Rediscovering Our Offscreen Personas

My offscreen persona likes hanging out in hammocks, sipping cold piña coladas, and playing cards with my three boys.

We’ve been home from our trip for 18 hours. As I worked my way through eight loads of dirty laundry today, I was reflecting on what made last week so special. Certainly a large part of the joy found in the Galapagos Islands was attributable to creatures we had never before seen, landscapes that were harsh and yet strikingly beautiful, and new endeavors we were just trying on for size. But, what is more important is not what we found but instead what we were lacking. Last week, we were devoid of television, video games, Netflix, and Apple TV. We didn’t have shows waiting for us on our DVR. The boys weren’t glued to YouTube videos on their computer or busy mentally purchasing new action figures on Amazon.com. Without his Legos, Luke sat with other kids in the Kids’ Corner of the ship’s lounge for hours playing Monopoly and working out his chess skills. Joe got lost in the ship’s library looking at nature books. As a family, we played cards, listened to lectures, and spent time outdoors. Without my iPhone, I wasn’t absorbed in Words With Friends or Mind Feud or texting. Life without screens was as miraculous of a new world as the Galapagos Islands were.

So, I’ve been thinking about some changes I can make in our household lives that might bring us some of the peace and simplicity we enjoyed last week. I’m considering some type of family enrichment program. Nothing too extraordinary, mind you. I don’t want to send my children into culture shock. But, there must be a way to bring things down a notch while still staying connected. Perhaps I put a moratorium on iPhone usage between 5-9 p.m. when we’re all together. Maybe I limit the boys with regard to screen time. A couple hours a week of games and cards rather than television could be beneficial. And, we could make a nightly family walk a ritual rather than a rarity.

A week ago, my sons were present in my life. They were plugged into life and not screens. They woke up early and went to bed early. They weren’t talking to us about things they wanted but instead told us about things they learned. As much as I already miss the islands, I miss the people we were while on the islands more. I’m giving them a down day today. I’m letting them catch up on Ninjago and their Superhero Squad videos. We all needed a break after two consecutive travel days, colds we’re trying to beat, and the chaos that ensues when you return home after 10 days away. But, I’m going to do some research. Maybe we can’t make any big trips like the one we just took again anytime soon. But, I can go to the library, find some videos on far away locations, and take us out of our insular lives occasionally. I mean, I’m never giving up my iPhone. But, I can put it down once in a while and remember what life is like offscreen. Maybe I’ll take the boys outside to stargaze or get a book on local plants and see how many we can scout out during a hike. I’d love to have the boys pick out a recipe we could make together. We’ll still have family movie nights, but maybe I’ll let them teach me chess or challenge them to write a comic book they can share with me. I need to get back to reading to them because we loved that and it got lost. To find ourselves again, I think it’s best that we turn off our screens more often because the reflections we get from them aren’t as true as the reflections we get from each other.