Parenting and Playwriting

Boundaries, Please

I’ve failed in a myriad of ways as a parent. I’ve chronicled many of these shortcomings here for your amusement, but I’ve also had a couple of successes. I usually keep them to myself, because nobody wants to be a smug mum, but I’m going to share one today.

The professor and I have rocked the screen time battle.

The girls aren’t allowed any screen time—phone, pad, computer, tablet, TV—on school days. On weekends, they’re allowed about an hour a day, which leans into two hours if they wake up before us Saturday morning, or if we watch a movie. The girls mainly spend their free time drawing, reading, and playing. If they complain about being bored, they have to do chores. We have plenty of battles in our household, but screen time isn’t one of them. We force our kids to spend their free time being creative, damnit!

Oh, that I could do the same thing for myself.

 

Reading over a dozen news sites a day is neither making me a better person nor the world a better place. And it’s certainly not helping my writing. While I’ve ensured that my kids have the time and brain space to be creative, I’m not giving it to myself.

 

The joy of being a freelancer is that you make your own schedule. The scourge of being a freelancer is the same. Since January 21, I’ve remained glued to the internet. I’m reading news sources I never heard of a month ago. I start with the fundamentals, the New York Times and the Washington Post, then scan the headlines in front of the pay wall at the Wall Street Journal. Next it’s the Internet sites: Vox, Slate, The Hill, Townhall (to see if any conservatives are manning up). Twitter always has some nice Politico links. I’ve never read Business Week in my life, but did you see their latest article on the economic impact of Brexit? And when that’s done, I have to check Facebook, of course, and see how that argument is going between my conservative second cousin in Montgomery and that high school homecoming queen who somewhere in the nineties shed her tiara along with her heterosexuality.

They didn’t find common ground, in case you were wondering.

Last night, I went on a real bender. After putting the kids to bed, I jumped on-line salivating. By 3am, I’d left Trump’s America entirely and was watching Japanese students sing “One Day More” on YouTube; I always end up cruising musical theatre clips when things get bad. It’s high time I admit to myself I’ve moved past “staying informed” into obsession. Reading over a dozen news sites a day is neither making me a better person nor the world a better place.

And it’s certainly not helping my writing. While I’ve ensured that my kids have the time and brain space to be creative, I’m not giving it to myself. So I’m laying out some rules.
 

"The Scream" as a TV News graphic
“Der Schrei der Medien, after Edvard Munch” by Mike Licht

1) I will turn off the Internet from the time I wake until noon.

You know how the Times has that section, “What you need to know to start your Day”? I’m rejecting that concept entirely. Starting the day with news was a good idea in the era of print newspapers, when there was a finite end to the news. Today, starting the day with the news means looking up glassy eyed at eleven o’clock to realize you’ve achieved nothing. Saving news for the lunch hour is a perfectly respectable option.

2) I will not cruise conservative websites or podcasts to “see what the other side is thinking.”

The other night I fell asleep listening to Milo Yiannopoulos' podcast on Islam and Feminism, because Hanna Rosin suggested it as a good way to understand the ideological undercurrents of the Trump administration on a Slate podcast. That was a terrible idea. While we’re constantly being warned of living in our own “news bubbles,” there are only so many hours in the day, people.

3) I will no longer read articles comparing (or contrasting) the current administration to the Third Reich.

While there have been some interesting articles on the conditions for the rise of facism, and Andrew Sullivan’s piece published back in May on Trump and Plato’s tyrant is truly great, staring at photographs of Stephen Miller and Joseph Goebbels to clock their physical similarities is not productive.

4) I will not read any more pieces on how the Trump administration is reacting to their portrayals on Saturday Night Live.

If I’m honest with myself, this is way too much fun to be real news. I can do better.

5) For every three hours I spend reading the news, I will do one action item.

For what is the point of staying informed if it doesn’t push me off the couch?

How are you handling the siren song of “breaking news”? Any tips?

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A series on balancing responsibilities as a working playwright and as a parent.

Parenting & Playwriting

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You are spot on. I just got back from a real vacation (not a family trip, not a theater trip, a lolling in the ocean real, honest-to-goodness vacation). Before we left, my husband and I made a pact not to check the news until after lunch. After all, we'd be 5 hours behind NYC/DC and the horrors of the day could wait. Somehow, without discussing it, that no-news-until-lunch became no news until we got home. WOW. What a profound difference in my mood. While I don't intend to bliss out permanently, I highly recommend a week OFF. For me, the bottom line is action. I knew I wasn't going to call a Senator, attend a rally, write a letter, donate money, or otherwise take meaningful action while on vacation thousands of miles from home. So why fill my brain with news? If you're not planning to do something about it TODAY, why obsess? Easier said than done, I know!

Your attention is the new currency. Everyone is on the Internet and everyone is putting stuff out there to get your attention. I actually used this is my last play to reveal character. One character asked the other, to what do you choose to give your attention? And the other character replied truthfully that he gives his attention to that which calls to him from within himself. I thought that was really profound. :)