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You spent six months unplugged and you did WHAT?!

Submitted by on Wednesday, 19 January 2011 3 Comments

It’s an event almost as foreseeable as predicting that someone this week will call today’s kids “the dumbest generation”:

A family will “unplug” – shed all electronics for an arbitrary period. Let’s say, oh, six months. They’ll put away the iPods, ditch the smart phones and unhook the home network.

Someone will write about it in gushing terms: “Susan Maushart lived out every parent’s fantasy: She unplugged her teenagers.”

Commenters, many perhaps also pining to live like Laura Ingalls Wilder, will swoon: “I am totally speechless and just amazed by this woman/mother’s courage for what she not only thought in her mind to do but actually did it. I dreamt of doing such as this woman did for her family.”

Did “for” her family or “to” her family?

And what exactly did she do?

According to MSNBC, “she and her kids rediscovered small pleasures — like board games, books, lazy Sundays, old photos, family meals and listening to music together instead of everyone plugging into their own iPods.”

Is that all? I would have thought that with that much free time they would have discovered a cure for cancer or AIDS. Maybe worked on resolving the global warming debate once and for all.

Instead, she did things that we have no problem doing every single week, even when we’re a slave to sports schedules and activities. I suppose it counts against us that many of the photos we look at are digital and that the music comes via computer. We do, however, play Sorry! and Monopoly the old-fashioned way. We also read to each other every night.

That all sounds a little Alpha Mom-ish sanctimonious, but I don’t mean it that way. I just hate it when people blame technology for their problems, tempting though it is at times. People who’ve known me for a while, though, know that my house was a mess before I bought my first computers. I just did more crafts and less PhotoShop back then. Is photography an inferior hobby merely because it involves electronics?

But, then, to admit that families do find time to be families while also being wired would play against the “every parent’s fantasy” cliche. It could cut into her book sales as well.

I have no desire to unplug the guys. Neither do I want to turn off the electricity, which Maushart did for a few weeks as a walkup to what she calls “The Experiment.”

Yes, I do unplug them temporarily at times but that’s usually as a consequence for bickering. If you can’t play nicely, the Wii goes in the closet.

Yes, there are instances where they fall into the cyberworld and have to be told that it’s a beautiful day outside and they should go play with their friends. I don’t view those reminders as a sign of moral weakness on their part. I look at them as falling within the normal parenting job description, which includes setting limits.

And, yes, there are times when the guys spend more electronic time than they should – that’s usually when they’re off school but I’m not off work.

But by and large, we’ve always lived the way the Mausharts do now that they’re replugged. It didn’t even take six months off the grid for me to figure out her new mantra: “There isn’t a kid on the planet who wouldn’t really rather be playing a board game than sitting at the computer,” she said.

But, then, where’s the big paycheck from selling books to luddites in admitting that parents never have had to trash the cables to connect with their kids?

Copyright 2011 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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  • Genevieve said:

    Hear, hear! You’ve written this exactly how I feel when I roll my eyes at stories like these.

  • Genevieve said:

    To add: I don’t remember anyone in the 50s harping about how they needed to ditch technology and go back to butter churns and horse buggies.

  • Debra said:

    No, but, believe it or not, people did howl when written books first were produced. It seems that memorizing everything was intellectually superior! I’m so glad we’re over that. Sort of. I just finished reading “The Shallows,” and that guy seemed to think that electronic calendars and reminders are making us forgetful. Um, no. I was forgetful before – I’m more likely to remember if I can set something to beep at me.