Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Experiment

So in the beginning of August after arriving home from our visit to NJ, the children go to their usual movie. And for some reason it really bothered me. It bothered me after a weekend of being together they just go off and do their own thing. Mind you, I am writing all of this in retrospect because at the time I wasn't feeling like they are going off and doing their own thing. I was naming it a habit. A habit that stemmed from being bored and /or unhappy and not having anything else offered to them...that is me not offering anything else to them; that I have given them no other choice but to watch movies. (Talk about really being hard on myself)
After feeling these feelings, I walked in the living room, I asked if they could pause the movie. I then asked, "if we didn't have a television what would we be doing right now?" They looked at me and thought. They don't see my agenda, at the time I really truly felt I didn't have one. I was really curious. They looked at each other. Then I asked, "What would we be doing with our time if we didn't have a tv?" They smiled in wonder. Seriously, they were smiling. And seriously I didn't have a list of questions on hand. The questions were really coming up as i went along. Then I asked," what would life be like if I didn't have a computer?" I can't believe I just said that. Trinity yelled out, "I wonder what would I be doing if I didn't have a tv to watch my movies." BellaSky said she would play more...Then I asked," how would our family be like?" They looked at me then at one another in wonder. I then said, Let's try an experiment....They got excited. "Let's see what it is like to not watch tv and not have a computer." They chose 8 days and they chose to start the next day.

The next morning we put the tv, dvd player, and the netflix box in the closet. They were very enthusiastic about it and I am not just saying that. They got me excited. The one thing I asked them was to be able to go on the homeschooling group to make sure all is well. They said that was fine. I was prepared for them to say well as long as it is ok to watch the occasional movie. But they didn't. I seriously was not being malicious and of vindictive. As a radical unschooler I can imagine what this sounds like...on the contrary I needed to see what this was going to feel like and new there was something for me learn from it. And they obliged so I wasn't forcing them at all. Does that make it ok? ( I am really not asking for your permission) To me though it was because the questions were real to me. I didn't know what life was going to be like and neither did they.

They didn't even ask for movies. (just for info we don't have cable just a dvd player and netflix box) I was the one feening for the computer. When I was in a bad mood, I found myself wanting the computer. When I was anxious I found myself yearning to go on it like it was going to relieve me from the anxiety. When I felt I worked really hard, i wanted to reward myself with the computer. When i felt isolated and lonely, I felt myself turn to the computer for support. Shit! Really? Did facebook become my sole support system? Really?! All in one little lap top.
I started to ask myself what would I be getting out of it. In this moment of what ever feeling I was having, what was the computer going to give me? I journaled and journaled. I broke everything down. I needed to recognize what the initial need was in order for me to learn how to give it to myself. Somehow just going to the computer just put many band-aids over all of it. I walked away feeling better for the moment, but it didn't fill the void. I was shocked by what I was learning. I knew right then and there that 8 days wasn't going to be enough for me. ANd for only me. By the fourth day i thought it would be fun for all of us to journal our experience thus far. By themselves they decided to do a before and after. It was a mazing what they came up with. Trinity shared her picture of a girl living inside a tv and then a girl on the outside. She said she knew what was real now. BellaSky shared a picture of circles and there were lines connecting the circles and they represented all her ides and toys/games, then a picture of a girl and a box/tv not connected. Her after picture was one huge circle on top and and I love you sign(sign language image) She said she felt more connected. I shared a circle with just one or two colors as my before and then my after was a circle filled with many colors. There is more of me because of this experiment.
What I gained was more focus on them and focus on myself. Learning how to play with them, and learning how to have fun in my life, Reading more to them, and taking up reading for myself. I read to them before, but not like I was when we put the tv away. I stopped telling them to wait and hold on, or I will be right there-and them waiting forever for me. I felt a lot of shame around that. I was making them wait a lot of the time. All because I wasn't taking good care of myself. The computer became my refuge and wasn't really a healthy refuge. It was addictive and really disconnecting me from me...and them. They got used to waiting for me. And that isn't the mother I wanted to be. I wondered how I got there and how it all began because I wasn't the type of person who connected this way. I was feeling a little sorry for myself a little...
My biggest aha moment was...they were my mirror. I was getting tired of looking at them sit in front of the tv, looking disconnected and unhappy, but really I was looking at myself. I was disconnected and unhappy. I projected all of that onto them.
Two days before the eighth day they decided they wanted to extend the experiment for 5 more days. I was surprised. I didn't initiate that. I was concerned because their cousins were coming to visit. I wondered if they were going to want to watch movies. They didn't until the last night they slept over and they just turned it on. After the movie was over they came down and said we watched a movie with a smile. I smiled back at them because I knew. They have the freedom to do so. I loved that they decided on their own and didn't feel it was necessary to talk about it with me.
My time became my refuge. Being awake, not looking to zone out or shut off. I didn't really find reading satisfying as long as I can remember. I actually find joy in reading now. I am on my third book in one month. I was asking for 20 mins of alone time in the house when I was feeling frustrated, still do. When I felt anxious in my body, I stretched or danced, still do. When I worked really hard and I was tired, i allowed myself to lay down and just breath or watch the kids play. And when they asked me to join in, I would respond with mommy is really tired but I will watch you while I lay here. I was making space for myself and my needs. I was also making plans to meet those needs, like going for a bike ride or a hike with a friend. I started sewing. I wanted a hobby. I wanted to create something. Being off the computer allowed me to reconnect with me and really get to know what my needs were and are. I am not on facebook anymore except the one time in the month (which was two days ago I think)to say thank you for my birthday wishes. I wonder if I will go back on. It feels good to not get rid of it because then it would just be easy to say well if it isn't there then i can't go on. But I really want to practice the art of self control or self regulation.

The children played more with their time, they chatted more, they came up with ideas together, they argued, they were outside, they made up scripts and performed...I have to say they were more creative then before... I think.... They were lighter. By the end of the day they were exhausted. They would just pass out. The tv wasn't there to keep them up. I thought that was interesting. This isn't a debate or proof whether tv is better or not. It was just an experiment. They learned something about themselves and that is for themselves. We read a lot still, we play still, they still do all the things they were doing before. They are just really happy people with the freedom to choose what they want to do with their time.
When it starts to bother me when I see them in front of the tv I just turn to myself and ask what do I need to do right now for me in this moment?


Angela said...

Interesting. I don't so much mind the kids watching TV, they seem to self-regulate pretty well. But I have def. been feeling like I'm spending more time on the computer than I am comfortable with. And it's for a lot of the reasons you mentioned. My own little experiment, I think, is that I'm going to ask friends to text me if they want to invite us to something that very day, and otherwise limit my computer time to once or twice per day when they are sleeping or otherwise engaged.

Natalie said...

Enjoy your experiment and let me know how it goes. :)Some people actually called me b/c they knew I wasn't on the computer and they new I didn't text either. I forgot to write that. I told people to stop texting I have to say since this experiment it doesn't bother me when they watch tv and the amount..I know why now...It really is amazing to me how much power we have over what we make ourselves believe. And that most of the time, well in my case it isn't true.:)
Thanks for posting on my blog and not facebook. I am not on it anymore...right now.