39: Cutting the Cord

39: Cutting the Cord

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Joy of Less

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Cutting the Cord

If you want your children to turn out well, spend twice as much time with them and half as much money.

~Abigail Van Buren

The blare of the television drowned out my voice as I told the kids to work on their homework. I tried to talk to my husband about an important issue, but he was so engrossed in the show he was watching that he didn’t hear a word I said. I had the opening song of a number of shows memorized, and I dreaded hearing them. I knew that when those songs came on, I would lose my family, each of them in a different part of the house, caught up in a world created by Hollywood. My youngest daughter’s sassy attitude mirrored those of the girls in the television show — girls whose parents are irresponsible, not present, or the butt of a lot of jokes.

And then everything changed.

We’d dreamed of living in the mountains ever since we were dating. And then, in one bold, “I can’t believe we’re doing this” moment, we did. We sold our beautiful house in the suburbs and moved to the mountains. A thousand square feet smaller than our old house, the new house lacked a lot of other things we once took for granted. The biggest being the lack of access to television. Too far from the city to get any antenna reception, we also could not get the cable company to come out. Satellite television was too expensive, way more than what people in the city paid, and with fewer options. Which meant we could only use our television to stream movies from the Internet (with limited selection, since most services charged more than we were willing to pay) or watch movies.

I’d tried for years to cut the cable cord that had been slowly strangling my family, but it took geography to make my dream a reality. In the new house, we didn’t have room to have more than one television. Instead of everyone retreating to a different room to catch their favorite shows, we stay in the same room and watch something together. When someone wants to watch something the rest of the family isn’t interested in, rather than that person going to another room to watch it alone, we talk about it. We compromise. We work things out. Instead of being individuals who get to do whatever they want, when they want, we are a family unit, and we work together to make good choices about what we watch on television.

We’ve dusted off the board games, puzzles, and books, and when the weather is nice, the kids go outside to hike or play. But the real proof of making the decision to cut the cord came when my youngest daughter, Princess, had her birthday party. I had a house full of preteen girls and where they once would spend the whole time watching their favorite shows, they had to find something else to do.

Princess decided to take her friends for a hike around our property. I went with them to make sure they were safe, and as we hiked the property, I could hear them chatter.

“Pretend my name is Julianna, but you can call me Jules.”

“Pretend my name is Angelique, and you can call me Angie.”

“Pretend my name is Constance, and you can call me Constance.”

They went on and on, building a story world for themselves. The girls were explorers, having discovered a new land on a new planet. We came upon a group of boulders, which the girls decided was the perfect place to establish their new colony. Immediately, they divided up the work, such as foraging for food, finding shelter, and everything you would think necessary to colonize a new planet.

They spent the entire morning playing on the boulders. This group of girls turned a clump of boulders into a thriving colony on another planet. I didn’t hear any complaints of boredom or fighting over which show to watch next. Every single girl had a good time. As I watched them laugh and play, I realized that I hadn’t just bought a new house, I’d bought a better childhood for my kids. Instead of spending their childhood in front of the television, my kids are outside, using their imaginations and playing.

Sometimes not having as easy access to television is a challenge. Our family no longer watches the latest shows. We sometimes don’t agree on what to watch. But what we watch, we watch together. We watch less television. We go on more hikes. We work on projects together. Notice the word: “together.” Because that’s the difference cutting the cord has made. My family is closer. When I talk, they hear me. I don’t get the sassy answers.

A year ago, while we were still in our old house, my husband thought I was crazy when I said we should cancel our cable service. He didn’t see how our family could be happy without the constant blare of television. But as I sit on my couch, looking out the window, watching the changing leaves, the television off, I wish I’d been able to convince him sooner. It took moving to this place without cable service to make my dream come true. We’ve been in the new house for almost six months now, and our family is closer than it’s ever been. Less television has given our family so much more!

~Danica Favorite

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