A Letter To My Boys – The Real Reason I Say No To Electronics

[box] While I’m taking a blogging break, I will be posting some of my favorite posts from 2014. Happy New Years![/box]

This is a repost of the most popular post of 2014. I posted in January and again in May.

Boys back
Dear Boys,

Do you remember the day we went to the drugstore and the lady said, “Wow, you are the first kids I’ve seen all day with nothing in your hands.” Remember how she marveled at how you didn’t need an electronic device to carry through the store? I know how her words made you feel. I know how it reminded you that you are different because your mom limits your electronic usage. I know it was yet another reminder.

The same reminder you receive when we are out to eat and you notice all the kids playing their phones and iPads instead of talking to their parents. I know it was a reminder of all the sporting events where you feel you are the only kids whose parents are making them cheer on their siblings rather than burying themselves in a phone. I know it was another reminder to you that you feel different in this electronic age we live in.

Well, boys, it’s not you. It’s me. Me being selfish maybe. You see I can’t bear to miss a moment with you. Let me explain.

I want to talk to you when we are out to eat. I want to listen to your questions. I want to have training opportunities. I want to allow space for conversation that can take us deeper. And if you are always distracted with electronics, well… I might miss those moments.
I could give you all the statistics about how damaging it is to your development, your attention span, your ability to learn. While all of those are valid reasons to keep electronics away, that is not my primary reason why I say no to you so much. It’s more than that. Much more. I need you to understand this.

When we are together, I want all of you. The fullness of you. I want to experience you. Truly experience you. And I can’t do that with you when there is an electronic device between us. You see it acts as a barrier. I want to see what brings life to those eyes. I want to watch the wonder and magic dance across your face as you discover the wonders of this world. I want to watch you as you figure things out. I want to watch you process life, develop your thoughts. I want to know you. I want to know your passions. I want to watch you as you discover your God-given talents and gifts. And when you hide behind a screen, I miss out on all of that. And my time with you….well it will be over in the blink of an eye.

I want to guide you into an understanding of life and who you are. Boys, kids today are starved for attention, true connection and relationship. I don’t want you to feel starved. That is why I say no. I know that feeding the desire to play in your device is like giving you candy. It satisfies for a moment but provides no long term nutrition. It does more harm than good.

I don’t want to look back when I’m out of the trenches of child training and regret a second I had with you. I don’t want to merely survive. I want to thrive in this life with you. We are in it together. We are a family.

Yes, when we are waiting at a doctor’s office for an hour, it would be easier to quiet you with my phone. But if I did that, I fear I would send you a message that says I’d rather hush you than hear those precious words falling from your lips.

I can’t bear the thought of allowing you to miss out on the wonders and mysteries of this world. When you are transfixed on a screen, the beauty of this world will be lost to you. In every moment beauty is waiting to be discovered. I don’t want you to miss it.

I want you to be comfortable with yourself. I want you not to feel a constant need to be entertained and distracted. If you stay behind a screen, you never have to experience just being you, alone with your thoughts. I want you to learn to think, to ponder life, to make discoveries, to create. You have been gifted by God in unique ways. I want those to bloom. They can’t bloom in the glow of a screen. They need life, real life, to bring them to light.

I want you to be confident in who you are. I want you to be able to look people in the eyes and speak life into them. If I allow you to live behind a screen, you get little practice relating eye to eye. To truly know someone you have to look into their eyes. It’s a window into their heart. You see what can’t be seen in cyberspace.

When I tell you no to devices, I’m giving you a gift. And I’m giving me a gift. It’s a gift of relationship. True human connection. It’s precious and a treasure. And you mean so much to me that I don’t want to miss a second of it.

I love how God created your mind. I love to hear the way you think and process life. I love to see what makes you laugh. I love to watch those eyes widen when a new discovery is made. And when your head is behind a screen, I miss all of that. And so do you.
In this life we have few cheerleaders. In this family we will cheer each other on. I know it is boring to sit at swim lessons and watch your brother learn to swim. I know it is boring to sit through a 2 hour baseball practice. And in all honesty, it would be easy for me to give you the iPad and keep you quiet and occupied. But we all lose out when we do that. You will miss out on watching your brother’s new accomplishments. You will deprive him of the joy of his moment to shine for you. You will miss out on what it means to encourage each other.

