Plugged-in Takes on a Whole New Meaning

03/31/2015 02:21 pm ET | Updated May 29, 2015


Spring Break has come and gone, and my children look forward to heading back to school tomorrow. The week that parents, teachers, and students annually wait for in anticipation seems to go by in the blink of an eye, and yet I would have bet anyone a million dollars that this year's spring break was going to be painfully slow and unbearable to everyone in the Gibbs-Wilborn household. You see, my husband and I decided to buckle down and take away all of the kids' computer devices after a series of "poor choices" they were making at home. After several reminders and warnings, the behaviors persisted, and so we had no other options left, except to take away their dearly beloved devices. Yes, it's true. Our twins were left to suffer without these treasured items for an entire week. We prepared to hold on for the ride.

And so, the misery began that first Saturday of spring break. Both kids woke up by 7:30 that morning, and by 8:00, my husband and I both realized that we never considered the weakest link in our nefarious plan: our children would actually have to figure out how to spend their time without their handheld toys. The first few hours were miserable, but we stuck it out. Tyler claimed he was bored to death and had nothing to do, and was sent upstairs for whining non-stop. Evie tormented our dog, Jewel by shaking stuffed animals in her face, and was ultimately sent stomping off to her room.

For the next two hours, I attempted to do what every parent does when she is on vacation: wash and fold clothes, empty the dishwasher, strip and change the beds, mop the floor, open and pay the bills, and try to find thirty precious minutes to breathe. After 25 minutes of breathing, I heard a loud crash, and ran to my son's bedroom to see who was hurt. To my surprise, I witnessed my two children playing happily together with some blocks of Tyler's he hadn't used in over a year. They were trying to build a structure as "high as the ceiling". The crash I heard was their first feeble attempt, but the laughter and problem solving conversation that ensued were heartwarming. I joined in on the fun, and later that afternoon, we had created something spectacular.

Over the next week, I continued to be surprised by the play my children invented independently and collaboratively, without the lure of handheld devices hanging over them. Evie asked me if we could make dessert in her Easy Bake Oven (we made cupcakes that tasted like cardboard), helped me load the dishwasher one day (she broke only one item), and wanted to sweep the floor (the floor crumbs were carefully swept to other areas of the kitchen). Tyler continued on his building streak and fortified his Lego creations, assembled a wooden aircraft carrier after a long-awaited visit to Pearl Harbor, and created a most impressive marble run with many complex twists and turns.

My husband and I were stunned. Not once did our children ask for their games back over seven days, and that truly surprised us. We also noticed that the short fuses, irritability, and sassiness miraculously disappeared (adults included), and our children were actually more pleasant to have around! As a family we rode bikes, visited local tourist sites, took walks, went ice-skating, and truly bonded. What I feared would be an arduously long week turned out to be quite enjoyable, and the devices we came to rely on so much for entertainment took a back seat, with no complaints.

And so when people ask me how we enjoyed our spring break this year, I will proudly admit that our family had a marvelous time being plugged in... to each other. I'm even hoping our kids might make more poor choices in the future, and give us another reason to go screen-free!