Hi All. I thought I would give you an update on the media fast at my house. On Tuesday it ended. I feel like the last week was the most frustrating for me. The reason, I think, is two fold: 1.) We gave him access to media when we traveled to and from the Smokies for Emma’s soccer tournament. 2.) I let him watch 1/2 hour of TV so he would quit talking and I could get work done one time. He kept hijacking my phone, and I would forget to steal it back, and he kept trying to negotiate for “just 1/2 hour of normal TV, PLEASE!” I know better, you can’t EVER give an inch!
On Sunday and Monday I spent a good portion of the day wondering how we reenter the media world. I enjoyed our time without it, 85% of the time. The other 15% I wanted to give him to media back so I could get something done. I knew that we couldn’t go back to the media noise level we had before (I’m pretty sure the background noise was part of the reason I would hide in the silence of my car some afternoons. I hated being in the house with all the NOISE), and we couldn’t go back to the smart mouth that accompanied it (mostly because he felt that watching TV and playing video games is a right, not a privilege). I never really came to something I was comfortable with, but I ended up telling him on Monday that he could have 1 hour of media a day, and he could earn up to one more hour each day.
He asked how, and I had to think on my toes!! Thankfully, I think the Holy Spirit took over my mouth with a good plan, because I don’t think I could have come up with it on my own, because I found a currency that he wants to bargain in!!
I told him he could earn a minute of media for each minute spent reading or practicing multiplication or cleaning. I spent the summer trying to pay him to learn his multiplication tables better and to read. He would be motivated for a little while, but then would lose interest within an hour or so.
TUESDAY MORNING, MY KITCHEN WAS CLEAN, THE LIVING ROOM WAS TIDY BY 10:00 AM, multiplication facts were reviewed & and my kid was happy to have done it. He asked if he could save time, if he didn’t use it all one day. I said yes. So, Tuesday at 4:00, he still hadn’t watched any media. When I asked why, he said he didn’t want to use it yet and not have it later.
On Friday, he had a friend to spend the night. He had saved 3 hours during the week to binge on for the weekend, but they wanted to earn more. They read on my couch, in silence for an hour straight (I’m totally serious :-O). Then, they cleaned his room, dusted, vacuumed, and straightened. It was a mom win!!
Here’s what else I noticed, during our time off. Pre-media fast, D would choose time on the couch watching Youtube over people about 90% of the time, but that has changed. He went everywhere with me for three weeks. He taught Rachel (our exchange student) how to drive a 4-wheeler. She plays catch with him in the living room (she is a handball player, so she’s really good at this). The other thing I noticed, it’s not just the 9 year old who has a media addiction, it’s all of us. I felt guilt every time I picked up my phone to play a word game, or got lost in Facebook when he couldn’t touch anything. I tried to put it down, and I just kept getting sucked in. We trash “kid’s these days” for constantly staring at a screen, but really it’s the teenagers, their mom and their dad, equally guilty of getting lost in cyberspace at the cost of relationships with each other. Turns out, I don’t know how to be bored either… in fact, I go crazy if I don’t have something to do. Sometimes, when I am making myself take a media break, I think about the stuff I would look up if I had my phone, and I realize I get a little rush from it. This week, I researched and purchased my calendar for next year. It was a rush, thinking through the purchase, what I want, what system am I going to use? Where can I get what I want for the best deal. People, I LOVE & LIVE by my calendar, but this is ridiculous. My brain doesn’t remember how to settle down and just be anymore.
I asked the family what they noticed about the media free time. Emma, “He wasn’t as mean!” (You really have to hear the sarcastic teenage flair to fully appreciate the statement.) Ty, “He seems to be a nicer person & he knows how to be bored.” Cary, “It’s been good. I spend more time with him, which is good, because he wants to watch what I’m watching… and he will watch sports with me.” (I know, I know, he’s a deep thinker… be jealous ladies. It’s a good thing he’s cute.) (Babe, you’re wonderful, smart, funny, and able to make me laugh, but you are not descriptive via text message. XOXOXO.)
Deacon, “I learned absolutely nothing. It was horrible!” (I expected nothing different.)
I’m excited that I have talked with several people who have taken this idea and applied it at home. One friend is only allowing her son on media a couple of days a week. Another woman told me she took it away from her 12 year old daughter & “she’s a different person! The girl drama is gone!” Another friend made her kids do a week with no media and reported that she could tell a difference in just a couple of days. For those of you who are trying this too, thank you for letting me know. Your words helped me get through the time without guilt, and helped me set (what I hope) are healthy boundaries moving forward. I also want to thank my parents for telling me several times that this was a wonderful thing to do for my child. I needed the reminder sometimes. It has been very encouraging!