I want you to grow up knowing the world doesn’t revolve around you. (One day your wife will thank me) I want you to learn to give selflessly of yourself….to give away your time, your talents, your treasures. If I distract you with electronics when you should be cheering for your brother, well, I’m simply telling you that your happiness is more important than giving your time to someone other than yourself.

This world needs more selflessness. This world needs more connection. This world needs more love. We can’t learn these behind a screen.

I want to raise sons that know how to look deeply into the eyes of the ones they love. I want my future daughters in law to know what it’s like to have a husband that looks deeply into her eyes because he knows the value of human relationships and the treasure of love. And that is best communicated eye to eye.

I want to watch your face illuminated by the majesty of life – not the glow of a screen. I want all of you. Because I only have you for a short while. When you pack up and leave for college, I want to look back with no regrets over the time I spent with you. I want to look back and remember how your eyes sparkled when we talked. I want to look back and remember how I actually knew those little quirky details of your life because we had time enough to be bored together.

It’s ok to be bored. We can be bored together. And we can discover new things together.

I love you. I love you too much to quiet you with an iPhone or an iPad or a DS. And I can’t even apologize, because I’m really not sorry. I’m doing this so that I won’t be sorry one day.

With all my love,
Mom

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A Letter To Me (and all moms)- What We Need To Remember Before We Open The Screen

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[box] Today’s post is in response to the requests of many of you. The ones who wrote to me and said, “It’s not my kids who I need to limit their electronic usage, it’s myself.” Or those of you who wrote me and said, “I’m afraid I am the one who is missing out because I can’t put down my phone.” Or the ones who simply said, “Can you write something for us, parents?” The letter I wrote to my boys about why we limit their electronics is viewed at numbers that leave me speechless. Since June I continue to receive emails that leave me in tears. You have asked me to write to husbands, which I did, to ourselves, which I’m doing, and to wives, which I hope to do.

Here’s the thing, technology is wonderful when placed within proper boundaries. It doesn’t take long before it begins to creep out of its boundaries. It doesn’t mind breaking rules. It’s time we put technology back where it belongs. As a helper, not a master.[/box]

Dear Me,

Do you remember the way he handed you the little baby acorn attached to a bigger acorn? The way he said, “Mommy, look it’s a me and you one?” The softness of his still chubby fingers placed in yours. Remember the way you breathed in his freshly shampooed hair as you kissed his forehead with a thank you? Remember the way his eyes said more than his lips uttered?

It was a moment. One single moment in time, never to be another exactly like it. Yes, other moments will be, Lord willing, some may even resemble it. But that moment passed. Build a collection of those moments. Fill books and books with moments. Moments write the story of life. Real life.

Too much time on the screen and you will miss the acorn moments. You won’t realize you are missing them because you are still there. Physically there. If your head is down, he may decide not to offer you the acorn next time. Or he may not think it resembles the “me and you.” He needs your eyes to fully connect to you. He needs to talk to you while looking into your eyes. Hearts connect through the eyes not the screen.

He is good at knowing the difference in you being partly there or fully there. One day he won’t be there at all. And you will have all the time you want for the screen.

The screen doesn’t play fair. You see it won’t sass talk you. It won’t argue. It won’t spill milk. It won’t cry for no reason at all. It’s very predictable. Its mood stays the same from day to day. It doesn’t need anything from you. Instead it tells you to come to it and it will give you a break from the stress of life. It beckons you to escape.

I know the acorn moments don’t equal the tantrum moments, the moments of defiance and disobedience, the moments of accidents in pants when we are too old for accidents in pants. The moments of sibling fighting and hurtful words. Yes, I know the majority of your day isn’t filled with acorn moments.

You need the acorn moments. It’s the acorn moments that lend sweetness to balance the bitter and sour moments that will follow. You need as many acorn moments as you can bank.

Much of your day feels exhausting, stressful, chaotic, and busy. Yes, this is part of life too. It’s tempting to pick up that phone to get away from it all. It’s right at your fingertips. It promises to make you smile, to make you laugh, to make you smarter, to make you more interesting. It promises. But it lies.

