My Family “Unplugged”
This past weekend, I planned my family to go “unplugged” from all television and electronic devices. I wanted to see if they would be missed and how we would all interact without the distractions of social media, video games, Netflix, etc. I pretty much took my family off the grid.
We packed up the car on Friday and headed 2 hours northwest to Table Rock State Park in Pickens, SC. It’s a beautiful camping ground with a park and miles of hiking trails. We rented a 1-bedroom cabin that had HVAC, a kitchen, fold out sofa and queen bed. We weren’t “roughing” it, but for my pampered family, this was different.
We pulled up to the cabin and the kids were immediately excited. The fact that we forgot half of the food we planned to eat made no difference to them. They were outdoors in a new space and full of energy. They immediately ran off into the woods and began to explore. There wasn’t a thought about watching a movie or worrying about television. They played well together and showed teamwork
While they were playing, my wife and I put together a plan to make up for our slight lack of preparation. I started grilling some burgers and then went to work on a fire outside of the cabin. We ate dinner and spent the rest of the night around the fire enjoying each other’s presence. The night ended with a fun game of cards and a good night’s sleep.
The next day started with a big breakfast of pancakes, bacon and eggs. Again the kids helped out with setting everything up and were excited to eat outside on the picnic table. No distractions, just a focus on a good meal and quality time with each other.
After breakfast, we headed on a 2-hour hike, went fishing and played in the park. We were rewarded with ice cream after lunch and some more fun outside at the cabin. Our kids played with the kids that were in the cabin next to us until dinner time. My son and I built another big fire. He was very proud of his accomplishments for the day and we were proud of both of our kids. They were being helpful, engaged and kind to each other.
Another good night of sleep and another big breakfast, and the weekend was over. We had to pack up and leave our little cabin in the woods. We also had to be re-introduced to all of the distractions.
Almost immediately after we lifted the ban on electronics, the tension went up and trouble started. My phone couldn’t pick up our location to lead us back to the interstate. Our daughter’s computer ran out of charge. Our son’s DVD player was not working properly. What should have provided ease of direction and entertainment suddenly provided tension and anger. The kids started fighting instead of working together and I could feel the angst coming from my phone’s inability to lead us home.
What would have happened if we never had the option to plug back in? Would the kids have fought? Would I have been able to easily navigate back to the interstate? It’s hard to say.
I’d like to think that if we lived in that cabin the rest of our lives, we would be content and have the same daily experience of excitement and fun. I know it’s not true. A couple more nights of building a fire and eating under the stars would become commonplace. Entertaining each other would become boring. We would want to do more.
I think the lesson is that we never appreciate all that we have. We’re on to the next new and shiny item or experience. My wife kept telling us “stay in the moment”. While it’s not a new mantra, I think it’s clear we need to work on that in our relationship and with our kids. Eliminate the distractions and focus on each other and our experiences together. I can always plan another trip for the family, but can we carry these trips into our daily lives?
Maybe instead of a broad mantra like “stay in the moment”, we’ll use “make every day count just like we’re on a family vacation”. If we live by that mantra, maybe we’ll find more joy and fun in each other’s presence.
Let me know what you think and if this post helped, please pass it along for others to read.