A couple months ago I felt a nudge. A nudge to put our TV away, out of sight, for an undetermined amount of time. I had been feeling a little frustrated by how many shows my daughter had started watching in a day—moving away from one in the morning and one in the evening—to double that if not more, which was entirely my doing. It’s not like she could start the programs herself. But I found myself caring less and less about the amount of time she was consuming Netflix, loosing the reigns because I just didn’t feel like saying no and fighting her persistence: “show! show! show!…”
Despite my own irritation with the direction we were going, I sensed something apart from that urging me to remove the TV from the living room. And so I sat with it, Googled it, texted a friend about it, emailed a blogger about it, and prayed about it. Google and looking to what others were doing didn’t help me much. Deep down, I knew that what other people were doing meant nothing if this was God nudging me. Other parents are not to be my guide, He is. And deep down, I knew it was the Lord nudging me because if it were just my own voice of reason I would not take such drastic measures. Instead, I would simply tighten the reigns—stop the shows but keep the TV as is, or go back to the two-a-day rule. But this wasn’t what God wanted. He wanted it gone, out of sight.
After about a week of sitting on it, I brought it up to my husband. Explained what I felt, my reasoning, why I sensed it was the Holy Spirit and not my own idea. I was worried about his reaction, that he might not be on board, mostly because I know Netflix is a big help to him on the nights I teach yoga. But he was actually in favor of the plan.
My biggest concern with ditching the TV was not how my daughter would handle it, but how I would. Netflix is the ideal babysitter—always there for just $10 a month. What would I do when it was time to cook dinner? Or when the weather was bad and she was bored? Or when I just wanted to sit there and do nothing? I knew this was more about me than her. It would require more effort and energy, getting down on the floor with her, reading more books, putting my own agenda aside when she needed my supervision or help. This action would require me to be more attentive and engaged.
In spite of my fears to banish the TV, His still small voice persisted: “There is buried treasure here.” And so I’ve been trusting these words, this promise—that in doing the extra work resulting from cutting back screen time, by digging deeper, getting dirtier, I will find buried treasure.
The morning after we put the TV up, my daughter asked “where show?” a few times throughout the day, but she didn’t whine or cry for it, and within a couple days she stopped asking altogether. Out of sight, out of mind. For me, however, it was not out of mind, and there were (and still are) times when I want it back in sight.
But perhaps what has surprised me most about taking Netflix away from our daily routine is that I don’t feel pressed for time like I thought I would. I am still able to get stuff done—make dinner, do dishes, get dressed, whatever—without her sitting in the recliner zoning out on Sarah & Duck. I realized that oftentimes when she was watching a show I was using that time to scroll through a social media feed, not always to do something productive. So in cutting back her screen time, I’ve unintentionally limited mine, which I’m certain is part of the buried treasure, and a conversation for another time.
And there has been a change in my daughter. When before she would head straight to the couch upon waking, asking for a show, she now plays with her toys. She is actually capable of entertaining herself without technology (gasp!). She is less whiney, more independent. It’s amazing.
Furthermore, I have come to seek the Lord more as a mom than I did before, simply because I must rely on Him for the strength and energy to keep up, to help me be engaged and savor these toddler days. Ordinarily I would depend on Netflix in my moments of tiredness or overwhelm, but now it is Him. Again, another part of that buried treasure.
I would like to interject here that my daughter still has some screen time. She has a Kindle she watches whenever we’re in the car, and I know my husband still turns on a show on the computer when I’m gone teaching yoga. I don’t know how long the no-TV season will last. Though I would like it to remain our new normal, I might just fall apart without Netflix once I have a newborn to manage and winter is here. We will see where He leads when the time comes.
I don’t know what else the buried treasure entails. Maybe it’s simply being present and enjoying these last few months with just my daughter before her brother arrives. Maybe it’s the little moments that would ordinarily be spent watching a show getting turned into teaching or bonding or playful moments. Maybe it’s my daughter becoming more imaginative and independent, less instantly gratified. Maybe taking the time to invest in her in these early days will reap benefits down the road. I can only imagine, only hope, only trust His word. I can only obey His voice calling out to me. But I do know this: He leads me beside still waters, to pastures green and full. He is my Shepherd, and His leading will always restore my soul.
Likewise, may you remember this the next time the Lord nudges you to do something you don’t really want to do. When He opens His hand and gives you bread to provide for your heart, though you’re certain He’s offering a stone. When you think He’s leading you to a dungeon for torture instead of peaceful pastures. Stop and remember who He is. That He is a good Father, a loving Shepherd, one that desires to satisfy you with His mercy and lovingkindess. To bring you into deeper intimacy with Him, dependency. He is aiming to restore your soul.