For the last four years, my mother, son, and I have taken a vacation in Vacationland – also known as my home state of Maine. More people live in Southern Westchester County than in the entire state, so it may come as no surprise when I tell you that my favorite aspect of my time there is being able to disconnect. We spend a week (sometimes two) on Webb Lake with no television, cell service, or WiFi. We invite friends to visit or tag along, but most of our time is spent together as a family swimming, reading, playing games, cooking, or kayaking.
Recently, there have been several popular articles about the benefits of allowing your child to be bored during the summer. Parents know boredom often means whining, mischief, or being nagged to sword fight for the billionth time (just me on this one?).
But, after our first summer spent disconnected and allowing my son – an only child – to embrace the boredom, I saw its benefits.
I am certainly not one of those “no screen time ever” moms. In fact, we prepare for rainstorms by downloading some family movies onto iPads – just in case. And, much of our seven-hour car ride this year was spent on devices. However, the miraculous thing I’ve found is when we get to camp, something in us switches. My son prefers card games and fishing with me during these weeks to screen time. In fact, this year, he went four days without asking to watch one of his movies. As I binge-watched my son catching frogs, making friends with neighbors he’d just met, and using his imagination instead of the new season of Stranger Things, I felt an elevated contentedness that I don’t remember feeling before. He fashioned several crossbows from sticks and an old, nylon clothesline and I was impressed by the effect boredom had on him.
This got me curious about why we don’t disconnect more often during the rest of the year.
During the school week, I use screen time as a tool. My son has to get his homework done, eat dinner, and complete at least one chore before he can watch. Sure it incentives doing the right thing but, why did I use that as a carrot? The answer I found was that screen time is easy. I don’t have to participate in it, giving me time to finish up work, do dishes, or relax. These are all important activities, don’t get me wrong, but when I think back to how I felt at the end of our vacation – centered and closer than ever to my family – I know I want that more than just once a year.
How can I get it? That I am still trying to work out. When we returned to Yonkers, things went right back to normal. I focused on work and catching up on e-mails. He played his Switch. We watched the new Spider-Man movie. The world is as it was.