So, I’m really thinking of getting a flip phone next time I have to “upgrade” my phone. Because of my job, and the world we live in, I think I would have to have an iPad to access things as I need them, but I could put it in a drawer, and not “have to have it with me all the time” because I could get texts and calls on a flip phone, and I wouldn’t run the risk of getting sucked into the empty time vacuum of the phone. Maybe I can make it a movement: “Upgrade your life, Downgrade your phone” What do you think?
You’ve seen this video, right? Well, I identify with this video. At the beginning of summer, I swore I was only going to let my 9 year old on media for an hour or two a day. By the end of summer, it was on ALL DAY LONG!! YouTube and video games going at the same time. It was like an atomic assault on my ears and nerves. Not to mention my kids was turning into a jerk.
Excuses: I work at home pretty often, and I’m traveling when I don’t, so I don’t have the time or energy to entertain him. But the excuse doesn’t matter when you see your child’s brain shrinking from day to day, not to mention the lack of certain social skills. But the straw that broke my back – he was yelling at his teammates on Fortnite. He was just being rude and calling people idiots, and I realized, I don’t like who my child is becoming. So I took away the internet, and TV, and all screens in general… for 21 days.
He’s not grounded, he’s a good kid (except when yelling at strangers online – yes, I realize how creepy this sounds, but I am determined to be transparent). He’s nine. He has never existed without an Iphone in our home. I remember when he was a baby, he could run apps making animal noises and educational videos. My older kids weren’t exposed to constant screens until elementary school, and I was able to monitor those much more closely.
So, on August 3rd I told Deke that he was fasting from Media for 21 days starting on August 8th, the first day of school. To say he had a melt down would be an understatement. He was not happy, but I let him binge on YouTube and the Switch for a few days before he went cold turkey. I also received the news that due to unforeseen disasters having to do with reconstruction on the building, school wouldn’t be starting for him until September 5th… suddenly, we are hanging out together for the 21 days.
Now, I am not a newcomer to taking away media from children. I did this same thing with my oldest two kids SEVERAL years ago after praying about how to help them stop fighting. It worked brilliantly. Thanks to that experience, I knew the first 24 hours would be the most trying for me, and that I would be tempted to give it back so I could follow my routine. I spent the 5 days strengthening my resolve and telling my self that my goal was for him to be bored, to know what it feels like, to know what it is to find a way to entertain himself, and to figure out if there is anything creative in him. So, new perspective – “I’m bored Mom!” = “You’re Awesome Mom!”. “You’re TORTURING ME for 21 DAYS!” = “Mom, thanks for loving me enough to find myself in this tech-world I live in.”
I did place a couple of exceptions to this entertainment-less desert called his last month of summer: 1.) We drove across the state on KY and back in less than 36 hours – I let him play the Switch. 2.) If someone else is watching TV & it’s appropriate, he can watch. (Home Improvement with Dad is his new favorite thing) 3.) Traveling to a soccer tournament in Gatlinburg TN – he will be allowed to play the Switch in the car as he rides with two teenage girls who SHUSH him for sport (one in English and one in German – which sounds more like DEECON – Psssshhh!)
The first week was tougher on him than me. He thought he was going to die. He claims he cried himself to sleep every night. He drove the 4 wheeler, built complicated Lego kits, and listened to HOURS of Adventures in Odyssey on a CD player, sat in my office as I worked on spreadsheets, and asked 1,276,890,113 questions!
When he said, “I’m bored!” I responded, “Oh good! That means your brain is working. It’s not my job to entertain you, figure it out.” – I WAS EMPOWERED & IT FELT GOOD! And I began to see who my child is. He still acted goofy to get attention, but it wasn’t SO desperate and SO silly. He learned to sit in his room and play, alone. Our home seem calmer. Our conversations seem deeper. The teenagers don’t hide in their rooms to keep away from the noise in the living room.
The second week… well the second week may have been harder on me. I WORK AT HOME!! He talks all the time! I almost had a mental breakdown. I just needed to get my work done. I just need some time alone, some God time, but it didn’t come. Yet, I saw a really fun kid replacing this video addicted minion who controls the noise level of the house with the TV remote and attitude. I like the difference, that calm.
Thankfully my brother and his son, Oliver, have visited the last few days. With the lack of entertainment at my home, Deke was all too happy to go to my parents’ home and spend the whole day (this is a rare occurrence because he normally would rather watch TV). He got to ride his new (to him) bike, go swimming with his cousin, and go boating. I think he also got to binge watch movies for a 4 year old one day, which he was thrilled with. That little bit of media has him jumping all over the place again and begging for “just a few minutes of TV” tonight before bed. But, the “NO” is easy because I have seen the kid who lived under the addict.
