Bringing Prohibition Back for the Holidays

Not alcohol prohibition – are you kidding?

A few years back, I proposed and miraculously implemented a cease and desist from all screen entertainment beginning with Thanksgiving Day and ending on New Years Eve.  When I say miraculously, I mean I got my husband to agree to it.  The kids, of course, violently opposed my proposition.

When I was in third grade, my parents built a small cabin in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California.  Small is the operative word here. My dad was a man ahead (?) of his time when it came to TV.  He hated it.  He did everything he could to prevent us from watching it.  When they built the cabin in 1973, Dad insisted that it be TV and telephone free.  My sisters and I were allowed a record player; a concession my parents likely regretted due to our love for Donny Osmond. “Hey…there…lonely girl” 

As my children entered their teen years, I found it increasingly difficult to compete with the computer, cell phones or TV for family time.  There was always a game to watch, a message demanding an immediate response or a loud cable show making a grab for their attention. Being my father’s daughter, I blamed it all on the media and devised a plan to prohibit screen entertainment for the greater good of the family.  As I presented my case to my husband, I pulled out all the stops:  the kids are growing up; they will soon be gone; we won’t be able to get back the time; will we really remember all the sports games we watched together?  He’s a sentimental guy and had coincidentally (wink) just eaten his favorite dinner.  He agreed.

On the first Sunday afternoon of our Prohibition, they sat griping at each other.  My husband was actually experiencing physical withdrawal symptoms, wringing his hands in the kitchen, not sure how to eat his sandwich without the soothing images of the gridiron. I suggested a card game and dove for the laundry room under a barrage of shouts and dirty looks.  It was ugly.

Eventually, their total boredom forced them to action.  After school, the kids began to grudgingly discuss their day and their homework.  The older ones advised the younger ones on techniques to master certain classes or assignments.  They got into baking and decorating Christmas cookies. They blew the dust off the board games and cracked the rule booklets. Shockingly, they completed a puzzle. We parents had time for a media-free glass of wine by the fire.

Lest you think I’m a complete tyrant, we did have some exceptions to our Prohibition.  Facebook/texts could be checked once a day for 10 minutes.  We watched our traditional movie on Christmas eve.  My husband listened to a football game or two on the radio as he did stuff around the house.

Do we do this every year? No. Will my children do this with their children?  That remains to be seen.


3 thoughts on “Bringing Prohibition Back for the Holidays

  1. I love this idea! We haven’t had cable for almost a decade, and try to monitor the amount of TV we watch. However, I have found that once the TV is turned on, it stays on, regardless of how bad the programming is. On occasion we have done short “prohibition” stretches, only to grow “lazy” and let the rules slip.
    Last spring I added Netflix to aid to our homeschooling. Of course, 90% of what is viewed is now not school related. And, this pass fall we bought our daughter a laptop which has presented new challenges in getting her to unplug. However, both of my kids regularly ask about family game nights, etc. I think I’ll propose a monthly unplugged week, allowing the 10 minute FB concession.
    Great post! Thanks for sharing!

    • “Suppose someone invented an instrument, a convenient little talking tube which, say, could be heard over the whole land…I wonder if the police would not forbid it, fearing that the whole country would become mentally deranged if it were used.”
      Soren Kierkegaard 1813-1855

      An interesting quote indeed!

  2. This is such a neat idea and I have no doubt the positive effects it brought about once everyone was adjusted and on board. As a kid, limiting my TV time was the ultimate punishment, but now as an adult I truly appreciate quiet time, time spent outdoors and even an occasional board game. Due to watching our budget–we haven’t had cable in months and haven’t missed it one bit!

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