Without denying the absolute need for technology (obsessed as I am with it!), life has become so fast paced, so driven by 2D, 3D and HD images, that as a mom I am scared we are forgetting about the simple, soul-enriching, memory-creating things in life.
My kids are (as are all, or at least most kids today), hooked on technology. They know more about my blackberry, my ipad, and Google, than I do. This fact alone scares me, as I am a self-confessed techno-slut! They play Wii, X-Box, and PlayStation as effortlessly as we used to play snap! or tag as kids. They don't need to read the instructions, or have the intricacies of the game explained to them. They just seem to innately know that pressing A makes the unbelievably life-like army dude run, B makes him shoot a machine gun, and C makes him launch grenades! Within minutes they have figured out the cheat codes on Moshi Monsters, have created new villages in Ice Age, have harvested new crops on Smurfs, and have completely killed my painstakingly cultivated high score in Temple Run. All without laborious instruction or tutoring!! As impressive as this sounds, and not withstanding the mental skills I am sure they have gained and fine tuned, I fear for my kids appreciation of the important, tangible things in life.
Recently reality bit. And bit hard. We went away with very close friends to Kamberg, and stayed at a beautiful, old-style farm. Barely any cell phone signal, a TV - but no DSTV card, so it remained off, no DS's, no Wii, X-Box or PlayStation. I held my breath the whole weekend, waiting for the inevitable "I'm bored" (which seems to have become my kids' shared middle name at the moment!). But it never came. Instead they played. They built puzzles, they explored, they canoed, they played cricket, swam, rode horses, rode bikes, and they laughed. Most surprisingly, they listened (a skill which seems to have become purposefully lost lately!). We bought them all fishing rods - simple, inexpensive fishing rods. And from day one, they fished. After the first fish had been caught, proving it could be done, we lost our kids to the edge of the dam. Hour after hour they sat together, patiently (who knew they had it in them!), and strategised how best to catch the evasive trout. And when they were successful, they were genuinely happy for each other. Instead of the way-too-early-morning wake-up to "mom, can we go watch TV?", we now had "Mom? Can dad untangle our reels, we want to go fish". What an absolute, heart-warming pleasure!
Before I come off sounding pious and judgemental, I need to say that this post is a commentary on myself as a parent first, not a blanket generalisation. However, if the shoe fits, if any bells are rung, listen and wear it. I'm Just Saying. Kids have far too many instant gratification options available to them. The TV fall back, the computer game baby sitter, the X-Box play date.. nonsense!! Lazy parenting breeds lazy kids. Even though I was hopeless at maths, even I can see the logic in this summation. I for one, am putting my foot firmly down, and will be attempting to stop the development of sloth-like natures in my kids, before I shell out any more money on OT for poor posture; before I get called in to the headmasters office to discuss the choice language of my 9 year old (I wait with bated breath for this one!); before I pay thousands to a therapist to tell me why my 9 year old is sullen and exhibiting Hannah Montana overly-theatrical-dramatic behaviour; or heaven forbid, pleading my child's case to the courts after a if-they-can-do-it-on-Grand-Theft-Auto-why-can't-I moment!
We have an "I'm Bored" jar now (thanks Pinterest!). If playing with the gazillion toys in their rooms, or reading the countless books on their bookshelves doesn't do it for them, my kids have to pick an activity - a mom-designed-sometimes-fun-sometimes-not activity - from this jar. Included in these activities are chores to be done. Not such fun! Suddenly my kids imaginations are being dusted off, their creativity is being stretched, and their playing-independently-muscles are being exercised. We talk more, we listen more, and life definitely seems less hyped up. What a win!!
I woke up this morning feeling really positive about life. The fact that Christmas is around the corner (my absolutely FAVORITE time of year!), and the prospect of a long summer holiday (with a two week road trip with very special friends), to look forward to, I plan on making living more simply work for me, my family and most importantly, my kids. If I have to become someone Hitler would be too afraid not to obey (I'm sure there's a little tyrannical dictator in all parents!), then I will gladly rise to the occasion!
So its heavy restrictions on X-Box, limited TV time and only approved channels (banishing all back-chatting-parent-disrespecting-low-pants-wearing-teen-know-it-all channels), no more moshi monsters or plant killing zombies on the computer. Its bikes, books, friends, dirt, mud, Lego, puzzles, board games, crafts and imaginary play. From now on. Because I say so. Because my kids need it. Because we all need it. I'm Just Saying...
(Let's see how long this lasts!! I'm Just Saying...)