Remember that a beautiful life isn’t filled with only beautiful moments. A deeply satisfying life isn’t one where everything is worthy of a post. A beautiful life isn’t what it looks like on the outside, it’s how you view it from the inside. The screen shades your view.

Some of the most meaningful moments are the ones that can’t be shared online. Life needs you fully engaged to handle each moment that comes your way.

Life is a collection of moments. Fleeting moments. Here today, gone in….a moment. They will not all look worthy of a Pinterest pin. They will not all win you mother of the year. But they all play a role in the story of your life. The screen will shield your view of the full story. It’s like starting and stopping a page turner when all you really want is a solid hour to sit and read 2 chapters. The screen makes you go through the story of your life reading only a few sentences at a time, setting it down, picking it up. At the end of the book, you won’t remember the intricacies of the plot, the parts of your favorite characters that sucked you into their lives. You will have snippets. Because that is how you went through life. One snippet at a time.

Don’t experience life in snippets. Experience life fully. Put down the phone. Walk away from the computer. Screens will snippet your moments.

What you need most is a life filled with soul-filling moments that carry you through the seasons of change and the seasons of struggle. 

The screen moments are like empty calories for your soul. You will be temporarily filled. It creates subtle cravings that bring you back for more. It promises to satisfy longer each time, and you will believe it. Especially on the days you are tired of hearing the name “mom” called ceaselessly. Or the days the whining and crying has short circuited your nerves and left you desperate for anything other than what you are experiencing in that moment. The moments of weakness are the times it will draw you in the most.

I know you are busy. I know you are exhausted. I know you crave intellectual stimulation and conversation. I know you want to feel connected to the world. Many days as a mom you are left bored, disconnected, and feeling unimportant. I know that when you catch up online, you feel smarter, you feel wiser, you shared a few laughs.

Remember a screen won’t hand you an acorn. A screen won’t place its hand in yours. A screen won’t make an impression on your heart that will remain for life. You will read this letter and likely forget it. You won’t forget the acorn moments.

Now, close this letter and go make your moments.

andrew acorn

 

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Exploring Limiting Electronics With Kids

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The first time I “met” Sarah, was through the sweetest note slipped into my inbox about how my post A Letter To My Boys (the real reason I say no to electronics) impacted her.

It didn’t take long to know that we shared the same sentiments in our hearts, and a fast friendship formed.

Sarah and her husband recently launched a new website called Parents Who, which parents will find as a wonderful resource of practical and inspirational encouragement.

Join me over at Parents Who today where I share my thoughts a bit further on the electronics issue.

A Letter To Husbands From Your Wife (The Real Reason You Need To Put The Screen Down)

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Note: My post titled A Letter to My Boys (The Real Reason I Say No To Electronics) has been viewed over 1,000,000 times in a short period of time. I received an enormous amount of emails requesting I write a letter for husbands and wives. Today’s post is a letter to husbands. But husbands don’t worry because a letter to wives will be coming in the near future.

Husbands,

I’m writing you a letter today on behalf of your wife.  To share with you what is in her heart. I can write this because I understand.  And because she asked me to.  She knows what is in her heart, but she has a hard time putting it into words.  Part of her feels embarrassed for feeling this way.  Part of her feels alone in feeling this way.

Do you remember the first time you realized you loved your wife?  And the first time you realized she loved you?  Do you remember how you looked into her eyes and saw a tenderness, compassion, and understanding that words could never fully express?  You saw parts of her through her eyes that others were never allowed in that far to see.  And you chose to love her anyway.

You carry a great burden as a husband.  To love your wife in a way that comes 2nd only to her love from God.  Her ultimate source of unconditional love comes from Him.  But you are called to love her 2nd most.  She is desperate to feel your love, and many days she feels very unloved.  When a screen is in front of your face, she doesn’t feel your love.  Partly because she doesn’t see your eyes.

Love is expressed through the eyes.  Yes, there are many other ways to show and feel love. But the eyes are a connection to the heart.  When she has your eyes, she has your heart. She misses your eyes.  The blue glow of your screen pulls your eyes from her, and she can’t compete.  It’s an unfair competition.  I’ll tell you why.