We have 11 more days of this. I’ll try to update you next week. My next challenge… how do we let the media back in without letting it take over our home our kid and our lives again…
Today I worked in Fayette County Public Schools with their new teachers. They are a great school system! As I stood in the room, organizing people, where they went, how they would accomplish the tasks of the hour, I realized I had been in the place of most of the people in that room in different seasons in life.
17 years ago, I was a new teacher signing up for benefits, blissfully unaware of what I didn’t know about managing a classroom full of kids, planning for retirement, or insurance. At that point in life, I was torn between the desire to be home with my toddler, the need for a break from said toddler, and our need for income. I started teaching for $24,000/year & I thought we were rich. This is the season I found my drive to do things well, as I would often work 2+ hours after the school day was over, missing precious time with my children. I also perfected my people pleasing skills!🙄
Then, almost 13 years ago, I left education semi-impulsively. I quit my job with no promise of another, only a deep feeling that I WAS NOT WHERE I WAS SUPPOSED TO BE anymore. I knew I was coming to work for American Fidelity. They didn’t know yet, though. Thankful, God opened that door 4 months later. So, I watched my coworkers selling insurance, doing the job that I love so much: talking to employees to love children, who are giving beyond reason, loving beyond understanding, and helping them plan for their future. It is here that I learned from SO MANY mistakes. Here that I became so overwhelmed that I couldn’t sleep, that I physically harmed my back from sitting 8-10 hours a day, that I learned what it is to be rewarded for your hard work, and what it is to work under amazing leadership. It is also here that I found confidence by solving the overwhelming problems. I learned to strive for something & achieve it. And I learned that sometimes, most times, it’s the striving that brings the greatest satisfaction, not the achievement itself.
It is here that I have done my greatest ministry as I could pray with people who open up their lives to me. I have seen God heal people physically and emotionally through this job. I have experienced His goodness in this place. And it is here, that I had to learn to surrender control.
Today though, I didn’t meet with employees. I was in a different roll. I was assisting as needed, instructing as needed, helping things run in a different way. I got to use the bathroom 4 times (which NEVER would have happened in either previously mentioned season of life – I bet you didn’t know peeing is a luxury for people who work in education.). It was a good day. As I looked around, I realized I don’t know what the next season is, and I’m really not worried about it. It will come, and it will pass, just like all the ones before it.
I’m thankful for the seasons of life, and even more so that finally, at least in this moment right now, I’m content to just be. Not striving, not forcing the next season, just grateful for where I’ve been, what I’ve learned & trusting that God is refining me in this season as well. I hope, I can quickly thank him for he storms in life that he works for my good. Tomorrow, I’ll probably find something new to strive for, judge myself for failing at, or want to kill someone over, but today, I’m good.
PS. It is time to buy school supplies. If you are spending $100+ on school supplies for your kid(s), and you are whining… STOP! That is a *#>^ education you are paying for. We are a blessed nation that every child can go to school for free, out side of supplies and nominal fees. And, don’t blame your school system. They are likely running on fumes to meet the demands from government, parents, and society!! Instead, find ways to fund schools to do great things. Partner with a school, or mentor a child. Do your part, don’t complain! #rantover
Ooh- also, new parenting hack: I still don’t get Snapchat, but my kids will talk to me that way.
Quique (pronounced Key-Kay) was eight the first time I met him. I didn’t know, until recently, that he had walked across the desert for five or six days just a few months before to enter the US. (Can you imagine walking days in the heat with three kids?) I asked if he remembered the journey. He nodded, because he doesn’t talk much until you hang out for a long while. At eight, he lived in a small camper with his family: mother, father, sister, brother and himself, a quarter mile or so from us. (I cannot say I have had much conversation with his family because of the language barrier, but also because they are very unassuming. They don’t ask for anything. They have shared vegetables from their garden before and I have taken small pints of raspberries from my raspberry bushes to share, but that is the extent of our relationship.) A few years later, Quique and his family moved 15 miles away, and we didn’t see him again.
(I also didn’t realize he didn’t understand anything I was saying to him all those years ago, he would just laugh at us and go along with whatever we were doing. So my attempts to manage our little visitor when we took him to church were not usually successful.)
