Following on from last week’s rant about Cbeebies taking over my house, and having had a lazy afternoon with a DVD on Saturday, I decided – in true evil despot style, with no consultation – that yesterday was going to be No Screen Sunday. The TV was turned off, tablets and phones were put away and …children instructed to find something else to do. I might as well have done an evil genius “MWAH-HAH-HAH!” laugh and rubbed my hands in glee at the carnage I was about to unleash on my house. What followed was not exactly pleasant, and I do NOT recommend you try this at home.
11YO’s first question on being deprived of screen time was to ask if she could write a story. (See – the nasty television has been stifling all her creativity which will come flooding out if we just give it a chance…! ) I of course agreed and then realised that she was intending to write her story on the ancient laptop which we gave her about 5 years ago, when it crashed and lost most of its hard drive. It can’t access the internet, or do much apart from a bit of word processing and viewing photos, but still, it’s got a screen and I’ve just banned screens. (AARGGHGH! Do I quickly backtrack and say no, stories must be written on paper – refusing to acknowledge the positive uses of technology – or do I acquiesce and allow a moral victory for the child who already sees her life as a battle with me as the enemy??) Well, I’d only just persuaded 4YO to stop crying about the TV ban and I couldn’t cope with any more screaming just then, so I said yes to story writing on the laptop, then went downstairs to have an argument with Husband who thought we should have taken the opposite approach.
Anyway, the story writing lasted about 90 seconds (I’m going to suggest she takes part in Sometimes Stellar Storyteller’s Six word story challenges) and then the next thing I knew both children had decided to play hairdressers. Half an hour of tranquility followed, while they plaited each other’s hair like little angels (Yes, it’s working!) followed by a gradual crescendo of bad temper as they moved on from hairdressing to manicures, only to find (as always happens) that 4YO can’t sit still for long enough for her nails to dry, and 11YO gets cross and they both end up yelling at each other. At least this time didn’t end up with red nail polish being spilt on beige carpet. So, once we’d broken them apart, I dragged 4YO to the shops while Husband and 11YO stayed home to make lunch.
Maybe it’s the age gap (6 years) but I find my children really need time apart from each other. By the time we got back from Sainsbury’s 11YO had rustled up some tomato soup and homemade potato crisps (and Husband was beginning a washing up session which would turn out to take three hours). We had a nice lunch and then afterwards, having tried and failed to get them both to sit down and do some quiet reading, I agreed to take them swimming. Actually, when I got sprayed with a water pistol as I sat reading, I sensed that some water-based activities might be in order.
Swimming turned out to be a mixed blessing – 11YO is confident in the deep end but would ideally still have someone with her, but I’m not a confident enough swimmer myself to want to take 4YO, who has only just started swimming lessons, out of her depth. So keeping them both happy was a challenge, and I think that 11YO was sadly a bit shortchanged. Home after swimming, and we somehow managed to fill the rest of the day with 11YO doing some violin practice, drawing and homework, while 4YO alternated between playing with her swimming woggle, looking through old photo albums with me and trying to rip the violin out of her sister’s grasp. Overall, one of those days when you heave a sigh of relief when they’re finally asleep.
Yesterday would certainly have been easier if we’d just let them turn the TV on. There may well have been a lot less fighting. But if we’d had the TV on at all, they would also have missed out on some – or all – of the following: playing hairdressers, painting nails, cooking, shopping, reading, swimming, violin practice, school homework, looking at photo albums and talking about our family history, drawing or music practice. The length of that list, despite it being a pretty unremarkable day, makes me realise just how many opportunities we shut down when we turn on the TV. I certainly could have managed the day a lot better, by bringing another adult swimming, or a friend for 11YO, and intervening in the nail painting before it went wrong. So I may well try another “No Screen Sunday” but I’ll plan it better and reward myself with a big glass of wine at the end of the day!