A New Experiment – Reflections

My family’s month-long experiment with turning off the electronics ends tomorrow, and it has left us with some surprising results.

But first, progress toward my goals:

  • Marathon: On Track. I have reached the point in my running where I feel good afterward. Teen Boy and I have almost completed the Couch to 5K program, and the entire family is signed up for the Get Your Rear in Gear 5K in Fort Worth on the 21st of March.
  • Two Square Yards of Earth: Behind Schedule. I have finally finished the outline, but I haven’t written a word of the manuscript yet. I’ll be writing the first chapter or two in the next couple of weeks, so I can start attending my writers group meetings again.
  • 100 Posts: Behind Schedule. I’ve taken an unintentional break the last couple of weeks, and it’s left me three posts behind. This is post 12 for the year, of 14 planned to complete before tomorrow.

Teen Boy and I took a long road trip with his Boy Scout troop a few days ago, and as I listened to the boys’ conversation while I drove, I had to hide a little smile. Their talk was almost entirely about video games and movies and television–and Teen Boy was as likely to steer it toward something interesting outside the car as he was to engage with the talk about Dr. Who and Skyrim.

I don’t know what the long-term impact of this month’s experiment will be, but I know it’s made us stronger and closer as a family. A few examples:

  • Teen Boy has recognized the isolating effect gaming had on him before, and doesn’t really want the Xbox back unless we can figure out some limitations.
  • Tween Girl has spent more time playing creatively, and has spent more time developing her artistic talents, than she has in the last two years. It’s a joy to hear her singing fill the house–even when she’s upstairs in her room with the door closed.
  • Beautiful has slept better in the last month without the TV on in the bedroom than she has in years, exactly the opposite effect from the one she feared.

I’m the one who has changed his habits least in the last few weeks, and last weekend the family called me out on it. I spent more time on the computer than anybody else–and they noticed. My excuses that I was doing productive work were just that. In assuring myself I was the one who needed this holiday least, I proved I needed it at least as much as anybody else.

So this week, I’ve left the computer mostly untouched outside work and given my attention to my family in the evenings. I don’t know whether they’ve noticed the difference, but I have, and I have to say I’m pleased with the result.

That said, I can hardly go without writing, any more than I can go without working. So I’m trying a new approach, one that worked well for me in the past but that I haven’t used in over a year. I’ll be writing in the mornings, before the family is up, before it’s time to go to work. I’ll be trading an hour of sleep for a focused hour of writing that doesn’t require me to ignore my family.

I’ll be posting the rules of our electronics holiday soon, just in case anyone is interested in trying it for themselves. I highly recommend it–you might just learn a few things about your family.

I've been a soldier, a dreamer, a working stiff, a leader. A husband, father, example (good and otherwise), and now a survivor. I write about courage, because courage is what enables us to accomplish the impossible. If you draw breath, I love you. If you love in whatever way seems best to you and want others to love in whatever way seems best to them, I am your ally. If you believe someone is less than you because they do not love the way you do, I oppose you. If you see someone as a threat to be abused or destroyed merely because they do not look like you, or love like you, or worship like you, I am your enemy. I am a joyful and courageous man. And I stand with you who love.