We women are really hard on ourselves.  We compare ourselves in our own head to everything around us.  Now that your eyes are more on your device than on her, she is competing with something that will always win.  When the screen wins, your wife loses.  And I know you love her more than to watch her go down in defeat.  She is jealous for your attention.

She may not even realize she is jealous, but she is.  She knows she can never be what your screen is to you.  But she is so much more, and she wants you to remember that.  She wants you back to her.  Completely connected to her.  Your wife doesn’t want to share a connection with your screen.

The playing field has become unfair. She can’t compete for your attention against a screen. It will always be more interesting than her. It will often be more enlightening. It will offer you what you want to accept from it. It won’t nag you, it won’t complain about the day. If you don’t like what it shares with you, you can switch to another page. It doesn’t get too tired to entertain you. It entices you. It makes you laugh. It molds to your desires at the touch of a finger. It offers you instant satisfaction and gives you exactly what you ask for.

Beneath the surface it’s creating damage that won’t be seen initially. But it will eventually play out, even in subtle ways.

After a long day, I know it’s tempting to escape, and the screen offers a great escape. But your wife needs you. She needs you to escape to her, to her real life and your real world. Many days her world feels very insignificant compared to yours (I know you don’t feel this way), but she has battled today and needs someone who can look into her eyes and give her the comfort her heart needs.

When the world hasn’t loved her well, she needs you to love her well.

When she knows you love her, she can respond better to you. When she knows you love her, she desires to love you back. When she knows you love her, the enemy has less room to maneuver in your lives.

It’s more than your eyes the screen is stealing from your wife, it’s a soul connection that is really at stake here.  It’s stealing your time, your attention, and your affection.

You want to know why the eyes are so important?  Because for women we need face to face time to feel truly connected.  To simply be in the same room with her while you are looking at a screen isn’t the same as when she is face to face with you.  She can look in your eyes and see that you understand her and she can give that back to you.  She feels she is losing that with you.  Something else has stolen her FaceTime.  There is a winner and a loser.  The one who gets the FaceTime wins.  I know you want your wife to live victoriously.  If the screen consistently gets your eyes and your face to face interaction, your wife loses.  You love her too much for that.

You have an enormous amount of pressure on you.  Work never stops.  We live in a constantly connected world that tells you you must respond to everything immediately.  It’s a lie.  Life is more important that anything on that screen.  When you are with her, she wants you to be fully present.

Screens drop seeds into both of you that grow a weed called selfish. It tempts you to veg out and feed your desire for “me time”. And it grows inside her demanding she get more of you than she is getting. It makes you both feel selfish. She doesn’t want to be selfish. It causes both of you to want to feed your own desires.

She doesn’t want to nag you about how much time you spend scrolling through Twitter feeds or watching show after show when the kids are in bed.  And she doesn’t want to remain silent and let bitterness grow in the the silent dark of her heart either.  She is sorry for both.

You are both in tough spots.  But you have a choice.  So let’s get to the root of it.

She loves you. She desperately needs your love.  Your eyes are powerful in showing her love. Your time and attention, face to face, she needs to keep her going and fuel her for the journey ahead.

To be fully connected to each other, you can’t be fully connected to a screen. To be fully connected to each other, you can’t be half connected to a phone and half connected to each other in conversation. When you are together, make a choice to fully connect and fully disconnect. Your love is worth more value than anything on a screen.

 

 

 

A Letter To My Boys (The Real Reason I Say No To Electronics) – Repost

I originally posted this letter to my boys in January 2014. Within the first 7 days, this post was viewed 70,000 times. I received comments and emails that left me in tears. So many of us share these feelings and this letter gave voice to what you held in your heart. I am reposting today because as we head into summer, it’s easy to slip into patterns of excessive screen time. I want to remind us that our time is short with our children. Let’s make memories. Let’s claim this time. Original post and comments can be found here.

Important note before you read – If you plan to skim this, please don’t bother to read it. You will miss the point completely. I do not fear technology. My children have access to devices and technology. I’m not setting them up for failure in society. They know how to use computers, phones, and video games. We give limits and train them to exhibit self-control. I welcome all comments, but if you plan to comment in a negative or nasty way, it will be discarded. Thank you and blessings!

Boys back

Listen to the audio version of this post by clicking here.

