It was a normal Sunday afternoon. Everyone was fed and happy. Our six- and seven-year-old boys had headed outside to play on the trampoline, and Victor and I took advantage of the unusual gift of a quiet house. We headed to our bedroom to snuggle into a nice afternoon nap together.
It lasted a whole nine and a half minutes, and then the inevitable sounded like a fog horn.
“Mommy! He’s trying to choke me!”
“Well, he started it!”
Victor and I don’t get much time alone, and now that small window for a quiet cuddle was slammed shut by clashing juvenile voices.
I stomped into the living room to break up the fight. I began my usual lecture about how brothers are supposed to love each other. It’s the same speech I give every time. The speech that has yet to work, but I faithfully fall back on it as though it’s going to come through for me this time.
While I filled the air with desperate pleas for peace, Victor quietly passed us all and headed to the TV. I figured he was annoyed with the whole thing and was going to escape the mayhem by finding something distracting to watch.
But he didn’t sit down. He was a man on a mission, and his mission was to remove the video game console, the WiFi router, and the TV.
Now my boys can move fast, but I don’t think I have ever seen them move as fast as they did that day. They ran to protect their treasures. There was no shortage of tears and promises. I think I was as stunned as they were.
I was seriously thinking that this was a very bad idea.
This is how they relax after a long day of school.
These things are important to them.
They are going to think we don’t care about what matters to them.
I, like most women, wanted to rush out, throw up my arms and yell, “Stop—this is making my kids unhappy.”
But I didn’t do that. My Victor deserved more credit than that. I told myself that Victor is a good father,and he would only ever do what he believes is for the good of our kids. I told myself that we are equal parenting partners, and so his ideas should be given an equal chance. And I told myself that I trusted him to be the wise daddy that I know him to be.
In just a couple of minutes, I resolved the little conflict I was having within myself. However, I did request a secret meeting to help me ease my worries.
“I need to understand what’s happening here, sweetheart.”
My request was much calmer than my heart.
“I think they fight so much because they have so many distractions,” Victor explained. “I’m not getting rid of these things forever; I’m just removing the distraction for a short time to see if their behavior improves.”
Well, that didn’t sound so bad. In fact, it sounded pretty good. Victor said that he thought we should use the newly found free time to do new things together, read books, or just rest.
What had been alarm and judgment on my part, suddenly turned to admiration and warranted trust. I was so proud of my husband. I was proud of myself, too, for holding back on my overly emotional reaction and trusting him as a capable partner in our relationship.
Now here’s the best part. No less than three hours into the TV withdrawal, Victor headed to the office supply store and bought us all new chairs for our desks. We had all been using wooden kitchen chairs at our desks, and nobody wanted to sit in them for any length of time. I would have thought that my toy-crazed children would have balked at the surprise of a new desk chair. But, without anything else to do (like watch TV or play video games), the boys got out their tool boxes and started helping put the new chairs together.
For thirty minutes we all sat on the living room floor, working together, not an unkind word spoken, and taking pride in our work. The finished product led to both the boys wanting to begin writing their own books. That project continued for five days. Every night that they would have spent in a digital trance, they instead requested to go to their desks and add pages to their books.
Now, boys will be boys, and I have still heard those squabbles here and there, but nothing like it used to be. All the aggression from those video games isn’t a part of their everyday life now, so maybe they are learning some new reactionary skills.
They can thank their dad for that. I can thank their dad for that. I’m glad I didn’t try to step in and act like I knew better than him. This time, I didn’t know better—he did. And the result is a much quieter and peaceful home.