It started with a nudge, then a push, and finally my son — at all of 2 years old — was literally pulling me away from my laptop. Who knew a 30-pound toddler could be so strong? I could see it in his eyes: He didn’t believe me when I said, “Go get a book and mommy will read to you.” He had had enough and insisted that I shut off my devices — the laptop, the phone, the virtual office. He wanted my attention.
There are moments as a mother where you know you screwed up, whether it was using a bad word or losing your cool. This was my moment. When my child who isn’t even potty trained knows I’m working too much and closes my laptop, I knew we needed to make a change. We had fallen into a sadly disengaged pattern in our home, so this past weekend, my husband and I unplugged. From 6pm on Friday to 7pm on Sunday, we went screen-free: no TV, phone, Facebook or email.
We made plans and stuck to them, meeting up with friends the “old fashioned way” via commitments made earlier in the week. No calling or texting to say that we were “10 minutes late,” no add-ons at the grocery store, no distractions while driving, no late-night texts to friends. Any of our bad habits sound familiar?
We enjoyed a family day on Saturday at the Savannah Children’s Museum. We watched with huge smiles, totally engaged, as our son showed us how to make music, how to bounce, how to get lost, how to slide – seeing his face filled with pure delight. After, we listened to a ton of NPR, cooked, read on the couch in front of the fire. Joe went biking on Sunday at Pickney Island and I went to the grocery store and took a walk alone along the marshfront park behind our house, then we attended a birthday party — all cell phone-free. All weekend, we admired the views of the Lowcountry, pointing out birds and boats and fish to Gray. I finished one book and started another. We had an interesting conversation about Scientology. We weren’t clamoring for our phones or iPads; in fact, I was a bit sad when Sunday night arrived.
Interestingly enough, NPR is broadcasting a series this week on intimacy and technology, focusing on ways that technology helps us connect (like following the lives of friends you care about on Facebook) and ways it is debilitating (texting your BFF at 11pm instead of, well, you know:). We were able to listen to two of these pieces during our Saturday drive to Savannah — and by listen, I mean we actually heard the story, in real time, without one of us playing on our phone. And it meant something.
So did I freak out? Nope, not at all. I knew the world wouldn’t end if I didn’t respond to an email. I knew that millions before me had gone to the grocery store or out for a solitary walk without their phones. Sure, I was concerned about an accident or a emergency, but then I remembered that we handled that just fine before cell phones too. And when I turned on my phone Sunday night, I wasn’t bombarded with messages. I had just 4 texts and 3 voicemails, none of them urgent. I then realized that I fuel the need to connect constantly and that I create my own technology addiction. And more important – now I have realized, I can turn it off.
I needed this time with myself, with my family and for my child — to be consciously and aggressively off the grid; to be aware of my son’s needs and how I can meet them. A way to enjoy all the Lowcountry has to offer. It was a great exercise in self-awareness and one that we, as a family, will return to soon.
Try it, you may appreciate your family more – and in the process – our beautiful Lowcountry.
With Love From The Lowcountry,
PS – I did take photos at the Savannah Children’s Museum. What a great place for Gray to run free!