Five years ago, Mike and I moved into a new to us (old and in bad shape) house. With a ton of help, we fixed it up and deciding we wanted to make it a place to serve and love others. It has been kind of like a grand central station these past five years. The station started out really happy and grateful, especially for all the kids who constantly showed up at our door. They were all young and sweet and playful. Easy-peasy for the most part.
And then something happened. One by one, the kids got devices and technology started taking place of playing. I went from loving having guests, to hating it, because I could not stand the technology. I was constantly in fear that someone would stumble upon something under my watch. I'd check on them and check on them, but it was a huge dark cloud hanging over me with each young visitor.
Without going into too much detail, Mike and I learned some really hard lessons with an older guest a few summers ago. I was up to my eyeballs in misery over the technology issue, but honest to goodness did NOT know how to solve the overwhelming problem.
And then it finally hit me, we have to make our home a tech free zone when playdates and slumber parties are happening. When the girls' friends come over, they have to leave their devices on the front table in our foyer. And our kids can't get theirs out either. The guest can check them as needed, but if you are here to visit, you are here to play, and that is it. If you want to do technology, head back home.
Guess what, NO ONE ever heads back home! Ever! When we ran this idea by Lilly, she was NOT HAPPY about it. Not a bit. There was crying and drama and "Everyone will make fun of me. I'll be the weird kid!"....Blah...Blah...Blah.
To be honest, I wasn't confident with our decision. I mean, no one wants their kid to be the "weird" kid with the "weird mom" but something happened that changed my perspective.
I was hosting Bible Study at my house with some very dear and wise friends. When I told them my dilemma, one mom spoke up and said she didn't even let her teenage daughter and her friends hang out on technology at their house. And that was that. I think a lot of moms had an ah-ha moments right then.
It gave me so much peace. If her daughters are several years older than mine and they are without technology when their friends are over, then so can mine be! It was so empowering. It made me wish I'd ran this dreadful problem by them much sooner.
To be honest, Lil is at an awkward age. Stuck between childhood and teenagehood. She loves to play school and house and dolls, but for the love, please don't tell her I said so! Some of her friends are way cool with that and others are kind of growing out of it. For those kiddos, we suggest trampoline or basketball or bike rides. I let them make all kinds of slime. (To be honest, I Hate that dang mess, but a mess in the kitchen is better than a mess in their heads!) I always suggest UNO, but they rarely take me up on that offer.
When they have played and played and played, I'm always happy to turn on a movie or tv show for them in the living room. I'm definitely not opposed to iPads and iPods and TV shows. I just want so much more for them. And Me. I want to be able to enjoy their friends, without the fear of what might accidentally pop up on the screen. I want to protect their childhood and give them a chance to make memories. To talk to each other. To get outside and breath in all the fresh air. To get better at sports. To laugh. To just enjoy life together.
Since we have enforced this new rule, everything has changed. Instead of feeling dread in my stomach when the doorbell rings, I am truly SO happy for each guest. I hug them and love them and welcome them in with wide open arms. I often put them to work if we happen to be working, because there is no better way to make a guest feel welcome than to say, "Can you help set the table for me?" Instead of making them feel like outsiders, we say, Come on in! and while you are here, you are part of our team. And our team works hard and plays hard.
While they are here, they are free as birds to not have to be concerned or consumed with "what everyone else is doing." They just get to be kids. In a home with a mom who is finally free to love them like her own.
I urge you to be more wise than me. (I'm telling you, we always learn everything the HARD way!) It's your home. You set the standard. You make the rules. Your kids and their friends will be SO grateful for a childhood of fun memories that do not involve a screen in their face.