Screen-Free Vacation

Before heading to Myrtle Beach for a week vacation, I deactivated both Facebook and Twitter. We made a commitment to the kids to spend screen-free time together. The boys agreed to leave their iPads at home. I brought my phone with me, but mostly used it to take photos and occasionally to check my work email just in case something urgent came up. Other than those two tasks, I hardly used my device. I didn’t even need to touch my laptop.

Our vacation was so much better when the devices were away. We spent more time with nature and with each other. We should definitely do this on every family trip. The ride from Virginia to South Carolina took about eight hours. I checked out a dozen of DVDs and books from our public libraries for the kids to entertain themselves in the car. Only Đạo did some reading, the rest watched a movie or two, and they all napped for several hours.

My wife rented a room at a resort with full kitchen and a beautiful ocean front from the 17th floor. We made breakfast and went down to the beach. We brought beach toys so they could play on the sands. The water was a bit cold, but the boys had no problem crashing into the waves in their wetsuits. They played for hours before heading to the indoor pool for more fun time. Even our little Vương loved kicking his feet and waving his arms in the water.

When not spending time in the water, we went hiking. Under the beautiful weather, we enjoyed being close to nature and away from digital devices. Time slowed down as we breathed in fresh air. I appreciated every moment of it, especially being surrounded by my love ones. I also took the boys fishing for the first time. Đạo and Đán each caught a fish. They were thrilled. We spent hours relaxing on the pier breathing in cool air and fishing for fun. I can’t wait to the day when I just sit back and read while the boys do all the fishing.

On the day that Dave & Buster’s had unlimited video games and wings, I took the boys there. Not having screen time, of course the boys were excited. Đạo and Đán were pretty much on their own as soon as I handed them their unlimited card. I just had to find them when the wings were ready. I still had to look after Xuân and my five-year-old nephew. I had to have a few drinks to keep myself entertained. D&B’s was the kids’ reward for not having their iPads. They thought it was definitely worthwhile after spending five straight hours in the joint.

On a rainy, stormy day, we stayed at the resort reading and watching movies. It was the first time I watched the entire Moana, and what a visual treatment. My reading was much slower than previous vacations. I only had a chance to finish a Vietnamese novel, which I already read half before we left. After that, I started to read The Unwinding of the Miracle by Julie Yip-Williams and my eyes were tearing within the first few pages.

As if four of our kids weren’t enough, we agreed to take on my brothers-in-law’s son with us. We didn’t think much of it because he stayed with us for a few weeks last year. This time, however, he was a bit different. His emotion has developed and he missed his dad. The poor kid asked me everyday to take him back to his dad and he counted each day to get back home. Even though we included him in all of our activities, he must had felt left out. Our kids had their parents with them, but he did not. He was close to my mother-in-law, but they had not lived together for a while. I felt bad that I did not considered how he would have felt before accepting the responsibility.

Other than that, we had a great time together as a family. Without iPads, we were forced to be more active. We did more outdoor activities. Unlike in previous vacations, especially with multiple families, adults let Steve Jobs watched over the kids so we could do our things. I was guilty as well for letting them had screen time so I could read as many books as possible. With just our family, the concept was easy to implement. When we agreed, no one can do it. With multiple families, it was harder to carry out if other parents let their kids had screen time. When one kid had an iPad, other kids would gather around like magnets. It annoyed the hell out of me to see my kids acting like addicts waiting for their fixes.

This was the second time we went on vacation without digital devices and it worked out well. We were present in each other’s company. The kids did not once complained they were bored. Xuân had also kicked his diaper to the curb. Life is great.