games as a rule, but hey, it was with my favorite people so some things are worth the struggle) and yesterday we all went snow-shoeing (FANTASTIC) and took down the Christmas tree (which had been up until Child 1 returned to have a bit of Christmas with us) and rearranged the living-room WITHOUT a television/movie background. And it didn't hurt, not even a little bit.

Mind you, Child 3 is now talking about trying the experiment for a full 4 weeks.

I'm pretty sure a month in Its room won't kill It...