Another Lent season is under our belts, folks. For those of you just jumping in, our family decided to give up TV (including movies, Netflix, etc…) for the forty days of Lent. I am here to say that we have survived. In some ways, living without TV was easier than expected. The benefits were staggering. And in other ways, living without it was extremely difficult and eye-opening.
The first week was probably the hardest. I know for a fact that I missed TV not because I was missing my shows, but because my kids were missing their shows. As in, I was missing my alone time while they binge watched Peppa Pig. There were definitely moments when I called Jeff at work and said, “You don’t know how tempted I am to throw the TV on right now! If only you knew what YOUR children were up to…” So, yes, initially, living without TV was hard on this Momma.
Ironically, though, the girls have barely missed TV. I can count on one hand how many times they have asked for their shows. To be honest, I was shocked. My girls, like most kids, are creatures of habit. They were pretty used to watching TV from 4:00-5:00 each night. Yet somehow, they seamlessly adjusted. They now spend more time colouring, reading library books, playing outside and in general, just playing together. It seems that their imaginations have grown exponentially; their play time is so much more creative and abstract-based now.
As a parent, I have found that not being able to rely on TV has forced me to say “yes” more to my kids. I didn’t realize how often I would say “no” or “later” or “wait just a minute” (and hoping they’d forget!). But without the convenient disraction of television, I was forced to be more present with the girls. As a result, I feel that our relationship has deepened. At the very least, I feel like I have become more patient with them.
Individually, Jeff and I have both found more time to pursue our passions without the diversion of TV. Jeff has been able to find ample time to train for his upcoming Ironman. Likewise, I have been able to read and journal more consistently – two of the main things that breathe peace and space into my life. (I was surprised – in the time that I would normally have watched TV at night, I alternatively spent reading. Over forty days, I was able to read fifteen books. I don’t think I’ve devoured books like that since I was a kid. A kid, growing up in a home without a television, ironically.)
Additionally, living without TV has deepened my faith walk individually and as a married couple. I have had the time to read books on faith formation while also simply diving into the Word. And it has been heart-stirring and soul-stretching.
As a couple, we have also been far more intentional about pursuing the heart of God together. Prior to our TV fast, we always had the best of intentions about studying God’s Word and praying together. Since giving up TV, by no means do we have a perfect track record of doing devotions and praying together every night, but we are far more consistent than before. I’d say we have routinely been able to study and pray together at least four out of seven nights a week.
Funnily enough, the vulnerability that was required to commune before the Lord with my husband was probably the most stretching for me. We were forced to unpack some difficult topics in our marriage that we had previously shoved under the rug. It compelled me to break down barriers about what it tangibly looks like for us to talk and share our faith as husband and wife. (To be entirely transparent here, I seem to have no problem sharing and praying with my girlfriends. However, to sit down with Jeff and share what God has been teaching me was almost physically painful. I literally could feel walls being built around my heart when we initially started spending time in God’s Word together. Thankfully, connecting spiritually has become easier over the weeks – it’s still uncomfortable at times, yet I can see God doing crazy amazing things in our relationship as He has broken down some of these barriers.)
You may be curious about what our plans are for TV-watching going forward. About three weeks ago, we actually canceled our cable. (This also ties into our intention to live with and consume less.) We plan on using our library instead to borrow series, movies, etc… Using the library’s resources will force us to consciously plan to watch TV, which will invariably make us reassess if borrowing that DVD is the best use of our time. That being said, we have plans for family movie nights once a month as a special treat for the girls. But we’ll see. Who knows – we might be too busy creating and relating. Above all, this fast has opened our eyes to the preciousness of these years, the impressionability of our girls, the blessing of marriage, and importance of time well spent.