Hello everyone. I am back. Did you miss me? Well of course not. Sorry I have probably lost you. Let me explain.
Yesterday was Tuesday. The first Tuesday of my children’s 8 week summer holiday. Still none the wiser? I will continue.
Now I love having my kids at home. Mostly. But there are some things about having my kids at home that I find really difficult. And one of those things is the constant battle to get them off electronic devices.
Childrens usage of electronic devices is one of those subjects which divides parents. A bit like breast v bottle and letting them cry it out or not.
I am of the camp that believes that electronic devices are inherently ‘evil’. This view is founded on no real evidence at all and is just something my gut tells me. It is probably because my childhood was in the era before computers smaller than the size of a room were invented.
I envy my mother. She had it much easier with us. The TV was our electronic device. We had one in the house. During this fortnight it was permanently tuned to the Wimbledon Championships. My mother ruled the air wave choices.
In the summer holidays once the morning television programming for children ended at around 10am there was nothing else worth watching until around 4pm. Even then the offerings in the morning weren’t great. Has anyone ever in the history of ‘Why Don’t You (switch of your television set and go and do something less boring instead)’ ever done that? I know I didn’t. Mostly because the activities they portrayed as more fun than watching them portray them were either; games involving the whole gang of circa 20 kids which me and my sole brother could not hope to replicate; or craft activities using sticky back plastic. Which wasn’t allowed in the house.
So my mother had no worries that for the vast majority of each day my brother and I would be doing wholesome activities mainly outside. Activities such as playing under the embankment of the bypass avoiding the local flasher or running each other over on bikes. Simpler times.
Computers made an appearance in my teenage years but the time taken to load Killer Gorilla or Frogger into the computer from the tape player (don’t touch the volume at all) was so long and often unreliable that the pay off was not really great enough for me to bother.
I tired to think what I did all summer when I was Eldest’s age. My mother asserted that I still played out in the street. She reminded me of the American exchange children who came over which was probably the summer I had turned 14. She remembers me rushing outside after every meal to ‘play out’. That wasn’t really what I was up to but I didn’t want to burst her ‘wholesome activities’ bubble….
In other teenage summers I read a lot of trashy fiction. And stole my brother’s afterburner and met my mates up the woods to drink weak beer from tins.
So it is more than likely that my inherent hatred of my kids spending all day on small screens derives from my desire to see them undertaking wholesome activities such as these. Rather than watching other people open Kinder eggs or packets of Pokemon cards. It is highly likely my 13 year old has moved on from this somewhat. I don’t ask.
The upshot is that I spend a lot of time policing electronic usage and falling out with them about it. Setting time limits never really works. The time elapses and then they ‘just want to finish this video’ or ‘if they leave the game now they will be penalised and lose a legendary something or other’ or ‘oh mum everyone else plays solidly all day you know’. Etc etc. I once heard Middlest comment through his headphones that he had to leave a game and in response to his friend’s reply he said ‘I know she is sooo annoying’….
And so during my run up to this eight weeks holiday a thought had been ruminating. The thought that we should have one day a week completely free of electronic devices. Myself included. Thus cutting all time limits and arguments off at the pass.
I decided in their last week of term to float the idea. I was slightly trepidatious if I am honest.
Youngest was very much up for it. This was not really a surprise. Youngest is 9 and has just finished Year 5. As such in the Harrison household she has achieved the age of i-pod ownership. The i-pod she possess is obviously third hand. And as such is glitchy and of limited use. Whatever. She manages to play a few games such as Word Cookies and an advanced form of that 1980s one with a ball and a wall to knock through. And she can message her friends but only at home when she is on the internet.
As such she is still the one trying to get her brothers away from You Tube for long enough to play in the garden.
Middlest went white. He asked me what on earth he was going to do. I pointed out that this time last year he did not have a phone or an X Box. That didn’t help. Apparently last summer was a desert of boredom punctuated by small oases of fun which had usually cost me over £100.
Eldest was surprisingly very much up for it too. Eldest is old enough to understand that he struggles to moderate his phone usage. And needs help to do so. Of course on a day when I do ‘help him to manage his usage’ by telling him to ‘put the damn thing away for five minutes’ he does not see it quite like that. And we usually fight.
So to him a day totally without his phone would be a day of moderate usage without the arguments. Hopefully.
And me. What about me? To be honest I wasn’t too worried. The kids had reluctantly agreed to me having my phone for calls and essential texts only. I believed I could resist face book and twitter for a day. My main concern was not being able to open the on line version of The Times newspaper Polygon puzzle, which my father had got me addicted to on our recent visit. But I consoled myself with the thought of a ‘double polygon Wednesday’.
So on Monday evening I hoovered up phones and deposited them in my bedroom along with my I pad. All completely turned off.
I came down at 8 am having overslept to find Middlest booting up the X Box. He had conveniently forgotten that ‘no electronic devices’ included his games console. We had a small contratend.
Over the day on which I had deliberately planned no activities which would have set me back £100 certain things happened.
We all overslept.
They all came to my exercise class with me and ran around the field a few times before joining in (at one point we were all doing press ups in a row much to everyone’s amusement) and declaring it ‘quite hard’.
We went to Sainsbury’s for a snack to undo all our hard work and had actual conversations.
Youngest got her adult colouring book out and did an amazing page of colouring.
Middlest survived. He helped me cook the lunch. And enjoyed chopping and peeling carrots. He read an entire book. He tried to argue that I couldn’t afford phone free Tuesday (or fun free Tuesday as he had rechristened it) as I was going to have to buy a book a week. I pointed out that we have a perfectly decent library.
He helped me cook as he was avoiding Eldest and Youngest who, to a plan of Eldest’s devising, were setting up a hot wheels car track out of his bedroom window. This involved much arguing but once they got it sorted much fun. The fun was somewhat curtailed by the window cleaner turning up.
Eldest got out his sketch pad and new ‘How to Draw’ book purchased with the book token he got for winning the Year 8 Art prize and tackled eyes and then did a decent portrait. Even if the ears are too high.
We got our haircut and they all read wholsomely in the waiting area. Youngest regaled me with animal facts from her encyclopaedia during my cut and blow dry.
They went to a friend’s house whilst hubby and I went out briefly and had fun playing nerf gun wars. Youngest and I watched an episode of the Crystal Maze circa 1990 which apparently looked ‘so old’.
They all went to bed happy,
Middlest extracted his phone from my bedroom before retiring to ensure it was charged and ready for an intense catch up as Wednesday dawned.
The others want to add another day.