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Yesterday, I was ruminating on one of my perennial favorite topics for rumination and parental self-flagellation: too much screen time. I’m not going to confess how many hours every week my son spends watching TV and playing video games, but let’s just say it’s a lot. And there are reasons for it, good reasons, which is why we never end up limiting screen time even though we talk about the possibility of limiting screen time at least six dozen times a week.
But yesterday, I think I discovered the solution. Screen-Free Saturdays. My husband was all over it immediately. It took me the rest of the day to figure out how to break the news to my son. I finally decided to use one of my favorite paradoxical parenting techniques: prediction.
“I’ve got this new idea for Saturdays and I’m scared to tell you because you’re really, really going to hate it.”
“What is it?”
I could see my son bite down the words he really wanted to say.
“No, I think it’s a great idea!” he said with false cheer. “I’m really excited! I don’t hate it at all! It will be fun!”
When you have a child who reflexively disagrees with you no matter what you say, you might as well make it work for you.
Today is our first screen-free Saturday, and since my son is sitting next to me playing NBA2K (while I’m on my computer writing a quick blog post) and since we’re planning a movie after dinner, you might wonder just how screen-free it’s going to be. But one evening movie was the reprieve I offered for all of us to look forward to after ten hours of tech-free togetherness, and one morning video game was the compromise my son and I reached last night when he confessed how he really felt about screen-free Saturdays. I figured that even subtracting 20 minutes for a video game in the morning and 90 minutes for a movie in the evenings, we’d still have many screen-free hours to enjoy.
What are we going to do with our screen-free time?
I’m imagining lots of board games. The occasional outing. Longer dog walks. Trips to the gym. When weather permits, shooting hoops or throwing the football. Table tennis? I’ll pull out my coloring books and origami set. Maybe my son will dream up a building project or art project of some kind. He likes to tinker and make stuff and create, but he rarely does that since TV and video games are so much more immediately engaging. Maybe we’ll bake cookies. Maybe we’ll be so bored we clean the house. Maybe we’ll develop some new hobby that I can’t even imagine right now.
It will be time together, though, the quality time that I crave having more of with my son. There are just 23 seconds left on his video game. Let the screen-free time begin!