Our family had gone bonkers, as far as I was concerned. The newest was born, and with him came new and frequent family conflict. Outside of the house, we were fine. Under the backdrop of sunny park days and quick trips to Target, it looked like I had my three children lined up like three sweet, fuzzy ducklings. Inside the house, however, was a constant, crazy power struggle. Parents versus children: Who would win, and at what cost? Something had to change. I was desperate.
“Can I watch a show?” asks my prima donna almost-5-year-old on Monday afternoon.
I brace myself for impact. “Not today,” I say, carefully. “We aren’t watching TV this week.”
“Because we all haven’t been very happy lately, and I think that if we don’t watch TV, our family will be happier.”
Then, without a word, she turns around and walks to her room to play.
“We’ve avoided the Hulk,” I whisper to myself, completely dumbfounded. But my hopes aren’t high. It’s only Monday.
The day is warm, and we play outside. They ask for TV; I say no. Naps come easily and, later, the atmosphere is pleasant as my girls dance around the house, listening to the “Coco” soundtrack. Obedience is up; bickering and my blood pressure, down.
“Can we have a picnic on the floor and watch a show for lunch?” asks the 3-year-old.
“We aren’t watching TV this week, remember?”
A small tantrum ensues. It’s quickly resolved with a hug and a PB&J. Not horrible, I think. Still counting the minutes until this all falls apart.
The day is fine; the girls are very agreeable. The air in the house feels light and carefree. I’ve started being silly with them again.
Big Sister gets to go to a princess-themed birthday party. It’s the first time Little Sister has not been invited along. Little Sister puts on her Elsa dress and cries the whole way home after we’ve dropped off Big Sister.
“Can I watch a show?” she pleads with big, wet, blue eyes.
I look at my watch and see I have an hour before I need to leave for a meeting. Shower, makeup, fix dinner, feed the newborn, entertain and comfort Little Sister.
“OK. Do you want to watch ‘Frozen’ in your Elsa dress?”
I quickly accomplish everything I need to. I feel a little guilty but more relieved than anything else.
Another meeting. I come home. I find two happy girls and a messy house.
“Dad let us watch Rugrats!” they proclaim.
Sunday is busy and fun. No one even thinks about the TV.
The day flies by. Everyone is chill, even the baby.
“Mom? Can we watch a show while you make dinner?”
“How about you play something else, girls. Remember? We aren’t watching TV this week.”
I’m not sure how long I’ll make this no TV thing go on. The new policy might last indefinitely. Our days sail smoothly and the major meltdowns over minor things are easily avoided. I am in awe of the transformation; the difference is tangible. Is this really because of the absence of TV? I don’t know. But there’s something wholesome we all feel when redirecting and finding something concrete to do with our spare time. My family life was spiraling out of control, but maybe all we needed to do to diffuse the parent-child power struggle was lose the remote and power down.