- no cell phones-(although the home phone was considered OK; but only if absolutely necessary)
- no computers-(homework requiring a computer was to be completed before 5pm)
- no TV
- no ipods or other electronic devices
With two teenagers in the home, you can imagine that getting them to agree to this took some doing.
Them: "You mean no texting? No TV?"
Us: "That's right."
Them: "No way. What are we going to do?"
Us: "Why don't you both start with your homework?"
Them: "What about when we are done? We'll literally die of boredom!"
Us: "We wouldn't want that. How about reading a book? Or playing a game together or actually having a conversation as a family."
Them: "I'd rather be bored."
The debate continued on like that until they both gave up and agreed to participate. The Wednesday evening was chosen as our "unplugged evening" because it didn't conflict with, god forbid, anyone's favorite TV show night. So last night at 5pm our "experiment" began. My daughter was the first one down the stairs at precisely 5pm, cell phone in hand. There she found her mother furiously typing away at the computer, rushing to finish my latest blog entry and publish it before the 5pm deadline.
"Where is everyone? Mom, it's five o'clock," she said. My adrenaline began pumping through my veins; I was not finished. "Give me five more minutes, OK," I said. The look on her face said it all. I quickly hurried through, trying to complete my task when I noticed the time was 5:10. Reluctantly, I finished typing and signed off. Great, I was already breaking the rules and setting a fine example. We gathered together the family cell phones, turned them off and placed them into a basket on the kitchen counter for safe keeping.
After dinner, I had to take my son to his math tutor and was surprised by my daughter's request to accompany me. This was a first. She knew that I waited out the hour he spent with his tutor at the library and normally would never "waste her time" waiting. Instead we spent the hour chatting and went to the local pharmacy next door where we browsed the aisles, reading funny cards, looking at lipstick and make-up colors (she is a true product junkie in training) and browsing through magazines-TOGETHER. It was quite nice and definitely a welcome change in pace.
Meanwhile, back at home base, my guy was having his own experience being "unplugged". He was left home-alone. When we returned he was sitting at the kitchen table leisurely looking through a catalog in an immaculate kitchen, that was not at all that way when we abrubtly left from the dinner table. He had cleaned the kitchen to perfection and he proudly spouted off the list of chores he was able to tend to in his hour of solitude. I was quite impressed and he seemed so pleased and very relaxed.
Unfortunately, I was not able to spend the next unplugged hour with my family because I had to attend my daughter's high school back to school night but when I returned I found a quiet, happy family. The children were finshing up the last of their homework. They had spent the hour, with my guy, helping them to complete their work with effort, instead of rushing through it so that they could catch their TV shows. Hmm, this was shaping up to be a great way to spend an evening.
There was one exception I must note: at 9:30 pm the TV did go on...but not without a proper discussion and it put to vote. After all, we were in this together. We agreed that since last night was the final presidential debate and to be responsible and informed voters, as is our civic duty, we would watch the debate together as a family. The kids lasted only about five minutes but the great thing was, they went straight to bed, and early for once!
It had been a great success! We actually enjoyed it and are looking forward to next Wednesday. I think the best thing about unplugging for the kids was discovering that they could actually do it and survive. It was a great way for them to learn about being independent and building character. I, for one, cherished the uninterrupted quiet time and the positive effect it had on us all!