I am at odds with what to do in our family life. There is a struggle ensuing between culture and character and I know what we need to do but the fear of the fight keeps our family on the fence.
For those who don’t know, our family does a thing we call “Renewing Our Minds” at random and sometimes regular times. During these times we turn off electronics or more specifically “screens.” It means that during this time we don’t play computer games, ipads, ipods, movies, TV, etc. The only permitted activity is required activity for school research, paying bills, work, and the like. In addition during this time, we intentionally push into Jesus and each other. If you have never tried it, I HIGHLY recommend it.
We started 2018 with a month of renewing our minds. For the entire month of January, we have been renewing our minds. Each time we do these I reflect on the changes I see in my kids and I appreciate things I would never have seen if we were not doing it. Here are a few examples:
We play board games…A LOT
It’s not that our family doesn’t play games together at other times but during these times of renewing our minds, we see board games played every night, throughout the day, and all the kids, parents, friends, and whoever comes to the house join in. When computers and movies are in the mix this just doesn’t happen and if it does, it is rare.
My kids want to hang with me
My 14-year-old son found out that I was going out with a couple of friends on Friday night. He indicated that he wanted to go and just “hang out with dad.” That phrase itself brings tears of breakthrough to my eyes as my heart shouts WOW! He actually wants to hang out with me!? I invited him along. It was just dinner and then hanging out back at our place but it was awesome.
Conversation and laughter happen regularly
Did you know your kids enjoy just sitting in the living room and talking to you, laughing, telling jokes and releasing the occasional bodily boy noise to infuse the conversation with further laughter or disgust? The times this past month we have just sat, talked, and laughed is unbelievable. The memories and deepening relationships are such a treasure.
Our daily family devotions get intimate
Because of the “pressing in” to Jesus, our kids become more aware of the Holy Spirit. This month during renewing our minds we are doing a daily proverb. The kids read it on their own before devo and then I read it aloud from a different translation with the family. We talk about wisdom and what God is saying. This month has been some of the most intimate discussions on Jesus and the Spirit of Wisdom we have ever had. My nine-year-old is asking to borrow my highlighter and highlighting the parts of her Bible where the Holy Spirit is speaking to her during her own quiet time as are my older boys. When we come together they share what the Holy Spirit is sharing with them. What joy fills my heart!
Imagination comes alive
This morning I learned that during the month of January the kids have been working on a “fort” in the woods. They were telling me about the walls, gates, doors, how hard it is for adults to get in but they want me to come see it. My kids came together at 9, 13, 14 and 16 and together are building a fort with their imaginations. Even today, on a quiet Saturday, as I write this I realize, if the computer games were options they would be in playing right now. But, instead, the one with the greatest addiction to computers led the charge, rallied the troops and encouraged everyone to come join him in finishing their fort. This moment is what brought me to write this letter this morning.
There is a general peace in our home
Our home is usually a peaceful place but during these months there just seems to be an extra level of calm. People are not as tense with each other, we get along more. Maybe it is the laughter and conversations building deeper relationships but the result is, we just get along better and things are more peaceful.
Going to bed is no longer a fight
I know you might not believe this but, they get tired, get ready for bed and even sometimes just come to us and ask if we can come pray with them and tuck them in. It doesn’t happen every night but, it does happen. This adds to the level of peace in our home as well.
Something you should know about us
Our family is already counter-cultural. We don’t do cell phones for our kids, we don’t have cable television, we don’t do Netflix, we have relatively strong limits (by cultural comparison) on our kid’s computer usage. By all standards of “electronic usage,” we are already counter-cultural. Despite that, I still see a HUGE difference in my kids just by unplugging.
“It’s just part of our culture and kids need to know how to use electronics.” This is the main argument I get from other families who want to argue against the insanity of restricting or even cutting off electronics. But, I am starting to recognize something. The term “normal” is a subjective and culturally shifting descriptor. What do I mean? “Normal” today is not the same “normal” of 20, 30, 40 or 50 years ago. “Normal” today in America means a cell phone, a mac book, a social media account, secret friends on text messaging and neat ways to have hidden relationships mom and dad may not know about with open doors to drugs and sex. So, what do we do when “normal” is not what we want for our kids. What if we want them to be better at having family meals than texting while eating. What if knowing how to smile, bring joy, laughter and have a face-to-face conversation is more important than the new “normal.” What if I want my kids to enjoy being a kid, not grow up to fast, not worry about dating, sex, drugs and “experiencing the real-world” as we know it. It doesn’t mean they can’t experience responsibility, learn to do responsible things like getting a job, earn money, give, save and spend responsibly.
So, what do we do?
This is the challenge I am struggling with today as we come to the end of January. My heart is breaking because I have come to value who my kids are and who our family is together when electronics and screens aren’t interfering. My heart is hurting because in a few days my kids are leaving and returning to who they were before this. The fort will become a distant and deteriorating memory. Board games will be put away. Laughter will quiet and phrases like “hang with dad” will take a backseat to “Can I have an extra hour of computer time tonight?” or “Can we do a movie tonight?” Movies will divide the family as 4 screens in different rooms all show movies to the liking of the person’s preference.
As I reflect on this the thought hits me to not let go. Don’t stop renewing our minds. Keep going! Allow for some occasional movie or computer time but on the whole, keep them disabled. Because the life we have without those things is so much sweeter than the life with them. It is crazy to think about but what would happen if we actually did something that crazy? People would say we weren’t normal. They may think we are religious nuts or that our kids are not properly versed in the ways of the “real-world” (an accusation made against us once). I am not doubting whether we are raising our kids right or if we are doing a good enough job. I have school grades, community services, friends, and newspaper articles to suggest we are doing something right. Good enough is the biggest roadblock to better, best or great. What I am asking is, can we do something better. Can we show our kids a life better than “normal”? Can we teach them to live for something greater than what everyone else is doing? I say we can! But, I recognize it will be a challenge. So, today I am asking myself if I am up to the challenge because it is clear that the reward is worth it.