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Turning the Lights Out: A Family Experiment

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Guest Blogger NorEastMom on how she plans to do her part to save the world ...


Our family discussed the possibility of beginning a strange custom this winter ... picking one night a month to keep our electric lights off. This idea was culmination of a few things we've been discussing: getting greener, saving money during the recession, and cutting back on the TV and video addiction that we all seem to have. We also feel it could teach our kids resourcefulness in the face of natural challenges that might arise with global warming, such as, I don't know ... monsoons, hurricanes, violent eclipses, the earth opening up, etc.

According to the latest science channel special, we New Englanders are all scheduled to boogie board the polar icecap two thousand miles south into the Gulf of Mexico next summer. Our kids will need some survival skills if that's the case. So, we feel like we're being responsible parents.

Sunset here in Rhode Island is about 4:45 these days, so we're not talking of any small task. This plan would involve dinner without using the oven (takeout), homework without lights (might actually get neater), no entertainment beyond the sound of our own voices (a short trip into the land of schizophrenia), and young children forfeiting the relentlessly-demanded 3000 watt hall light.

Beyond that, at 37, I'm still shamefully afraid of the dark. Nothing is more disturbing to me than not being able to see my own hand in front of my face, and my imagination immediately gets all Blair-Witchy on me. Its really difficult to soothe nervous children when they ask, "I think I saw a monster," and their mother responds, "He looked more like a mangled serial killer to me ... "

Another problem is we can't agree on the actual source of light to use. My husband says that using flashlights would be cheating because of battery power. I of course raise the increased risk of fire if we used propane lanterns. "That's silly ..." states the father, "that's very real, statistically speaking," states the mother, and this is sounding exactly like any discussion we've ever had regarding the kids skating, sledding, rock climbing, riding on quads, or anything involving risk. The conversation ends when I state, "so no batteries means no iPhone, hon," and all of a sudden he gets a bit more flexible.

I picture us all reading by the fireplace, doing homework, drinking hot chocolate, the children naturally asking to turn in around 7, and my husband and I then enjoying the best aphrodisiac for a couple who have been together ten years ... pitch black. Having the house asleep by 9, waking up and milking the cows ... SCREECH ... Sorry, I was right in the middle of a dream that I was Laura Ingalls.

Some of you will be happy to tune in when I describe to you next week what the REALITY was like, dealing with darkness by 5 PM. For those of you who are curious, we do live in the woods without any street lamps, busy roads, etc. which makes it a bit more interesting (and clearly will necessitate my sleeping with a flashlight under my pillow). Our goal? To inspire other families to get real and see how many human beings live every day, and unplug ourselves from the mayhem of life for 14 measly hours. We think it will be worth it. Unless Dahmer interrupts our plans. Oh boy, better find my Xanax.

next: Moms Don't Give Other Moms Compliments
6 comments so far | Post a comment now
Uly November 18, 2008, 12:50 PM

Get a couple of crank-powered flashlights. Next hurricane, you’ll thank me for the idea.

You can also get crank powered radios and (you’ll love this) crank powered *phone rechargers*. Cool, huh?

Anonymous November 18, 2008, 7:55 PM

Good Luck- you might have fun- like a forced blackout- but seriously, what are you going to to do the other 29 or 30 days of the month to make a difference? Or do you go back to the life of a pilgrim once in a blue moon and then you become the regular 21st century wastoid the rest of the month?                   

anonymister November 18, 2008, 8:27 PM

Uly, good idea about the crank powered equipment. How about a crank powered “massager” for the pitch black part ;)

janie mcp November 18, 2008, 8:27 PM

Inspiring? Idealistic? Yes!
Realistic? hmmm-maybe not. I bet this lasts maybe one or two nights and then you’re going to say screw it. Maybe it would be easier to do this to the best of your ability, but for the rest of the month you could focus on things like teaching the kids about water conservation, recycling, eating bugs, etc. Good Luck!
Your old friend Nellie Oleson

Momma November 18, 2008, 8:39 PM

I think it’s a great example for the kids. Their generation is already programmed to be environmentally conscious, and when they look back at times like this they will be thankful that Generation X at least attempted in different ways (big or small) to be mindful of our planet. Unfortunately if I did this, most likely it would result in another pregnancy for me and that’s just not good for any planet in our solar system.

M.Rogers November 19, 2008, 6:05 PM

NO FAIR! I don’t want to have to tune back in… ok, so I guess your article was good enough for me to be totally interested in the results:) I will be back. I am interested in what your son might swallow in the dark! LOL

Good luck with the dark woods behind your house… You are braver then me. I don’t what’s scarier kids in the dark or the dark.

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