By: Sandra L. Churchill
In a gadget-crazed, techno-ruled society, it is often unthinkable to step away from the fastest, coolest, palm-sized obsession or flat-screen marvel—in a quest to seek something altogether different. Whether it’s a trek on the “road less traveled” to get up close and personal with nature or simply a path to “unplug” at home and enjoy each other, stepping off the cable media train can have near-miraculous results.
Our family took the media “road less traveled” years ago by opting (yes, on purpose) to forego cable television and step aside from the popular wave of trendy shows, reality TV, and music videos. This was not a financial decision but a value-based commitment to spend our time as parents and children in other ways. By not investing in more costly TV time, we freed up more precious hours to read, craft, converse, play games, tour museums, hike, visit zoos, and go camping, among other things. Only in recent years did we have to reconsider a bit and sign up for the $11-a-month truly basic cable that simply turns the TV on for the sake of the dozen or so channels such as PBS and the major networks for news, local programming, and an occasional show that drew family interest.
True, my teens now have laptops and can seek out a missed Once Upon a Time episode or a YouTube song needed for a theater rehearsal, but we’ve raised our older two children to embrace other ways of learning, relaxing, and having fun. Not only did their music often lean to Broadway soundtracks as they approached high school, but they jumped on the “old-fashioned” bandwagon of mom and dad’s TV favorites which spanned classics such as I Love Lucy, Touched by an Angel, Little House on the Prairie, Bewitched, and The Waltons, as well as ‘80s and ‘90s greats such as The Cosby Show, McGyver, Family Ties, and Full House. They engaged in more family-centered shows that we were blessed with when we were kids, and as a result, refrained from some of the disrespect and growing-up-too-fast downfalls of today’s TV offerings.
Our youngest child is a passionate second-grader, who is a film fan. He aspires to be the next Steven Spielberg with weekly movie plots and so much creative energy we’ve started a binder for him to house all his action-adventure scripts. He watches PBS shows such as Cyber Chase and Electric Company as well as myriad DVDs from the library and our growing collection.
One natural offshoot of stepping off the cable TV train is a zeal for reading. Each of our children has developed a passion for the written word—spanning action-adventure, mystery, fantasy, and classic fiction. Overstuffed bookcases fill most rooms in our home, but this is a vice we’ve been happy to embrace over the years.
Another result from lifting the cable TV burden is permission—or even encouragement—to explore other interests, hobbies, and skills. Charcoal drawing, karate, scouts, choir, drama, student government, photography, figure skating, cooking, and Audubon programs are just a sample of the pathways that thread their way through our family activities and traditions.
Lastly, the upstream battle to slow down today’s push to “grow up too fast” has been eased a little by stepping away from the glitz of the flat screen. Childhood already flies by insanely fast and the dizzying pace to be older, streetwise, and trendy is not always good for our sons and daughters. In our house, finding time away from the screen has been a wonderful way for each of us to enjoy the moment, savor the blessings of today, and slow down