I have a confession to make.
For the longest time there were five of us in the Daly household. About eighteen months ago, Trent, Troy, Jean and I had a family meeting and decided to send the fifth member packing. I know that might seem harsh, but the four of us believed it was the right thing to do. And, while saying goodbye wasn’t easy at the time, none of us have regrets about our decision.
You see, the fifth member was frequently rude, ill-mannered, obnoxious, loud and generally not a good influence on any of us. Anytime the five of us were in the same room together as a family, the conversation was monopolized by this troublemaker. Most nights we couldn’t get in a word edgewise. We can see that even more clearly now that we’re alone.
And if family, friends or neighbors came to visit, I felt like we were constantly making excuses for the cynical attitude, occasional bad language, and aggressive behavior this former family member displayed. I think what pushed Jean and I over the top was the way Trent and Troy were starting to change as they witnessed such a inappropriate behavior. After all, at their impressionable ages, imitation is a big thing.
If you haven’t guessed by now, the fifth member of our family in question was our television. To be technical, we gave the boot to our satellite dish. While we still own a TV set, without that electronic umbilical cord tethering us to the values of Hollywood, we no longer have a steady stream of programming. The reception in our area is so bad, about the only purpose our TV serves is as a display for the occasional Wii Sport game or to watch a DVD.
There have been a number of times in our marriage, particularly before the boys were born, when Jean and I didn’t own a television. In fact, a family member bought us our first TV because they were sorry we didn’t have one! I’ll admit, I became a news, weather and sports guy. Watching the television was how I’d unwind. To be candid, it was a bit to addictive.
Eighteen months ago—and I give Jean the credit for this, she said, “You know, Jim, I really think we should get rid of the dish.” After she explained her reasons, I agreed. Although we only had the basic program, no HBO movies, I, too, wasn’t crazy about some of the stuff streaming into our home on the standard channels and figured if she was okay with canceling our subscription we should give it a try. We broke the news to the boys in that family meeting and we’re thrilled with the results.
Almost overnight we could see a number of positive changes in the boys. After we became unplugged their imaginations really kicked in. It was amazing to watch as they found other ways to entertain themselves. During the winter they’ll spend more time outdoors in the snow. In the summer months, they’ll ride their bikes, jump on the trampoline, or explore the woods. When indoors, they’re content to read books, construct things with their Lego’s, or engage in imaginative play with their toys.
Jean and I especially noticed a dramatic change last Christmas. In previous years the boys would be clamoring for the cool stuff they’d seen advertised on TV. Without that influence, they didn’t know what to ask for and, consequently, were surprised and happy with the things we bought them.
Please don’t see this as a holier-than-thou statement. If you can do it, I know you’ll see a real benefit in the lives of your children. Personally, it’s been a sacrifice. If I want to see a particular football or baseball game bad enough, I’ll go to a friend’s house or to the YMCA and workout while I watch the game.
If getting unplugged feels too radical, here’s a thought. One of my friends used to suggest posting the words of Psalm 101:3a on a 3”x5” card above the television: “I will set no worthless thing before my eyes.” I’d say that’s sound advice.
If you do decide to go TV-Free for a week, month, or longer, I’d love to hear from you about the changes you notice in your home.