Monday, 29 September 2014

Wonder Woman?

I have always been someone who wants to fix things.  Not mechanical things you understand - my brain is not orientated to dealing with the nuts and bolts of a bike or an engine.  The stuff I like to fix relates more to bad situations and feelings.  I hate seeing people upset, angry, sad, frustrated, put upon.  I hate it because I've felt it and I also know how it feels when people help you to feel just a little bit better - a hug, a sympathetic ear, a useful phone number, a lift when it's pissing with rain or someone to pack your bags at the supermarket because your baby is screaming and it is quite evident that you are about to scream too because you can't get the Shreddies to fit in the bloody bag and comfort your infant at the same time.  I witnessed a beautiful example of this recently as a shopper sat and held the hand of an elderly lady who couldn't remember her pin number and so couldn't pay.  It was making her cry because it had happened before and she was embarrassed.  And the kind shopper and the shop assistant at the till told the lady it was alright, and it didn't matter - they'd find a way to sort it out, and we all forget our pin number sometimes, because in keeping our details safe we tie ourselves up in ever more complicated knots of numbers and letters and punctuation marks.  Bloody banks.    

With all of these wonderful vibes going round what I hadn't expected to learn was that there are times when my urge to assist needs to be toned down, and naturally the lesson has come from the wisest people in the house - the children.

Returning home from school one day my daughter told me about something that had happened that seemed unfair to her and so I offered to contact the school.  In return I was treated to a good minute of "Whydoyoualwayssaythat?! Aaarrgh!! You're so annoying!!"  Turns out that she just wanted to vent, just like grown ups do and (as one of my friends later pointed out) if my husband complained about work, I wouldn't call his boss - so why was I trying to fix every tiny issue the children present?  Despite the delivery of her message, what my daughter said made me take stock and so I returned to where she was sat, exasperated at my inability to detect she is growing up, to explain that my being annoying and embarrassing comes from a good place and that I would wait until she asked for my help before volunteering to speak on her behalf; sometimes us parents can't help these things.  And she smiled, and wasn't angry any more about what had seemed so unfair during her day, or her annoying mum.  

In my rush to fix I had forgotten to listen properly, putting my pants on over my trousers and attaching my cape when I didn't need to come to the rescue.  For all the times when I have needed to be on high alert in my life, there are dozens more where I have created more drama than necessary, and where my wanting to be helpful has overshadowed what I'm being told.

So I'm going to try to be more wife and less Wonder Woman, more friend and less Fantastic Four, more mother and a superhero beginning with 'M' catch my drift.  In doing so, perhaps I'll tune in better to when I'm really needed - I'll hang on to the cape just in case.

Soundtrack: The Theme to Wonder Woman

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Kill Your Television

I saw a woman in the cafe of a swimming pool hand her baby an iPad to play with.  It was to distract the baby so she could chat with a friend.  I wanted one of two things to happen:
1. The baby would do what all babies do: vomit - right onto the iPad
2. The baby would do the other thing that babies do when they're given something: throw it on the floor.
I did also hope that her mother might just have a book.  You know, one of those nice ones for babies designed to stimulate and delight them (and withstand dribble, vomit and throwing).  But no, she didn't have one of those.  Just a piece of tech that cost hundreds of pounds that no doubt she'd have a paddy about if it got dropped on the floor. 
Maybe I'm just a massively judgemental cow, but I don't care.  I have been validated by a Steve Jobs comment - yes, really!
I read today that Steve Jobs was a low-tech parent.  Despite leading a company whose products are the tech equivalent of crack for some people, causing them to rob their mums and queue in the rain for hours just to hold a piece of white plastic that they would then download Minecraft and Bruno Mars albums onto, he explained to the journalist Nick Bilton back in 2010 that he would "limit how much technology our kids use at home.”  
Isn't it highly hypocritical of me to make a living from the technology industry and not encourage my children to use it?  Am I harming the likelihood of my daughter pursuing a career in technology because I don't let her spend time playing on my tablet pc?  No, I don't think so.  My children are still at primary school - there's no reason for them to spend hours with a screen in their faces or hands.  I have come to this conclusion through my own technology usage which is thus: 
They can wait until ooh, they're at least fourteen before we tell them they need to earn their keep.
I am guilty as hell of this.  It is the adult equivalent of picking your nose.  I'm trying to do less of it.
Chatting with friends
Let's face it, nobody has a land line any more so keeping up with the friends we've made over the years would be almost impossible without email and Facebook.  And even if we did have land lines, picking up the phone to a friend will cause your children to shriek in your ears / strip off / start tearing the house apart in order to end your conversation - it's just not possible.  The children's friends are at school.  Where they go every day.  For six whole hours.  
Who am I kidding?  See: Distraction.
I've downloaded some apps to help me with my fitness goals because I'm lazy and need a kick up the arse to stop me from getting a massive arse.  Children are naturally geared to behave like chimpanzees jacked up on a hundred bananas - if we spent more time playing with them or like them, we'd be a hell of a lot fitter.
Of course there are times when technology makes it possible to cross oceans and keeps families together who are miles apart, but my issue is with putting devices into the hands of very young children as a means of occupying them.  What I know from my own experience is you're a click away from content that is unsettling at best, terrifying at worst, even with parental controls.  That when you download a game intended for children, it might show you an advert offering 'explicit pics of people you know' (thanks Talking Tom app).  I know owning a smartphone can make you behave furtively - even blatantly rudely as you check it whilst sat with another person.  It can also make you very angry, I have thrown at least one mobile phone in my time and the language I have used when my 'smart' phone has crashed is pretty choice.  
Naturally there are times when the children think it's unfair or have a nuclear-strength tantrum because we've turned off the tv but it doesn't take long until they find something else to interest them.  Either that or we have tear ourselves away from our own devices to properly pay attention to them which is no bad thing.  
This was further underlined this week when my five-year-old son was "bored" because I'd turned the television off so I encouraged him to write out some party invitations.  Seeing him holding a pen, concentrating on carefully writing his friends names out was a very emotional moment for me.  No tech, no screen, just a pen, some card and watching him develop a true skill that will last him the whole of his life.  It's low tech, but I love it.