It’s been quiet around here, and with good reason. Every year, the girls and I go to my native Sweden for almost a month to visit with family and friends. I usually take this time to unplug and get away from the constant distractions of social media. As I stated on my bucket list for 2015, my goal is to spend a full week as a family with no screen time at some point this year. I didn’t quite reach that goal during my time in Sweden, but we came pretty close.
As I had suspected, my biggest problem wasn’t pulling the kids away from the screens. It was getting myself weaned from them.
Luckily, my sister was there to help. You see, my sister is kind of old school when it comes to wi-fi. Although her house has it, her concern about electromagnetic radiation has driven her to institute a rather strict wi-fi policy. To minimize electromagnetic radiation all computers and laptops are to be plugged in, and the wi-fi is turned off most of the time.
Honestly, I was a little bit annoyed at first. Getting on my phone to check my emails and mindlessly browse a few social media channels is an ingrained part of my morning routine. It is in fact the first thing I do, before eating breakfast, brushing my teeth or waking up the kids. And it doesn’t end there – in fact I obsessively check my phone throughout the day, as the reward center in my brain lights up every time I see a notification on the screen.
With international data roaming turned off, I was dependent on wi-fi to make this happen. To turn on the wi-fi on at my sister’s house, where we stayed the bulk of the time, you have to climb up the cluttered, dark stairs to the attic, where the router is sitting on the dusty floor like a rejected Christmas present from Aunt Nellie.
Even if I was able to complete the treacherous climb to the attic without major injuries, I always felt rushed and a tad guilty when turning on the wi-fi.
My sister’s dirty looks would tell me when I had left it on too long and she never shied away from telling me to turn it off. After a couple of days, I quit fighting it. Instead I decided to check my phone just once a day, after the kids were in bed.
Guess what? I felt relieved. All of a sudden, my email anxiety and fear of missing out started to fade away. I responded to important work messages at night, went online without feeling the urge to post anything on Facebook, and started to become a little more mindful of the present moment. And the kids? Except for binging on Disney during the nine hour plane ride across the Atlantic, and watching an occasional YouTube video with their older cousin, they easily went three weeks with very little screen time.
Here’s what we did instead:
We vacationed Swedish style: on a campground by the sea.
We fished for crabs for hours, then released them.
We got buried in the sand.
We swam in 60-degree water…
…and heated up around the fireplace in a yurt.
We hiked through a bog. And made our own toys in the forest.