I worked in PR for many years but I'm starting to think that I never really left behind my life of 'spin'. You see, reading this blog you could get a warped sense of my existence. It may appear, for example, that I am a hands-on mother with a Maria von Trapp complex who leads her children in an endless round of healthy, outdoor activities.
You would be wrong.
In fact my children watch a lot of telly, play endless games on the Wii and have more than a passing acquaintance with computers and the world of Nintendo DS. Of course, in common with most mothers, I have developed a deep sense of guilt about this which I have learnt to live with in the same way I have learnt to live with most other unsettling thoughts - by studiously ignoring them.
Then a few months ago I read about a woman who led her family in a technology free month. " Wow" I thought. "That's impressive" I thought. "We should so do that" I thought.
Of course, I am nothing if not a realist and I knew that a month would be pushing it. As would a week. Or, you know, an entire weekend. But, hey, a day a month is a start, isn't it? Plus, I didn't want to shock the kids with too much cold turkey.
So we let the children know the plan earlier in the week and made it sound exciting (as I say, you can take the girl out of PR...) then, on Saturday night, I unplugged the telly and Wii, packed away the laptops and put the DS' out of sight before heading to bed.
So, how did it go?
Well, my biggest worry was Archie who, at three and a half, is transfixed by anything on screen. He will alter the wallpaper on my iPhone on a daily basis, execute some impressively complex moves to Wii Just Dance and happily recite dialogue from Tangled - his current movie of choice - at the breakfast table (and believe me "I AM THE LOST PRINCESS, AREN'T I?" yelled over the cereal bowls doesn't make for a relaxing meal).
But surprisingly, he didn't seem too bothered. After finding none of the tellies working and getting a swift 'no' to any other screen requests, he followed his siblings outside. Here they entertained themselves for quite some time - mostly in making 'magic mixtures'.
For the uninitiated 'magic mixtures' are really just buckets of water to which sand, soil, feathers, twigs and general garden debris are added and mixed together. The 'magic' prefix is obviously just proof that the talent for positive spin is carried in the genes.
There was also some bug hunting, trampolining, flower arranging, painting, reading, playing with expensive midget animals (or Sylvanian families as they are more traditionallly known) but in a 'time entertained' vs 'parental effort involved' magic mixtures topped the poll.
As such I am now wondering how I can exploit this Nintendo alternative further. A bit of online research has shown me that what I really need is a mud pie kitchen. Like this:
Source: Rhythm of the Home
Source: The Child's Paper
Or even this:
Source: Pepper Paints
A perfect way to entertain the kids without a screen in sight.
Sadly, this still leaves the other problem with 'Screen Free Sunday"... me.
You see, whilst the kids were fine, I had to be told (several times) that "no, you can't look that up on the computer", 'yes, an iPhone still counts as a screen" and most depressingly of all "sorry, but you'll just have to record the Strictly Come Dancing results show."
It was torture.