Fast forward a few years. New neighbors moved in to the trailer that adjoins our yard, essentially living in our backyard. I noticed a teenage boy in a black hoodie waiting for the bus every morning when I left for work. It took a few weeks (maybe months) for me to realize that he was little Quique, all grown up, and now going by Rick (name changed to protect identity). I was excited to see him again, and we began to converse in the yard occasionally. He started going to church with us again and becoming one of ‘my kids’. Not long after Rick moved back, my son turned 16. As we were going through the “learning to drive” process (aka my kid is going to wreck my car and kill us both process), I asked Rick if he was going to get his license. In his hesitant way, he explained that he couldn’t. If you’re an illegal, you have to purchase a fake driver’s license and fake documents to work, social security cards etc. This made me so sad. This boy, with high grades in school, who would help my grandparents plant flowers, who would keep me company as I worked in the yard, his future was stunted by his birth in a place he can hardly remember living. I spent quite a bit of time in prayer over this. One night, I awoke in the middle of the night with the thought Your brother in law is an immigration attorney… How I failed to remember this, I don’t know, but the next day brought on a new journey that I never knew I would take. The task: Get Rick a License!
I don’t remember the conversation with Daniel, but somehow I learned of DACA for the first time. I learned that was the only way for Rick to get a legal status to be here (unless he wanted to get married), to drive, to work, to not have to worry that he could be deported for trying to live a normal American life. He didn’t ask for help. He and his family didn’t receive any form of government assistance. His father worked in a mill and a second job as a farm hand to support their family of five. He wasn’t looking for handouts. He wasn’t looking for a hand up. He was looking to do what God has designed every man to do: work. I realize the thought that work is to be avoided has permeated our society. However, Solomon would disagree with the notion that work is to be avoided. Check out some proverbs about it.
So DACA… It isn’t easy to qualify for DACA. We had to provide proof that he was in the US before age 16. School records helped a lot (thank you Mrs. Baird for your assistance in this), but we had to produce bills, phone records etc. from 10 years earlier. I don’t know if you know this, but when you don’t have a social security number or credit cards, and you don’t read English (so you can’t write checks if you have a checking account) you pay cash, FOR EVERYTHING. You don’t have a plan at AT&T, you buy minutes at Walmart. When you’ve moved around, you don’t have random stacks of old bills just laying around. We had to get a copy of his birth certificate from his grandma, in Mexico. Then we had to translate the birth certificate. Thankfully, a friend at church was willing to do this for us. (I don’t understand this. It’s not like there aren’t people at homeland security who can read Spanish, but I don’t make the rules!). He had to send in a photo ID. I mentioned that you can’t get one of those without legal proof that you can be here, right?!? I think we may have ended up sending in a school ID. After we gathered the correct documentation, passport photos, a urine sample, hair DNA testing (I may be exaggerating on the last two), we mailed it all in with the proper forms and a $400+ money order. Then we waited. I don’t remember how long it was but, later we got notice that we screwed something up and had to send in more documentation. Finally, Rick got a letter that he had to go to Nashville on a set date two weeks in the future. I was scheduled to work that day. I tried to call to change the appointment, but there was no number on the letter, no email address. We could send a letter to Washington DC requesting a change of appointment, but if we failed to appear at the appointed time it could make things more difficult in the future. I changed my work schedule, and we made the two hour trek to Nashville. When we arrived, there was a sign on the door announcing no phones, electronic devices or purses were allowed inside. We had to go through security (the security officer was nice enough). When we got there for the finger printing, we were told we needed a transcript from the school proving he was a high school student. I asked for a fax number or email address where they could send the documentation. We found out they don’t share such information, nor do they tell you their names. Remember, I couldn’t bring my iPhone or my iPad in to show an email of the documents. I don’t remember how we solved that problem, but it worked out. Finally, after months of work and waiting, the ID showed up in the mail.
The further we got into the process , the more I realized he couldn’t do this without me. We live in rural Kentucky. He doesn’t have the transportation to Nashville. He wouldn’t have known how to get the documentation. His family couldn’t have communicated well enough to help him. I never realized how oppressed many immigrants in our nation are, not because someone is trying to keep them down, but because of language barriers, because of laws and practices that those of us born here just don’t know and have little reason to think about or understand. Because we don’t know or understand, we don’t do anything to change them. Reading through Facebook, we spend a good deal of thought (or at least opinions) judging immigrants for not doing what we do or not “getting in line” to enter the country. What we don’t understand is that there isn’t a line, and if there were, most couldn’t afford to be in it. We have NO concept of the life they are leaving when they risk their lives to come here.
