Just Say No

Friday, June 6, 2014

How old do you have to be before "addictions" are a concern? Up until a few days ago, I would have told you teenager for sure. I don't know why I thought that - naivety I guess. My oldest has sucked his thumb since he was about 2 weeks old or less. I'm pretty sure thumb sucking is an addiction. It's an action that soothes my son to sleep. And though he is almost nine, he still does it sometimes when he's really tired. So I looked up the definition of "addicted"; it reads, "physically and mentally dependent on a particular substance, and unable to stop..." The synonyms? "devoted, obsessed, fixated, dedicated, passionate, a slave to." Whoa! Hold on. A slave to? Yikes. I'm pretty sure God warns us about being a slave to anything other than Him, because only He is a good and perfect Master.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. If I were just talking about thumb sucking I wouldn't be so concerned. Shoot, even with my youngest I didn't care if he sucked his paci until college because I knew that would just never happen. As our littles grow up, those childhood habits tend to fall away. But the other night my son was in the restroom for almost an hour. (To be fair, he does take an unusually long time in there, but not that long.) I finally got up from the dinner table to check on him. I opened the door after a quick knock and his eyes darted up at me while he frantically tried to hide his phone. Before you get all upset and possibly judgmental at the idea of a 9 year old having a phone, allow me to explain. It's an old, old iphone that has been disabled in every way except music and games. It was given to him as a Christmas gift one year after being wiped clean and having child friendly learning games uploaded.
As we grew more and more comfortable with the "child friendly" games, he began to request other games like Angry Bird, Minecraft and Clash of Clans. After some research, I decided these games were just glorified Lego games. He got to create, build and strategize in order to play. Harmless right? One look at his fear of being caught and desperate attempt to hide, I knew we were dealing with something much bigger than just a "child friendly" game. My oldest is a rule follower. He loves to do the right thing and has a very tender heart. He began crying and asked if there would be discipline for his being on the phone without permission. (Our boys generally get around 15 - 30 minutes each day, but on this particular day he wasn't allowed to play.)
As we discussed the whys behind his choices, he told me something that was unbelievable hard to hear and so painful... With tears streaming down his cheeks he said, "Mommy, I just can't help it. I have to play. It's like I can't stop myself." How on earth had we gotten here? The games, the iphone, they all seemed so innocent. But for my sweet boy they had become an addition. Something that he was a slave to. These games that were supposed to be fun and a source of joy were robbing my sweet son of his freedom, obedience and joy. At that very moment I knew - NOT WORTH IT.

The ease that comes from allowing my boys to play on various devices freely while I get stuff done around the house or work on the new business. It's just not worth it. I want my boys to have joy and freedom that comes with being a child - the good stuff! That rush that you get when you go down a hill really fast on your bike - good stuff. Catching lightening bugs at dusk - good stuff. Getting to talk that extra 5-10 minutes after it's "lights out" - good stuff. Those are the joys of childhood. The things that actually make memories. I don't think any child is going to be reminiscing over that really epic time they had playing video games together.
So I have decided that this summer my boys are device free. And as far as it stands right now, we are device free for a very long time. (Yes, I will limit my time as well.) My job as a parent it to protect, nurture and teach. If my son doesn't feel freedom and safety in playing those games, I don't want anything to do with them. Now I am certainly not saying that this is the choice that every parent should make. Not at all. This is the right choice for us. And as if I needed further convincing, I stumbled upon this post from a Mom who wrote a lovely letter to her boys about why they too are device free. It spoke straight to my heart. Give it a read. You will be so glad you did. Either that, or you will hate me because you might be a tad bit convicted. Whatever the case, I'm diving in and choosing to engage with my boys this summer.

Hello Summer. Goodbye iphone. I'm off to make our Summer Bucket List. Happy Weekend. xo


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