Last night after dinner, my sons begged and begged to watch a DVD. We don’t have television, and we have a “No DVD on school nights” rule. I stood firm and upheld the rule. Oh, my goodness, were there tears. “It’s okay,” I said. “You can be sad.” One son, looking outside and seeing the light still in the sky implored, “Look, it’s still so early. Why can’t we watch a DVD? We have more time now.” I tried to explain (once again) the phenomenon of daylight savings and turning the clocks ahead one hour. It’s hard for a six-year-old to grasp. His brother tried a different tactic. “You can give us yogurt treats or you can let us watch something. You have to chose one.” Actually, son: I don’t. I did, however, remind the boys of their other options.
“You can go back outside and ride bikes. Or we can play backgammon. Or you can do LEGOs.” The boys didn’t immediately jump at any of those options. They weren’t quite done sulking yet. Eventually, one went back to the LEGO car he’s been working on, and his brother took me up on the offer to play backgammon. Halfway through the game the brothers joined forces against me in the backgammon game. We laughed and strategized. We tried our best to plan ahead; to anticipate each other’s moves; to make good decisions; and roll with the luck of the dice. They beat me fair and square. And by then it was time for the night time routine of bath, books and bed.
I am happy that I stuck to my guns about our school night rule, even though it initially made the boys sad. It would be easy to slide into the habit of watching DVDs every evening, but I know that small moments, such as beating mom at backgammon, and reading together, are too precious to give up. These small moments are disappearing from our busy lives. It is sad, because the cumulative effect of these small moments are connected relationships and emotional security. Instead, we often have electronic gadgets entertaining our babies (check out this AT&T commercial) and plugged in, multi-tasking, tweens, teens (see the recent Kaiser Family Foundation report) and stressed-out grown ups (see just about any of us).
So, here’s to singing off-key on long family car trips – instead of using headphones and video screens; to talking together and sharing laughs over dinner – and leaving the TV off during the meal; and to beating mom real good at backgammon – especially on a school night.