I remember visiting Cancun with my mom when I was 19. We rented a car for a day and got a little turned around. We ended up in a neighborhood that tourists aren’t supposed to see. I vividly remember seeing a man riding a bicycle with his family on it with him, his wife and three kids! The homes were mostly made of tin sheets leaned together. I had never seen anything like it before. The part of Mexico Rick is from is notorious for its drug lords. I think that is why his sister is so scared of being deported. What would she have to do to survive in such a place?
Writing this blog has me thinking a great deal of my immigrant heritage. Today, I visited my grandparents to ask questions about immigration. I wish (I could figure out how to add that audio here!) My paternal great grandmother, Martha, immigrated from Germany in 1888. I asked my grandfather what he knew about that. His grandparents had family who had migrated to Iowa and they decided to join them. Before Martha was two, her family went to the river bank in Germany to find a boat to take them to America. The family had to wait a time (I assume camping) until space was available for the clan. They came through Ellis Island and went through the process of becoming Americans. Apparently, at that time, the government was giving away land; if you worked the land for a certain period of time, they gave it to you.
My grandmother’s great grandmother came over from Germany with six children. Her husband died the day they embarked in New Orleans. She and her brood traveled up the Mississippi River to St. Louis and joined a group of Lutheran Germans with an orphanage. She put four of the children in an orphanage while she worked as a domestic until she was able to marry and old widower. She then retrieved her children from the orphanage. She had another child after marrying him, and that was her grandmother, Lizzie. I’m attaching my Grandmother’s writing to her daughter on the subject.
Back to Rick
So you ask… Did he get his license? Well, I took both boys to take their permit test the same day. In Kentucky, you don’t just have to have proof of who you are, you also have to have a social security card to get a license. We had been told we didn’t have to have a social security card with the ID card he had, but apparently we were told incorrectly. So, that started a new journey… getting a social security number. That, my friends, is a pain in the a❤️❤️! I won’t bore you with the details, but because he has a social security number, he can work, he can pay taxes, he can pay for health and dental and vision insurance for himself. He would like to go to school, but that is going to require a little more saving and taking the actual driver test (He has his permit and is a good driver. He can even parallel park.) so he can drive to class, and purchasing a car. I don’t know if you can tell, I am especially proud of my friend, and the way he has faced difficulties without any resentment. He has persevered with great gratitude and great attitude.
Though Rick is reserved, he’s quick witted, with a goofy joke always ready. He asks deep questions in a quiet unassuming way. His calm demeanor and gentle smile is a nice change from the loud banter that accompanies my brood at Sunday afternoon lunch. I know as he continues into manhood I will see him less and less.
His family no longer walks through my yard to go fishing at the local pond. Rick has since moved from my back yard. The owner of the trailer his family resided in passed away and it will soon be torn down (its over forty years old and falling apart more with every rain storm). They are living in a nicer home now, I hear, and with Rick working, a lot of pressure has been taken off of his family. He is a saver. He has a good bit of money saved to pay cash for his first car (some good habits – like not having debt- can come out of hardship). He goes to work every morning between four and six with his dad, and gets off in the evenings between three and five.
Regardless of your opinion on immigrants, here is the truth. We have a group of people who have lived here most all of their lives. Many, like Rick, are bilingual, but significantly more fluent in reading English than their native language because that is what they were taught in school. They are a significant, important part of our society. For a time, many have had legal status to work and behave in American society as a contributor. DACA is being receinded. It is in Congress’s hands to decide the fate of these young adults. My hope and prayer is that they will make a path to create a more perminant legal status for people who have been trained by our schools and cultures to be Americans. My hope and prayer is that they will create a path to citizenship for those who would like to be a part of our nation. My wish, is that we had as extensive of a vetting system for those of us born here, and that there was a place to deport some of them! (You think I’m joking, I’m not.)
There’s a part of me that wants to tell Rick to spend the next six months continuing to save. Then to pay a woman to marry him. He would make a great husband. He is kind, and funny, and never harsh. He works and cares well for his family. The problem is, we believe in God’s design for marriage: one man, one woman, no divorce. Fortunately, God loves Rick and his family. He will never forsake him. God has greater plans for Rick’s life than either of us can imagine, just like he does for all of my kids. So, I can only encourage him as I do all the others. Obey God, and get ready to be blown away by his goodness and providence.
Please, contact your legislators and encourage them to make a path for these people who trusted our government, trusted DACA. These people are vetted, they must renew every two years to the cost of over $400, background checks, finger printing and (for us) another trip to Nashville. This isn’t a free loader program. It’s also not a permanent solution, and we need one that benefits both our economy and these people stuck in a situation they neither created nor can control.