Thanksgiving Unplugged Waking The Sleeping Giant

My five-year-old daughter loves to draw pictures of me. She often depicts me as an ant with her as a little ant – riding on my back. Often she just draws a stick figure with long hair. In almost all of these, I hold a little box. The first time I noticed this pattern I asked, “Honey, what am I holding.” And she proudly replied, “Your iPhone!”

You see, I am a bit of an addict. Looking at this last year, I watched my mother die, saw my dad’s dementia take over his mind, and many times I thought I was losing my mind. So, I think as human beings we come up with ways to offload stress. Mine came in the form of a little box, depicted ever so regularly in my daughter’s renderings of me.

And to be honest, it isn’t just me anymore. My kids have succumbed to the magic of the device as well. So, I am putting myself on a major diet this Thanksgiving and decided to try a little social experiment. Tonight before going to bed every device in this house will be locked down tight. No iPhone, no iPads, no iPods, no Netflix, no Hulu Plus, no laptops, we don’t have cable or anything like that, so that about covers it. Only music is allowable. I even had to pull out my SLR camera because I know if I grab the iPhone to take a picture, I will start editing, then I will want to post, then I will be checking facebook. So old school pictures it is.

We are vowing to stay in pajamas all day. We got the board games out and dusted off. We are going to get down to making some Christmas presents (inspired by our own Claire Boyles). We will be having dance parties aplenty (okay so we always do that). We all have books to read. Ya and I am getting twitchy just thinking about it. My kids are in a state of shock – more over the idea that, “Mom you are actually going to turn off your iPhone?”

I will be back to write about my little social experiment on Friday…

Written Friday, November 29th:

I was woken up at 7:30 Thanksgiving morning by my daughter – yes – that is sleeping in for our household. This daughter tends to wake up early and instantly hops onto Netflix on one of the iPads to watch a show. Instead, she is standing next to the bed excitedly telling me about the chapter she just read in her current book, The Secret Garden.

8:00 both girls show up in my bedroom again. They were so excited; almost as though it was Christmas morning. They already fed themselves and had piled every board game and card game we own on top of the dining room table. They were babbling away about how some of the games only had 4 players but they had already worked out the logistics for these because, as my older daughter said, “No one is allowed NOT to play!.” Me, I was staring at my empty nightstand – where my iPhone generally greets me every morning. I was thinking, “Man I need some coffee BADLY. It’s gonna be a long day.”

9:00 we have our first tears over the day. My son was very upset. Once he calmed down he told us he was most upset about the pajama rule. He absolutely wanted to wear “real clothes.” I let the pajama rule go as that really wasn’t an important part of the day.

As the day went on, we all missed our devices less. Off and on, we would be talking and feel the desire to jump on to look up some form of information but, other than this, we did well. At one point, my son cheated to “check on his clan” in some game. Apparently the clan was doing just fine without him.

By the afternoon, we didn’t even think of the devices anymore. We crafted, ate, played more games, ate, and went on a walk. We started gratitude journals, made our first entry and decorated those. We engaged in the longest UNO game ever. I am talking two hours folks. This may be because if anyone got below three cards the other players instantly formed an alliance to strategize a take down plan.

When I woke up this morning, and sat drinking my coffee my youngest looked at me hopefully and asked, “No devices today too, right mommy?” I almost felt guilty grabbing the laptop to finish this blog post and I still have not “gone online.” So what are some lessons I can attribute to my little social experiment?

1.) The Endless Information Highway

We had to joke this morning about the times we were talking and wanted to get online to look up stuff. Remember in the past where you were stuck, shrugged your shoulders and said, “It will come to me.” How much time are we spending filling our head with what is essentially useless trivia because we have easy mindless ways to access information right at our fingertips.

2.) Electronic Babysitters

I have to admit it. There were a few times where the kids got pretty noisy and wild. And yep, I thought to myself, I just wish I could send them off for 30 minutes to watch a show. I had to wonder how often I do this at a subconscious level as I move through my day managing three kids. And, the girls were so excited about the day. The message I got from this is that I need to consciously be more engaged with my kids, not just in organized school and other activities. I need to just spend time with them doing things for fun. And I mean really engage with them, not just watch a show or play a video game.

3.) Publish or Perish!

Sometimes it seems there is this subconscious need to publish our lives. And, thanks to tools like facebook, all of our friends can essentially “evaluate” our experiences. If I post a picture I never am setting out to need your stamps of approval but, why then do I like to see a slew of “likes” on those posts? I am sure there is some weird psychology at play here but I am not sure I have the knowledge to unpackage this. And, I hate even posting this because; I love to see posts and pictures from my friends and family. I love to watch babies grow up and to read about the funny things your tweens say. But my question is, have we gone overboard? Are our experiences valuable to us as experiences, whether we post about them or not?

4.) Killing my Creativity: The Sleeping Giant

One of the biggest changes I noticed was very internal, subtle, and actually frightens me the most. About midway through the day, I started doing “Stuff” for lack of a better word. It was as though I reverted back a few years to a younger version of myself that didn’t experience the two most exhausting years of her life. I got all creative again and started to pull out old projects and get new ideas. Most remarkably, I had the energy to do that. When I fill my time with “plugged in” activities, I don’t think I have any time left to sit, think, and ultimately create.

So, I sit on this knowledge this morning and I am still torn. I mean, much of what I do plugged in is good. I use it to connect to people that I care about in ways that it would be impossible to do so otherwise just due to time and space constraints. We have planned countless “real-life” gatherings without a hitch through facebook because it is easy to communicate through group messages.

Also, much of the content I access when plugged in is great and inspiring. I tend to read well-written blog posts, watch inspiring films my friends bring to my attention, and things like this. However, there is a slippery slope when I try to justify the time I spend plugged in. Yes, that blog post is inspiring but life is still happening around me. The ten minutes I spent reading that post are ten minutes I am not engaged right here.

Learning definitely occurred through our little social experiment but we still don’t know what to do with our insights yet. The worst thing to do would be to quietly go back to our plugged in existence – happy with the status quo. Once you wake up that sleeping giant, you have to welcome it into your life, which is going to bring some changes.

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