I am not the biggest Podcast Gal. Alert readers will remember when I did my first one, with a hip young mom who podcasted (?) out of her family room. We’d been talking for 15 minutes when I asked when we’d start recording. “Oh we’ve been recording this whole time,” she said. “We love it when our shows feel organic and natural!”
Organic and natural. At my age, we don’t do much of that stuff. My crowd tends to go in for things like hair dye and Botox. I have one friend who can’t go out of town for more than two weeks, for fear of missing her scheduled maintenance. “It takes a lot of time and money,” she says, “to look this natural.”
Relic that I am, I do actually tune in (if that’s the right word) to a few of my favs, one of which is a show called The God-Centered Mom. It’s hosted by Heather MacFadyen, who has four strapping young boys. (Which might explain why she barricades herself in a room once a week and interviews interesting guests about all sorts of fascinating topics. I think I would too. If I knew how.)
This week, Heather’s guest was an author I love, Andy Crouch.
Andy has written a slew of good books, including one called The Tech-Wise Family: Everyday Steps for Putting Technology in Its Proper Place. He talked about how to do that–how to live in a techno-based world, without letting devices control our thoughts, our time, or our relationships. To listen to the podcast, click here…and in the meantime, I’ll give you the Cliff Notes.
Andy is big on pulling the plug. He’s not anti-technology; he’s just into “active-engagement”–as in, things that captivate our kids (and us) in ways that go beyond screen time. When we look back on the “best moments” of our family’s life, nobody is going to say “It was when I got to Level 16” on Fortnite, or whatever. Instead, Andy says, it will be those times when we were really “present” for each other. When we were engaged.
Which, for a lot of us, might demand a willingness to burn through the boredom. As in, not immediately strapping on earbuds (airbuds? airpods?), or binging on Netflix to fill the space in our lives. “All creativity,” Andy maintains, “is on the other side of boredom.”
Andy and his family take a two week vacation every summer and completely unplug. For those who find that prospect daunting (hello, Berndt fam?), he gives the okay to start smaller. Even just one hour sans screens–no TV, phones, computers–can make a big difference. Chez Crouch, they even douse the lights during dinner and dine by candlelight.
(Which is a practice, BTW, that I am a huge fan of. Who needs Botox when a good power outage will do?)
But here’s the thing about ditching devices. The first third of any new endeavor, Andy says, is often the rough part. Get through that–get through the first 5 days of your two-week techno-vacation, or the first 20 minutes of your techno-free hour–and the lightbulb (or more aptly, the candle) ignites. Things get creative. Things get engaged. Things get fun.
I get that.
We didn’t even have screens when our kids were young (unless you count one big box TV), but when it came to any sort of “mandatory fun,” the burn-in time was still real. Most of the stuff I’d suggest was not greeted with cheers, but once we hit our stride, we were hooked. Or at least most of us were.
If you want to start small–with, say, just an hour or two of actually Being With People (!) this summer–here are a few active-engagement tactics we’ve tried:
- The Candlelight Dinner. It actually works. Don’t do it every night, but every once awhile light ’em up–and when your kid (or your man) wonders why, just say, “Because.”
- Star-Gazing. Invite another family, pull out the big blankets, and hit the backyard. Have a few convo-tips at the ready (What are three things you liked this school year? If you drove across the country, name two friends you’d want to have in the car. If you could learn to do one new thing this summer, what would it be?), and add ice cream sundaes, or maybe Bomb Pops, to the mix.
- The Original Audible. Turn the lights down low and pick a good book. Have mom or dad read it aloud, or invite older kids to jump in. The Narnia books are always a fav, but we discovered others by accident, just because they were on the school’s “Summer Reading” list. Both The Bronze Bow and The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle were winners with all of our kids.
- Game Time. We’ve never been all that big on board games (too many pieces look like kibble to dogs), but three years ago, Salad Bowl was a stay-cation hit with the college crew, and Would You Rather is still a staple on every car trip.
I’m sure you have other ideas; post a comment if you’ve got one to share. And P.S., Andy’s pointers are not just for kids. There’s a whole section in the podcast devoted to grown-ups, and how our technology obsession can negatively impact our world. Want to sleep better, fall more in love with your spouse, or wake up without being greeted by email, first thing?
Get the screens out of your bedroom.
(But not, of course, before you download The God-Centered Mom.)