You know what happens on a Sunday in our house. You always hope I’ll forget but I never do and today was no different. Screen Free Sunday. Not for the whole days mind. Just for a few hours.
At first, it was a battle of wills & snatched hidden viewing, but it’s getting easier isn’t it? Well, as the weeks go by you both show less resistance. I feel, as your parent, that you deserve to know why I think it’s so important.
It’s hard being you these days. I mean, really, really hard. I think you have it a lot tougher than we did.
Take my childhood home for example. When I was your age, once I got home I may as well have lived in a fortress. No one could reach me unless it was through the landline (we only had one) or through the front door, usually with Nanny or Grandad as gatekeeper.
But you live in no such cocoon. When you were little I made you a promise that we would have full parental controls, on one computer in the main family room. You would be protected, only technology beat us to it. You’ve got snapchat and Instagram on your own iPad & phones and you’re happiest lying on your bed circumnavigating the channels du jour. Devices that we bought you ourselves. Devices that always make me feel like we are one step behind.
You think that this is a splendid isolation because you don’t yet understand that there is nowhere to hide and nor do you recognise that nagging “fear of missing out” (fimo) for what it really is. You will have forgotten the freedom of being unconnected because the pressure to be connected is immense, if not overwhelming. And You won’t see this as a bad thing at all.
And then take the tv. Bear with me because this is where you’ll think that I am really, really old; something that you have always suspected. Up until my mid teens we had four channels and certain things were on at certain times. Children’s tv was 6 – 11:30 weekend mornings and 3:15 to 5:30 after school. Then along came channel five & sky. And then whoosh. Suddenly it all became a lot more… busy. You could, given half the chance, watch tv for twenty four hours a day and I couldn’t even tell you how many channels there are and there still won’t be enough for you’ve come to expect tv on demand.
YouTube may well be your guru, but it won’t encourage you touch the velvet beauty inside a broad bean pod or to pull down the wild honeysuckle for you to sniff, nor lift you up to pick the juiciest blackberry off the highest bramble to taste.
Instead I’ve taught you how to build and light a fire where we’ve toasted marshmallows and I’ve taken you to campsites with no onsite entertainment where I may have told you a bit of white lie about the wifi. Sometimes there will be no “site” at all and this is where the magic really happens.
And when was the last time you received a letter? When I was little, the excitement of receiving a letter from a pen pal was something to be bottled. Apart from birthday cards and odd post cards, I remember you receiving very little. Whilst at university, receiving a penned letter or card from gap year friends and elderly relatives lessened my initial homesickness. Will a snapchat be as an effective medicine?
I watch as your generation take the easy option. Don’t learn to play a musical instrument, play guitar hero instead. Don’t read a novel, read unedited endless soap-books. Watch someone else become famous overnight and aspire to that generally unachievable (and unfulfilling?) dream wearing those brands forgoing privacy and no doubt inducing anxiety.
I urge you to be strong. Try new things in the real world. Be inquisitive. Be challenged.
Does this sound a bit of a “in my day” whinge that we all detest? Maybe it is. Maybe it needs to be.
Right now, the buzz word is Hygge but trust me my darlings when I tell you this. I’ve always known how it felt. I just never had a word for it but now You do.
Please don’t misunderstand me. I don’t want to stop you being a part of this world; indeed I think it is vital that you are, but in moderation and so I too must be strong.
It’s the easiest thing in the world to get on with my own distractions when you are engaged / hypnotised by your screen so I’m sorry kids but you will be feeling the aches of trudging up the tors with your currently under utilised muscles, because I know that you’ll feel that sense of elation when you’re on top of the world.
You will get your hands mucky planting those shoots because you’ll never taste anything as equisite as peas straight from the pod that you’ve nurtured yourself (and you will have to water them.)
You will help me to prepare dinner because maybe you’ll notice how beautiful a red cabbage cut in half really is and how velvety the inside of a broad bean pod is. You already love uncooked cake mix as much as I do even though it’s got raw egg in it.
One day, you’ll have your own family and want to prepare meals around the table, catch up on their days, sometimes with guests or maybe just your little, perfect unit eating in that cosy comforting silence that being part of a family delivers.
And I’m sorry if it’s annoying that I won’t let you take your iPad to bed. But I will read to you and then you’ll read to yourself, learn the power of escaping into a book and oh my darlings, the places that you might go. Your imagination is yours to own and yours alone. You’ll learn to comfort yourself and sooth yourself too.
Look what you’ve achieved today. Your rearranged room looks fantastic. Your idea has now opened up so much space. The banana bread you baked was the best you’ve ever made.
It’s my job as a parent to lead you down these paths with subtlety because I love you so much & believe that you deserve to know about the wonder of experiencing the value of the little things. I’ll protect you as far as I can from cyber bullies and indeed, the temptation of your own unkind words borne from behind the screen bravado.
You see, this parenting malarkey is no popularity contest at all. I’m not out seeking followers or likes. In fact, there will be times when you wish you could unfollow me. Your time will come.
So Actually, sorry, not sorry at all. I’m just doing my job. And I’ll try really hard not to get sucked in to because even as an adult, those things are out to get me too.
PS. I’ve put a screen ban on this years Christmas presents and told all the family. And I’m not sorry about that either.