We killed our television in the living room yesterday. It happened fast. I read a study that correlated even small amounts of TV viewing with expressive speech delay (my son's recently diagnosed delay is noticeable -- he regressed from talking to "mute" at 18 months after a seizure, and is still not talking at 22 months), and I sounded the alarm. We only allowed him to watch "educational programming," but that was specifically the kind of TV mentioned in the study! Anyway, it couldn't hurt to try less TV, right? My husband took swift action. He took the TV down with a drill and buried it in a box in the garage.
Since then, we have noticed about a million surprising and wonderful things.
1. It feels like we have more time. Way more time. What parent doesn't need more of that?
2. My husband and I talk to each other more and feel more connected and in love. Before, our conversations were always rushed and not very thorough. In this one weekend without TV, my husband has told me more fun stories about himself; stuff I never knew before, but always craved. We are in sync.
3. We pay better quality attention to our son.
4. Our son seems happier -- I'm sure the additional attention helps a lot. We were very attentive before, but the quality and duration of our attention could definitely suffer depending on what was happening on TV.
5. We both have plopped down in the recliner and reached reflexively for the remote at least a dozen times in the 36 hours since we packed the TV away. Neither of us had realized before how automatic this behavior had become for us.
6. When we reached for the remote but couldn't find it, we often discovered that we were actually bored, or thirsty, or tired, or craving a change of scenery.
7. Since taking the TV down, we have suddenly regained our long-lost creativity at coming up with good ways to spend our time with each other, alone or at play with our son.
8. We both have had three times the glasses of water per day that we did before -- because somehow taking down the TV got us in touch with our long-lost sense of thirst. I don't get that one either...
9. We have eaten more protein snacks to regain energy when feeling sluggish, instead of plopping into the recliner.
10. We have gone outside twice as much as before, in order to satisfy our cravings for a change of scenery.
11. My husband and I both feel much more aware of ourselves, our thinking, our bodies, each other and "in the moment."
12. My son has exponentially increased his vocalizing and word attempts since TV went bye-bye; this after five months of zero progress in the regaining speech department. The immediate results of his receiving extra, high-quality face-talk time have been truly staggering and such a blessing.
Before taking the TV down, we wouldn't have considered ourselves TV addicts. At best, I now believe we weren't being completely honest with ourselves. By unplugging the darn thing, we only then noticed how much we were abusing TV time instead of satisfying our true needs. The TV was easy and brought a false sense of satisfaction, while simultaneously causing us to unwittingly neglect many of our real needs and desires and waste valuable time in the process.
We often lamented how little time we had for keeping up with stuff around the house; however, without a TV on, we plowed through a list of household chores AND played really fun games with our very active toddler, all in half a day -- and these were chores that might have taken three or more full weekends to complete before! It felt fantastic to accomplish so much and still have plenty of time left over in our weekend for an awesome, spontaneous day trip with Grandma to the train museum and river. My son, his Grandma, my husband and I will have warm memories of the day forever!
It has been a fascinating and rewarding experience.
I will never judge another person's beloved TV time and that is not my purpose here. In fact, we haven't gone cold turkey, and we do keep a TV in our bedroom to watch one cartoon in the morning with our son and news/funny stuff after our son goes to bed.
I hope that people won't dismiss my experience by thinking that we were some kind of crazy TV junkies turned anti-TV activists. My only hope is that some of you, who perhaps have wondered about life with less TV, might hear my sincere desire for you to experience the joy of greener pastures on this side of TV land, and might be inspired to experiment with your wonderings.
It really is awesome over here in the land of less TV. Even my husband, a super-gadgety, loves-his-screen-time-kinda-guy, has spontaneously and sincerely expressed supreme happiness and pleasant surprise at this dramatic change in our household.
For us, this experiment wouldn't work unless the TV was completely removed from the main room of the house. Our habitual remote-grabbing would have prematurely ended the experiment -- so we had to banish the whole contraption and its accoutrements to the garage. I wasn't sure how long we'd make it, but I figured a couple days would satisfy my curiosity. I am shocked to say it, but I don't think that TV will come back anytime soon. The many wonderful surprises we have gained and deep satisfaction we feel will keep this experiment going in our household for a long time.
Happy experimenting. Or not. Whatever floats your boat, people.
Follow D. R. Lionheart on Twitter: www.twitter.com/DRLionheart