Dear Boys,

Do you remember the day we went to the drugstore and the lady said, “Wow, you are the first kids I’ve seen all day with nothing in your hands.” Remember how she marveled at how you didn’t need an electronic device to carry through the store? I know how her words made you feel. I know how it reminded you that you are different because your mom limits your electronic usage. I know it was yet another reminder.

The same reminder you receive when we are out to eat and you notice all the kids playing their phones and iPads instead of talking to their parents. I know it was a reminder of all the sporting events where you feel you are the only kids whose parents are making them cheer on their siblings rather than burying themselves in a phone. I know it was another reminder to you that you feel different in this electronic age we live in.

Well, boys, it’s not you. It’s me. Me being selfish maybe. You see I can’t bear to miss a moment with you. Let me explain.

I want to talk to you when we are out to eat. I want to listen to your questions. I want to have training opportunities. I want to allow space for conversation that can take us deeper. And if you are always distracted with electronics, well… I might miss those moments.

I could give you all the statistics about how damaging it is to your development, your attention span, your ability to learn. While all of those are valid reasons to keep electronics away, that is not my primary reason why I say no to you so much. It’s more than that. Much more. I need you to understand this.

When we are together, I want all of you. The fullness of you. I want to experience you. Truly experience you. And I can’t do that with you when there is an electronic device between us. You see it acts as a barrier. I want to see what brings life to those eyes. I want to watch the wonder and magic dance across your face as you discover the wonders of this world. I want to watch you as you figure things out. I want to watch you process life, develop your thoughts. I want to know you. I want to know your passions. I want to watch you as you discover your God-given talents and gifts. And when you hide behind a screen, I miss out on all of that. And my time with you….well it will be over in the blink of an eye.

I want to guide you into an understanding of life and who you are. Boys, kids today are starved for attention, true connection and relationship. I don’t want you to feel starved. That is why I say no. I know that feeding the desire to play in your device is like giving you candy. It satisfies for a moment but provides no long term nutrition. It does more harm than good.

I don’t want to look back when I’m out of the trenches of child training and regret a second I had with you. I don’t want to merely survive. I want to thrive in this life with you. We are in it together. We are a family.

Yes, when we are waiting at a doctor’s office for an hour, it would be easier to quiet you with my phone. But if I did that, I fear I would send you a message that says I’d rather hush you than hear those precious words falling from your lips.

I can’t bear the thought of allowing you to miss out on the wonders and mysteries of this world. When you are transfixed on a screen, the beauty of this world will be lost to you. In every moment beauty is waiting to be discovered. I don’t want you to miss it.

I want you to be comfortable with yourself. I want you not to feel a constant need to be entertained and distracted. If you stay behind a screen, you never have to experience just being you, alone with your thoughts. I want you to learn to think, to ponder life, to make discoveries, to create. You have been gifted by God in unique ways. I want those to bloom. They can’t bloom in the glow of a screen. They need life, real life, to bring them to light.

I want you to be confident in who you are. I want you to be able to look people in the eyes and speak life into them. If I allow you to live behind a screen, you get little practice relating eye to eye. To truly know someone you have to look into their eyes. It’s a window into their heart. You see what can’t be seen in cyberspace.

When I tell you no to devices, I’m giving you a gift. And I’m giving me a gift. It’s a gift of relationship. True human connection. It’s precious and a treasure. And you mean so much to me that I don’t want to miss a second of it.

I love how God created your mind. I love to hear the way you think and process life. I love to see what makes you laugh. I love to watch those eyes widen when a new discovery is made. And when your head is behind a screen, I miss all of that. And so do you.

In this life we have few cheerleaders. In this family we will cheer each other on. I know it is boring to sit at swim lessons and watch your brother learn to swim. I know it is boring to sit through a 2 hour baseball practice. And in all honesty, it would be easy for me to give you the iPad and keep you quiet and occupied. But we all lose out when we do that. You will miss out on watching your brother’s new accomplishments. You will deprive him of the joy of his moment to shine for you. You will miss out on what it means to encourage each other.

I want you to grow up knowing the world doesn’t revolve around you. (One day your wife will thank me) I want you to learn to give selflessly of yourself….to give away your time, your talents, your treasures. If I distract you with electronics when you should be cheering for your brother, well, I’m simply telling you that your happiness is more important than giving your time to someone other than yourself.

