So last week I was at the library to pick up some DVDs and books using the new curbside service. Long story short my order was mixed up and I ended up waiting and waiting and after one of the gracious servers had looked high and low for my DVDs and books I gave up and went home. While it was a bummer, what I did not know was the whole thing was a blessing in disguise. You see the DVDs were for the kids. Wait let me backtrack a bit. This past summer we were fortunate enough to buy a “mummy van” complete with 6-7 seats, cup holders everywhere and boy have we not enjoyed having the car – it has made even simple trips to McDonalds seem like a road trip. One of the added perks is that it came with a DVD player. Yep – here I am – founder of screens n kids purchasing a mini van with a screen – the irony. My husbands and I vision was wow this will be great for 8-10hour long trips – to I have no idea where – with all these travel bans and 14 day quarantines. I just figured the DVD would be tameable. But Lo and behold, slowly by slowly my husband and I started turning it on like constantly – as soon as we jumped in the car our son would shout, ” I want to watch the show. ” and as soon as we turned it on there it was – that glazed starry eyed look that our kids get when “watching a show.” So you can say I had a love hate/relationship with it and I just did not know how we were going to wean this thing off. Enter mix up at the library. As I drove off from the library, I had a little panic – like oh my goodness what will the kids do now in the car. I had quickly forgotten that two months ago, before we bought the van they were doing perfectly fine in a mini car with no DVD – happily counting school buses on our way to school. And I suddenly knew it as that panic we as parents are made to feel when we cannot have access to a device to hand our kids before a meltdown ensues. However, as serendipity would have it, that week on the Colin Kartchner podcast – he had a guest who had the same problem years ago when they had bought their van and ended up literally uninstalling it as a way to reduce screen use. She was highlighting how as a family they have gone screen free and the results have been amazing. So there I was – armed with “tools” from one of my favorite podcasts ready to battle a pre schooler on why I was ripping away his digital candy. As soon as I picked up our kids from pre school I waited for it, and after the snacks were devoured, the day was “unpacked” I waited for it. And sure as day, “mommy where is my rescue bots show?” I inhaled. Slowly I said, ” I had to take back the DVDs to the library and they did not have the Super why DVD ready.” Then the silence. I do not know if it was fatigue from the long day at school, or utter disbelief that the world was caving in there was just no pushback. I glanced at him using the driver’s mirror – he had already turned his focus outside. His younger sister sat happily munching on apples. I immediately pivoted – as is the routine with parenting toddlers – ” So you told me your teacher taught you Yoga today?” that must have been so cool. Then day two came, day three and on day four my son yelled from the backseat, “mommy look two rainbows.” I looked up to see the the most beautiful rainbow and its reflection I think which made it a double rainbow. I smiled to myself and nodded – yep thank you for the DVD mix up screen free gods. Today is what sealed the deal for me. Right as we approached the train tracks we see the rail tracks turn red and heard the sound of the local train in the distance. We were right at the front of the car line. And there it came – sending the kids shouting and waving to whoever would wave back from the train. As soon as the lights turned green, the road we take to go home runs parallel to the train and we did something we used to do with our “little car” before the mummy van. We raced the train until it was out of sight. All the while the kids were squealing with delight. I knew then and there that it is the small things that will save our kids from excess screen use and protect the early years. So here I am raising my hand up to say, I have messed up in this screen and parenting journey, and if you are right here with me – allow and extend yourself grace. We can swing back the pendulum to that place our kids can enjoy their childhood and still interact with technology in moderation. I heard it is called ” the digital sweet spot.” In the meantime let me go continue to chase trains and gaze at double rainbows through the lens of a 4 and 2 year old.
We have such a brief opportunity to pass on to our children our love for this Earth, and to tell our stories. These are the moments when the world is made whole. -Richard Louve