Mothering Heights: Parental Unplugging

By Christine Fugate.

The last few weeks of school are like the final days of pregnancy. You’re so busy getting ready for it that by the time your water breaks, the final school bell rings, you are desperate for that baby face to pop out and say, “Wah, wah! It’s summer time, Mommy!”

Don’t get me wrong. The school play, end of year parties and awards ceremonies are fabulous, but can I please have one night at home with my box of Good ‘n Plenty and some trash TV?

Then one day, there’s no alarm, no need crawl to the coffee pot and no confusion about tuna sandwiches for breakfast or scrambled eggs for lunch.

On Day No. 1 of summer, I bolted out of bed at 7 a.m.

“We missed the bus!” I yelled. My little one, snuggled next to me, opened her eyes for a minute then went back to sleep. Then it hit me. Summer had arrived.

With that knowledge, I slept late on Day No. 2, awaking at 10 a.m. to an extremely quiet house.

“Hello? Anybody home?”  No answer. Had my girls been kidnapped by an alien space ship or were they actually still asleep? The reality was neither. They were tucked away on the couch, headphones on, engrossed in electronic devices.

“Oh no,” I grumbled. Was I going to actually have to parent these kids now? Guide them away from the hypnotic spell of electronics and create a healthy activity that uses their mind, body and soul?

Not today. I drank some orange juice and headed back to bed.

On Day #3, I awakened to the same electronic hazed quiet. I crawled to the kitchen, made some coffee and came up with a half-baked plan.

“Ten more minutes on the electronics then it’s time to play some games, read a book, play outside.” Of course, no one heard me because they were tuned out with headphones. I repeated myself to no avail.

That’s when I pulled out the hammer, grabbed my 11-year-old’s iPhone and smashed it to pieces.

As if. I’m not that crazy. The whining and cries from that disaster would send me right back to Bellevue where I belong.

After a few more cups of coffee, I made my big move and gathered up all the electronics.

“It’s time to unplug, kids.”

“Mom, I’m bored,” my 10-year-old whined.

“It’s only been two minutes.”

“What am I supposed to do?”

“Here, read the paper.” I handed them the latest Indy. “There’s a whole section on your schools.”

And what was on the front page of the special report on our schools? Kids with headphones listening to an electronic device! Seriously? What happened to the good old cap and gown photos?

“See, Mom,” my girls screeched.

“Turn the page,” I mumbled. As they read, I locked myself in the bathroom with my phone and did what every parent does when she needs help: I posted an SOS on Facebook.

Within minutes, I had great advice: Change the passwords, make them earn minutes, and declare the TV is broken. Also, great suggestions of sleep away camp, tennis camp, a puppy and, our current activity, Junior Guards. “When the sun is up, the screens are off” is a good rule of thumb, as long as I’m not awakened as soon as the sun pops up.

I’m mulling it over, torn between allowing an hour of electronic usage and then earning minutes or reading and writing in 15 minute blocks to earn electronic minutes. Should I use the carrot or the whip?

Think I’ll try the whip. Read first, plug in later. I’ll let you know how it goes via Facebook, evoking the first rule of parenting, ‘Do as I say, not as I do.’


Christine can be reached at [email protected]

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