This world needs more selflessness. This world needs more connection. This world needs more love. We can’t learn these behind a screen.

I want to raise sons that know how to look deeply into the eyes of the ones they love. I want my future daughters in law to know what it’s like to have a husband that looks deeply into her eyes because he knows the value of human relationships and the treasure of love. And that is best communicated eye to eye.

I want to watch your face illuminated by the majesty of life – not the glow of a screen. I want all of you. Because I only have you for a short while. When you pack up and leave for college, I want to look back with no regrets over the time I spent with you. I want to look back and remember how your eyes sparkled when we talked. I want to look back and remember how I actually knew those little quirky details of your life because we had time enough to be bored together.

It’s ok to be bored. We can be bored together. And we can discover new things together.

I love you. I love you too much to quiet you with an iPhone or an iPad or a DS. And I can’t even apologize, because I’m really not sorry. I’m doing this so that I won’t be sorry one day.

With all my love,

Mom

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5 Benefits of an Electronics Fast

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For 30 days our home is electronic/screen free.

We are just a little over a week into this.  And we feel free.

It was a spur of the moment idea Steve had one weekend. “We are shutting down for 30 days.  For one month we will have no tv, no Wii, no electronics (with the exception of the computer for me to pay bills and blog and him for work).  Steve even went so far as to cancel Dish Network.

I don’t watch tv or play video games, so this isn’t as painful for me as it is the rest of the members of my household.  Honestly, I felt this would be a breeze for us anyway.  Our kids rarely watch tv during the week.  There simply is no time.  Wii is only allowed on the weekends.  A couple of 30 minute time blocks.

We started noticing some attitudes in our boys.  More bickering than we cared for.  And a constant asking to watch something or play some game.  A break was needed.

 

Top 5 positive changes from week 1:

  1. We don’t rush away from the moments.  We stay.  We linger.  We soak.  We relish.  There is nothing to rush away to.  No tv show to catch.  No video game to conquer.  Nothing but time and each other.  Dinner is slower, more relaxed.  There is no need to rush to eat so we can fit a show in before bedtime on a Saturday night.  We took a family bike ride Sunday afternoon to a favorite tree swing.  After a long time swinging, we asked if they were ready to head home.  Zachary’s immediate response, “No!!!”  One week ago he would have been begging to go home so that he could play the Wii one last time before the new week began.  
  2. We are having moments we’ve never had.  I’ve come to realize the distractions of our devices cause great anxiety and a sense of urgency.  When they are taken away, we are left with the simplicity of life.  We are left with the beauty of the ones we love waiting to be enjoyed.  When our affection and attention is taken away from our devices, it must go somewhere.  So we turn it to the ones we love.  Andrew wanted to take a bath Saturday night.  While he was playing in the tub, I heard Jacob in there talking to him.  He was just sitting on the side of the tub chatting away with his 4-year-old brother he rarely has time to simply enjoy.  Jacob began making up stories and songs.  He had Andrew captivated.  After that Andrew began to want to be with Jacob again.
  3. We are finding new activities to enjoy. I’ve found the boys putting together puzzles, setting up imaginary play scenes, making up new games, using tools to create projects.  I’ve even found them simply resting.  Yes, just lounging on the screen porch, enjoying nature, enjoying life.
  4. We are thinking.  Want to increase creativity and productivity?  Take away your devices. Your mind will slow down and focus.  We have noticed this in ourselves as well as the boys.  We all feel much more able to think clearly.
  5. We are reconnecting.  I found I had gotten in a pattern of putting a movie on while I cooked dinner.  Now, everyone is taking part in the dinner prep.  We are all together in the kitchen.  We all help clean up.  We are simply together more.  Jacob and I have had extensive conversations, which have really been lacking lately.  One of our long talks occurred while he was helping me prepare dinner and Steve was outside with the other boys.  I said, “See Jacob if you had been watching a movie, we would have missed this opportunity to have this time together.”  He just smiled and said, “I’m actually kind of liking this electronics fast now.”

When the option of electronics is completely removed, kids will become kids again.  When all the distractions are removed, we can fully enjoy our moments again.