I love video games and I hate them all at the same time. My kids have fun playing them and when they're playing them they are quiet, they don't make a mess, and they can stay down in the basement playing for hours. This is great when I'm tired or have a project that I need to focus on. Unfortunately, the more my children play video games, the less happy they are, the more they fight and the read less, get less exercise and are less creative… After a summer of free play video game binging, I was ready for change.
One day this summer, I went into my backyard to weed my weed garden. Yes, that right, it used to have strawberries and a few blueberry bushes, but no fruit had come and the weeds were taking over. Probably because I did absolutely nothing with it... It was time to right my wrong. As I looked at the bushes I realized there were 4 blueberry bushes (I had only planted 2) and 2 had fruit on them, except the two that had fruit were not where I planted the real blueberries. I concluded they were weeds that mimicked blueberries (because the animals ate any real fruit) and I decided to dig them out. My real blueberry bushes were looking more like small trees and had no fruit…I went to dig them up too and start over (5 years with out fruit) but then I felt really bad. How could I dig up this tree? Doesn't the world need more trees. But instantly a scripture came to mind, the allegory of The Olive Tree. Which, by the way had never really come into my mind before. It's kind of confusing. But, as I sat there with the shovel in my had I was reminded that the Lord dug up the wild trees that produced no fruit and burned them and worked to get his vineyard to grow and produce fruit. I decided this tree/bush wasn't doing anything for me and needed to go. Once I dug it up I felt great and knew that in life there are things that we need to get rid of. If something is in our life and it isn't doing us any good, we need to prune it and cut it out. We need to constantly evaluate our lives to find the wild and fruitless things so we can get them out of our lives and help our vineyard grow.
So, when I went on my anniversary vacation with my awesome hubby, we talked about what we needed prune and TV and video games were at the top of our list. We decided that if we took away video games it should not feel like a punishment because the kids did nothing wrong. I was the one that brought video games into the house and the games are made to be addicting. We came up with a plan.
When we got back I sat with my kids and we brainstormed why we are here on earth. We came up with this list:
1. We're here to get a body
2. We're here to be tested
3. We're here to learn to follow Jesus and make covenants with him including baptism, and temple covenants.
4. We're here to learn to keep the commandments
5. W'ere here to live in an eternal family that will go on forever and we want to form good relationships with all of them.
Then we talked about what keeps us from doing these things and THEY came up with 2 things:
1. Video Games
Let me stress, THEY came up with this, not me. (but I was thinking it!) So, WE decided to give up video games until Christmas. That would be Sept.-Dec 25th. I promised them a prize if we made it to Dec. I allowed them to play video games at their friend's house, I was not going to try and control that. But, we packed up the Xbox, the Wii and all the iPhones and the iPad. We did not give up the TV, we were taking baby steps.
Here is what happened:
1. Some whining and "l don't know what to do" happened. Mostly with my boys, who had to biggest addiction. It was expected. It was like taking away their binky. I just directed them to some activities.
2. I rented chickens. It was a great distraction and perfect for homeschool. Plus I like chickens. They were very helpful in breaking the cycle.
3. My boys started coloring and drawing and READING! Berk, who "hated to read" discovered Raold Dahl books (Thank you Kylee, my friend who was in charge of his homeschool reading group) and read many of his books! Everett started drawing and coloring and liked it, which was not the case before.
4. My house was louder and messier. Everyone talked more, they played more and made more messes. This was harder for me, but I felt like we were really living, not a quiet, shell of a life like video games were, but real life. The kind where we talked, we played and we cleaned together. I loved it.
5. My boys had some anxiety over having friends over. They worried their friends would be bored. I told them that they always seemed to have more fun with friends outside playing games than downstairs playing video games. I gave them ideas of things to do with their friends before their friends came over. They played legos with them, kickball, trampoline games, balloon soccer in the basement (was a favorite), board games ect… they were fine.
They made it!!! The day before Christmas we surprised them by transforming our basement into a "Game Room" complete with an indoor arcade basketball hoop game, a bookshelf full of board games, some new board games, a dart board, a hopscotch mat and a large round coffee table to be used for playing games or for Lillian's tea parties. The kids were pumped! They earned it! And, surprise, none of them asked for video games for Christmas! Since then we've let the kids play video games and our "addiction" is so much better. They actually think of playing other things too. But it is a slippery slope and I'm keeping the idea of a video game fast in my back pocket. Sometimes you just need to cut things out of your life to see what your life would be like without it.