Wait, They Don’t Have WiFi!!??
“Wait, they don’t have WiFi?!?!” These are the exact words my 8-year-old said to my husband and me when we told our girls that they would be going to their family’s “farm” for the weekend, where Internet access is limited. So, what do you do when your children’s lives have been completely highjacked by electronics?
When I explained to my children and husband that we would have to come home on Sunday instead of Monday night from the farm because their uncle didn’t have WiFi, you would have thought it was the end of the world. Not because we would be leaving a day early and missing out on fun with Uncle John, but because Uncle John didn’t have WiFi. Due to distance learning, I knew my kids were spending a significant amount of time on their iPads and Chrome Books, but I had no idea just how dependent they had become on these devices. I thought we had been doing it all right- my daughters do not have iPhones, we read as a family andindependently, we go for hikes, we play board games, we take the dog on walks, we play in the backyard, we go for strolls on the beach. I thought we were a well-rounded, wholesome family. What I was not expecting was my 8-year-old to feel, or fear, WiFi withdrawals.
What then occurred to me was that it wasn’t necessarily the lack of WiFi that she feared so much as the unknown of having no electronic capabilities. In our house, living in very close proximity day-in and day-out, we all have moments when we want to “zone out” and escape from reality. When the pandemic first started, we relied heavily on TV and the iPad for these moments. My daughters, like my husband, choose to either watch TV, read or play a game on their iPad. Upon reflection, I realized that the fear didn’t necessarily stem from the disconnection from the Internet, but rather from their not knowing how to disconnect from the world without it. They feared not being able to have their own “mind space” at the family farm.
Our weekend on the farm with no electronics turned out to have surprising results for everyone. I should start by sharing that I have been married to my husband for over 13 years, and in that time, we have never made the trek up to the farm. Our family COVID isolation and our eagerness to visit John and his girlfriend (they have recently taken up semi-permanent residence at the farm) gave our family the perfect excuse to finally visit. John farms vegetables, and is currently farming garlic. The property itself consists of a charming house, completely in the middle of nowhere, with over 100 acres of fields and forest. There is also a small lake, and a stream that runs through the land. It is so majestic and beautiful, but lacks some of the creature comforts to which my family has become attached (ehem, Wifi). On top of all of this, my husband was not exactly looking forward to the three-hour drive after a full day of work. It usually takes him several days to decompress when we take a trip, and the idea of only being away for two days seemed underwhelming and not at all relaxing. However, thankfully he agreed that the girls could use a change of scenery and bit the bullet.
To say my family loved the weekend would be an understatement. Once we arrived, my husband was a different person. He relaxed immediately after coming to terms with the fact that there would no chance for an emergency work call, text or email. After figuring out rooms and unpacking, the girls snuggled up in front of the huge fireplace. They had a wonderful discussion with their uncle about our drive, including the massive fire we saw that caused a detour through the middle of the woods. Before bed that night, each of the girls had said separately that they were excited for what was in store for the following day.
So, what did we do with no WiFi? We played a lot of board games at night in front of the fire. During the day, we went for hikes on the property, and sometimes even got lost. We went canoeing on the little lake, and helped Uncle John plant garlic. We found rope swings and home make kombucha from a local farm stand. We took walks into beautiful pastures where we just lounged around and talked. But best of all, we lost track of time. There was nothing but the sun and our tummies pulling us in any direction, and it was an incredible experience. Before we left, my daughters all agreed that they could not wait to return to “the farm that had no WiFi.”
I know traveling is difficult now, and a lack of Internet and connectivity can seem even more isolating than the world we are in now. However, it is important to remember that our digital distractions can not only distract us from things in the world we are trying to escape, but it also can distract us from the relationships that we value most. If you have the chance to fully disconnect from electronics, the outcome may surprise you. Like us, you could also feel that you have grown closer as a family without digital distractions.