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The 10 Day TV Detox

Photograph by Twenty20

Before I begin my day-by-day narrative of "The 10 Day TV Detox," let me first introduce the cast of characters.

First up is Daddy. I'll admit right off the bat that he is not participating in said detox. He works a good 60+ hours each week and after the little ones' bedtime he is in need of a little TV time. Plus, the Seahawks season is alive and well so he gets a pass. Finally, this mama just bought him a new recliner from the one and only La-Z-Boy and the good Lord knows I don't want that to go to waste. So, Daddy TV time it is. Just not in front of the kids.

Then we've got Jemma, almost five, and her little brother, Max who just turned three but still acts like his terrible two former self. Jemma is fine without TV. Yes, she has shows she enjoys, but she has also been know to say, "It's not healthy for my eyes to have screen time every day." Max, the real reason behind this experiment, is addicted. He wakes up and asks for my iPhone, he hands it back to walk downstairs and request a DVD, he finishes his movie to see if either Apple TV or the iPad is at his disposal. What have I done?

Oh, I know, it was called the first trimester with Baby #3 and a crazy busy summer. All of which can be summed up as: survival mode.

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Me? I'm the the crazy behind this whole detox. Summer is over, we've moved into a school routine and I have found myself in the more sane, less queasy phase of pregnancy. And well, frankly, it's time to whip this place back into shape. Or at least some resemblance of a better, less TV-focused normal. Bear with me—I anticipate this being a long 240 hours. Cross your fingers I don't break!


I decided to start things on a Sunday because church was already in the plans and that takes care of Max's normal morning routine of begging me to go from screen to screen to screen. We got home, had a picnic lunch to distract us all and then took naps.

After nap is when the meltdown and negotiations began. I opted for the route of saying our TV was tired and needed a break. It even got a blanket draped over it for a true "night night" experience. Max was not amused. Jem was curious how long it would be sleeping. I said for a very long time and reverted back into distraction mode—play dough, new markers, Hot Wheel races. At last, we arrived at bedtime.


Save us all. This ship might sink.

It was just a bad, bad day of begging to wake up the TV. I said, "No!" 427 times. We did not, in fact, sink, but withdrawals are obviously in full effect.


Yay! A friend is coming to play! The main topic of conversation was our sleeping TV… gosh, I must sound like an awful mother to the outside world. I honestly did not think asking Justin Time and SuperWhy to babysit while I grew a new tiny human for a few weeks would become such an issue. The beginning of this detox is proving difficult. But, I am strong! I grow people—three to date! I can also detox said people from TV, just watch!


Another bad day. We might not be watching a lot of TV, but we sure talk about it a lot. Plus, it rained. I had no imminent errands so we were practically homebound. We with no screen time. The horrors!

Truly, I'm thankful to have Daniel Tiger and Disney movies as willing babysitters when I'm not feeling well or needing a mom time out. But long-term, it just wasn't an option for our family.


Are we turning a corner? Perhaps. Today was full of sibling playing/pestering, a visit to Target (aka mom heaven) and the park. I also started an activity jar full of ideas. When I sense a TV request coming, I pull it out with excitement and one of the kids gets to choose a new, amazing, super awesome activity like "Play soccer in the backyard" or "Build a tower" or "Read books on Mama and Daddy's bed".


Max woke up and asked for pancakes right away. I was game because 1) I love pancakes and 2) I felt immense joy that his first thought was breakfast and not the TV! Detox progress!


We made it to the weekend! Daddy is home and when Max saw him reaching for the remote, Max said, "No, no Daddy. Too much TV isn't healthy!" Looks like I have a little parrot on my hands. And more detox victory!


Back to Sunday! I honestly didn't think this day would come. It has been a trying week. Beyond trying, really. I wanted to give up 10+ times each day, but instead, dug my mama roots deep and pressed on. And it's paying off. Max is still aware of the TV, but not obsessed. His obsession has turned into a serious curiosity about whether or not he'll ever get to watch one of his beloved DVDs again.

Little does he know a surprise is coming! His grandma and aunt are bringing over a new movie for a weekend popcorn party before bed! I figured that all detoxes must come to an end and that using our final detox days to slowly begin a new normal would be wise. So, we're celebrating with a showing of "Home."

RELATED: How Do I Keep My Baby From Becoming a Screen Zombie?


A new week begins a new routine. And the deal is that we listen to music or books on tape the mornings we are home. Then lunch and nap. After nap, while Mama cooks dinner, Jemma and Max can agree on a show or movie. Agree being the key. I presented the plan after breakfast and they loved the idea! One whole show or movie? We love you Mama!!!

DAY 10

Both kids can now recite the daily routine to me, including when TV time is allowed. I'm amazed at how having a specific routine has morphed their attitudes. Parent-guided expectations and boundaries can truly change a child. It's the sweetest thing to hear them talking about what show they should watch together while molding play dough or running around in the backyard. Max, my wild three-year-old, has gone as far as saying, "You can pick today, Jemmie!" Did a TV detox seriously grow magical manners inside this boy?

There is no doubt in my mind this detox did us all well. It was timely too with the start of school and changing of the seasons. I don't regret falling into a TV routine. Truly, I'm thankful to have Daniel Tiger and Disney movies as willing babysitters when I'm not feeling well or needing a mom time out. But long-term, it just wasn't an option for our family. With less TV we're happier, healthier and doing a lot more living now that we're not tied to our screens.

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