I’m a 21st century parenting oddball.
Why, you ask? Because most days I find it so hard to be a parent in this day and age, and I can’t help but compare it to how I grew up. (1980s and 90s mostly… if you’re wondering.) I know it was different back then. We didn’t have cell phones and our TVs were big black boxes with long silver antennas sticking out the back. Most of us didn’t have cable TV or gaming consoles (remember Atari anyone?). This was the era that was nestled between total “creative playing” and “electronic stimulation”.
I grew up the youngest of seven so we didn’t have much money. Ok, let’s be real, we hardly had enough for food, let alone anything else. So, we had to quickly learn how to entertain ourselves with random crap we could find. This included mud, rocks, green army guys, sticks and soda cans. (LOL…) Ok, that’s pretty extreme, but it’s true. We played with what we could find and we didn’t ask our parents for some form of constant stimulation. And crazy as it sounds, sometimes we actually just sat outside in the grass or on the front steps and enjoyed the quiet and sunshine.
Now… four decades later… I have two boys of my own. Both in elementary school. Neither of them have an Ipad, Iphone, gaming console, or their own TV. This includes any other form of any of these items as well. We have one TV in our home and only adults have the cell phones around here. Years ago, my husband said, “Don’t ever buy me a gaming device if you ever want to see me again.” I knew he meant that as it is a time and attention sucker. I have stayed true to his request.
My boys have friends with all of these things and it’s a continuous struggle to get them to not complain about not having these things. I’m quick to remind them that it’s not wrong for others to have these items. By all means, go to town and enjoy at it if you got it! I just have this inner game of tug-o-war on this subject. It tells me to allow them to socialize more without a device, learn the value of money and expensive things, and get outside more. I want them to see the world around them. It’s the world that many don’t pay attention to anymore… and sadly, there are also many kids and adults that are not able to enjoy the outdoors, especially if they are ill. Maybe it’s because I grew up with so little, or it’s what I want more for myself right now too. It’s to be more disconnected from the electronics, and more connected with life, family and moments where we goof off, talk and play games. I’ve had too many moments looking at a laptop vs. enjoying some fresh air and sunshine or playing with my boys. I have missed those moments and I will never get them back again. I don’t want them to have the same realization someday because they had their eyes on a tablet instead of reading a book with grandpa.
Once again, I sometimes feel like the “mean parent” when it comes to this stuff.
Yet, I know as time goes on, it will only get harder and harder to keep these things away from my boys. For goodness sake, it’s hard enough to keep them away from the TV after an hour of watching cartoons. (“Go play in the woods, kid!”) And for now, I just have to keep explaining to them why we want it this way and hope that by the time they get older, it may be desired still but hopefully not as NEEDED, like most kids think it is.
For now I want them to sit in the car and play Eye Spy, read a book or sing songs that are on the radio. They can also be bored and stare out the window and let their mind wander a little. Maybe they will see something that catches their eye and start up a fun conversation with each other. I want them to engage with us as much as possible and have them help with chores, learn to be my sous chef and most importantly, play Uno or Dominoes with grandma so they can create lasting memories before those are long gone.
Because we all know that playing games on a phone or tablet won’t be the moments we will remember.