Just Say No


(Reflections on Parenting, # 14)

There’s a substance out there that’s more deleterious to our children than any hard-core street smack that Nancy could ever have imagined…it’s called Screentime.

Most of us abuse it and parents are apt to give it to their babies, if only so they might sneak in a little screentime of their own.

The detrimental consequences are well known: overexposure to blue light; an aversion to sunlight and fresh air; sedation and sedentary vegetation; an avoidance of and lack of desire to interact with others.

The convenience of it all is highly addictive and known to split families and friends apart, even if they are sitting at the same dinner table together.

So, this afternoon I just said “No.” I was tired and all I wanted to do was take a coffee nap (that’s when you drink your favorite cup of joe and then close your eyes for 20-30 minutes until the caffeine kicks in) after picking up the kids from school because Maddy, Enzo and I found big rocks in the arroyos and carried them up the hills to finish off lining the driveway for about two hours this afternoon under the hot New Mexican sun.

So, when the children came into my room and politely asked if they could get on their devices to watch something I mustered up the courage to deny them, despite well knowing it would serve as a great and safe babysitter that would allow me to rest and retreat into the middle of nowhere for a while.

I just said “No” knowing I was taking a calculated risk, having faith that they would actually find something else to do…on their own even. Perhaps, it might be something as simple as going outside or playing with each other. I believed that breaking free of screentime was possible and would not need an intervention, if only because at their age, when I was left alone (believe it or not, this was before the Internet was invented) I figured out how to entertain myself in a way that did not require a screen, but merely use of my imagination.

Thus, lo and behold, once I was jolted out of my siesta I got up from the recesses of my divan and walked through the house to the front door to find my children…not only outside, but playing some made-up game, happily, together, which pleased me to no end.

Before we moved to Cerrillos, New Mexico three months ago, we made a conscious decision to drastically reduce our entire family’s time in front of mindless entertainment by ending a decade long subscription to Netflix and Hulu on January 1 (okay, okay we still have Disney+ and Amazon Prime) and we set up no TVs in our new house.

Although we still do have a projector to stream by, it is primarily reserved for family movie night once a week and another evening of watching documentaries or educational content as a family on YouTube, which for almost a year now has focused on permaculture farming in the desert, raising chickens and land preservation.

So far, everyone seems to be adapting well to the weening and tempered consumption of visual crack. And we’re noticeably all reading or writing and learning a lot more.

Moreover, we’re putting what we learn to use almost immediately - building things like chicken coops and dog runs and alluvial fans out of deadwood and gardens and light logs, so on and so forth.

Overall, our little experiment to Just Say “No” here at the homestead seems to be paying off, because there was no fightin’ or fussin’ when I put my foot down and closed my eyes in response to the plea this afternoon. Instead, we got children to be children again, and there ain’t nothin’ wrong with that.

As a reward for another productive day at Hacienda Dominguez & Chelenzo Farms, we all went to Beer Creek for some of the best pizza I’ve ever had there.

It wholly reminded me of the kind of pizza I grew up with in San Jose at Roundtable or Straw Hat, which Rich shared the very first time we met was the inspiration for their recipe. So, now I’m a loyal local, who’s loco for The Bonanza. And life doesn’t get any better than that.