My boys have had a lot of screen time in past summers. Like, a lot. If I calculated it, which I haven’t because WHY WOULD I DO THAT TO MYSELF DENIAL DENIAL DENIAL, you would totally judge me. You would pretend you weren’t judging me by nodding in agreement and relating your own tales of parenting woe. And that would be very sweet of you. But you would secretly be feeling better about yourself because you aren’t THAT bad.
Summers are great and summers are hard. My kids are both teens now and we’re in this weird, in-between space where cute little charts and stickers don’t work. And yet they still need limits. It’s hard when the days are not clearly defined by “school” and “after school,” but in our case, also because of my husband’s job. I’ve mostly been a solo parent in the summer for several years. It kind of stinks to be the bad guy all the time. Nudging them to take a tech break. Or even demanding it. And then in the wake of putting my foot down, dealing with their teenager-y attitudes.
That’s the tricky part. It’s not the screen time. It’s the rift in the relationship that it causes. It’s like any parent-child discipline situation. It’s about the relationship. It’s a constant dance between what the actual issue is and what the emotions are around it. I had grown weary of the constant negotiation around screen time. I mean, I really love my own screen time. It was all feeling very hypocritical and hard. I was dreading summer, unable to envision creative solutions and productive days with two teen boys who are not quite ready for summer jobs.
Enter the Clean Slate Moment. Sometimes you catch a break right when you need one. After six long years of intense year-round travel, my husband has a new job that keeps him close to home. He has worked hard and been gone a lot. Season after season, we made the best of it. We failed often at being totally sure of our decisions, but we made it work. We made it through. And now we are thankfully back to some semblance of normal family life.
Just in time for summer. Gretchen Rubin’s Strategy of the Clean Slate from her book “Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives” says that ANY beginning has a special power to create new, better habits. The slate can be wiped clean on the New Year, a birthday, a new job, a new baby, new home or even by a death or divorce. Our Clean Slate Moment started the day we knew my husband would be home on a regular basis. We seized the opportunity to implement some new strategies and attitudes toward technology. It’s been much easier to process their teenage resistance as a team. And you know what? Sometimes we all partake in some screen action together. It’s fun. Screen time can be family time. We take 80s Movie Education very seriously in our household, and summer is the perfect time to do it.
If you are in the midst of despair over summertime technology excess, seize your own Clean Slate Moment. Make one up. Don’t lose your cool or buckle under the weight of guilt. Take a deep breath. Sometimes you just have to let go of the way it’s being done and wipe it clean. Even if it’s the middle of summer, it’s not too late to regroup. You don’t have to wait for a new job or a new home or a specific date on the calendar to create your own Clean Slate Moment.
Reassess. Start over. Wipe the slate clean and figure out what’s important to you and your family. Go from there.
By Lorri Strand, Kudoso Kontributor