I decided that starting on January 1st I was giving up TV for a month. I know this isn’t a radical idea. Lots of people don’t watch TV. But here’s the reason I’ve decided to go on a TV diet.
We had fallen into a bad rut as a family.
It probably started two or maybe even three years ago when the kids were all out of the toddler/baby stage and were staying up a bit later. On a Friday night we’d order some pizza and sit around the coffee table to watch a movie. There was little mess, it was comfortable and fun. And then slowly we started doing that Saturday nights, as well and then Sunday for our dinner/lunch after church, and eventually, yes, I am so ashamed to admit it, weeknights, too. We are a busy family. We were tired. It was easy. It was pleasurable.
But then it was not. Instead of typical dinner conversation (“What did you do today? “What are everyone’s highs and lows?”), my kids would ask, “What are we going to watch?” They were turning into little TV heads. And there’s not all that much great programming out there for families these days. We’d end up watching mediocre shows or movies where their dad would usually fall asleep and I’d end up surfing the internet. Great family time, right?
And now we’re even busier than ever.
I’ve got a new part-time job that has a rather long commute and takes me out of the house three days a week. My oldest is involved in his first real sport with lots of practices and meets, my middle son has discovered a love and a talent for karate and my youngest is clamoring for his turn to do an activity. Then there’s church, the occasional meet-ups with friends and maybe if we’re lucky, a date night. It’s a busy, busy season!
And yet each night instead of coming together around the table to look at each other in the eyes, discuss the day, laugh at the silly things my kids say and hear them laugh with each other – it’s a house full of boys – everything is funny! – we were gathering around the boob tube and zoning out.
It began to weigh on me. I didn’t want to give it up, but you know how you get that tug on your spirit? That nudge that says you’re not walking in the light? I began to wonder what all I might accomplish if I didn’t turn the TV on. What life might be like without any TV at all. Would I sleep more? Pick up knitting? Go out of my mind?
I’d been thinking about this for a while when I heard a replay of a sermon by Billy Graham. He said we still have our idols and that TV was one of them. That people put TV watching over more productive things and he’d been to houses where they wouldn’t turn it off to have a conversation. While I would hope I was still courteous enough not to turn the TV on while guests were over, what about turning it off for long enough to talk to my family? Things that make you go hmmm…
I remember being a kid and having to go to my Grandmother’s for a week almost every summer. She had a TV, but almost never turned it on. So while we were there we had to find things to do. We rarely had toys there – maybe a few things we brought in the car (she lived 8 hours away). So we played outside. We made up silly games. We went for walks and played at the small park by her house. And the thing is I really remembered those times. It may not have been super exciting, but sometimes boredom brings out the best of your creativity. Boredom is not necessarily a bad thing. And I tell my kids that ALL THE TIME. But while I insist they find other things to do besides video games and TV, I’m still filling my idol hours with plenty of TV and most of it is not very good.
So although I certainly never considered myself a person who worshiped my TV… I started to think maybe I did. I loved “my shows”. And Fixer Upper maybe be wholesome good fun, but it still is just me and the TV and there’s not any room for anyone else in that equation. I can watch it with my kids, my husband, but we’re each having our own experience with it – and it is an “it”. We’re interacting with a thing, but aren’t we put on this earth to interact with things, we’re here to interact with each other (after all, remember God made Eve because he saw it wasn’t good for man to be alone.)
And sometimes – and if we’re honest it’s more often than not – that thing is spewing offensive, inappropriate, counter-Christian junk at us, and while we can shake our heads and comment at how wrong it is, we’re not turning it off either. So there it is. A big plastic, and electronic idol that is not made in God’s image, it’s made in man’s AND it talks!
Well, I can tell you that three days in, yes, I’ve gone to bed earlier. I’m listening more to my body’s cues that say – hey, you’re tired, go to bed already – instead of falling asleep to a TV show on the sofa, waking up and making a half-hearted attempt at brushing my teeth and washing my face and then trying settle back down to sleep, which often involved turning the TV back on again.
But what’s more, I’ve been looking at my kids in the face during meal times instead of a side view of them under the glow of the TV. We’ve played games. We’ve had story time. I’ve tucked everyone in every night. My two youngest have spent hours in their rooms playing together. And the thing I’m the most pleasantly surprised about is that I thought it was going to be really hard. I was really dreading giving it up. But so far… I don’t really mind at all. I can’t think of one show that won’t wait for me once this TV fast is up. And look at me! I’ve found an hour to write a blog post! What will I accomplish in a month?
I plan on ending my “TV fast” on February 2. I’ plan to post again once this is over. But maybe it won’t end February 2. I secretly hope I’ll continue on as am I am, never bow to the boob tube again. 🙂
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