On our way home from a jaunt up north to escape the heat, the kids were restless and fussy. It had been a long day, and they'd spent quite some time in the car. After putting a movie in for them I had a twinge of guilt. "It's probably good for them to be bored," I told my husband. We both kind of shrugged this off and continued on our merry way home.
But that thought has been tickling the back of my head since. I doubt Ma and Pa ever found themselves saying, "It's probably good for them to be bored." It's just how it was sometimes. There wasn't another choice. And so, seamlessly, children before the technological era received certain benefits without their parents ever having to think about them.
I love road trips. Staring out the window, wondering at the world, it's comforting to me. Because we moved around so much as a child, I spent many hours of my childhood doing just that. I can recall the sight of rolling hills and waving grasslands, tall mountains and clear lakes. I remember playing a game with myself, bouncing the spots on the window over telephone poles. And I read. A lot. Was I bored? Maybe a little. Did I complain and annoy my mother? Probably a lot. But what I received was so worth it, but hard to put my finger on because it's so intangible.
I'm convinced (although I've not read anything to support this idea) that what I read in a book is lodged in my mind much more than what I read online. When a person is bouncing around from one page to another, there is really not too much organized thought going on. It becomes just a bunch of pointless information. Don't get me wrong. There is a ton of good things to read online. But the satisfaction that comes from finishing a book is real. I'm never really satisfied after closing a webpage. When I spend my leisure time on the computer, I come away feeling restless and unfulfilled. But it is the complete opposite when I spend my leisure time with a book, even if it's just a paperback novel.
So I'm thinking about the use of technology in our family. How sometimes it removes us from the real world, and so takes away things we may not even know are being taken away. Talking with my husband about this last night, we decided we are going to try a little experiment. Our TV use is already very limited (no cable, and it's rarely on unless we're watching a movie together). Computer use is going to be limited with the use of a timer. But the funnest experiment? In the evenings after the kids go to bed, we are going to only use lights if we really have to, and rely on candles to light our discussions and time together. I have all these candles around anyway that never get used, and my thought is, how much better is candlelight than glaring overhead lights?
I'm not sure if we will notice any real benefit from this experiment. But perhaps the benefits are so slight, but still important, that it will be worth it anyway. My guess is after the transition period, we will be unwilling to go back to the way things were before. And maybe that's a good thing.