Parenting, profundities and humour

Fun Free Tuesdays…. — July 13, 2017

Fun Free Tuesdays….

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.



Electronics Fast… — November 12, 2015

Electronics Fast…


So here we go. The biggest bone of contention in my life. Electronic devices. In writing this I feel I am jumping blindfold off a very high cliff into Arctic waters patrolled by polar bears starving due to lack of sea ice….shiver.

I am not in favour of personal devices for my children. I am a late adopter technology wise myself. In fact I still have a phone that I merely use to, well, phone people – well actually I text people as nowadays actually speaking to people is a little passe- but you get my drift.

My children are, according to them, massively under deviced… I am, apparently, the devil incarnate for not ensuring they have the most up to date technology.

Eldest had an I pod touch for his 10th birthday. The others had nothing. Well they had that Wii I mentioned last time. But that is a social affair. And not all that portable.

We had a rule that he could not use the I pod before school or before all his jobs and homework were complete. He couldn’t take it to school as they are banned there. And so during quite a lot of weeks the device sat neglected on top of the bread bin for the whole time. Only being dusted off on Saturdays. And this was fine with me. In case you are wondering the bread bin is my position of choice for ‘confiscated’ items…I think it is something to do with them not being able to reach it when they were three, that no longer applies but psychologically it still works.

Then I had to deliver on my promise of getting him a phone for his start at Senior school where such devices are allowed within parameters. Apparently he would be unable to survive without one. Obviously I did. In fact I survived with 10 pence in my pocket and, in extremis, the school receptionist . And, yes, occasionally it was difficult and I did need to face the wrath of that dragon in the school office but generally all was fine. Maybe schools changed their plans less because they couldn’t really change their plans without ending up with a crisis. They could not arbitrarily decide to cancel clubs, arrange impromptu after school meetings for students, decide that all Year 7 boys should leave school from a different building on one random Tuesday. Etc. So they didn’t.

So I accepted that Eldest needed a phone, to avoid being a stranded. And because Eldest had a ‘new’ phone (actually an old handset of husband’s with a new SIM) Middlest got the I pod touch. Which then gave Youngest licence to commandeer my I pad or the ancient first generation DS, on which, one Christmas, I frightened myself determining my actual brain age and then failing to improve it much. Because Eldest could take the phone to school it came off the bread bin. And before I knew it all three were on devices before school, after school, whilst brushing their teeth, in bed, whilst watching TV etc.

I let it ride. Partly because to re-instate the ‘no device’ rules would require energy and commitment that I currently do not possess. For some reason this time of year makes me lethargic. The recent weather has made it worse. And so I am not even keeping up with this blog never mind tackling difficult and contentious child related issues.

The other reason I let it ride was that, aside from being constantly ignored, it made the mornings quieter. Bad mummy moment…

And then someone linked on Facebook to an article about how over use of electronics is ruining children’s mental health. And physical health. And emotional health. I sort of knew this. But reading the article brought it all home to me. The behaviours that the author said may improve with a reduction (or indeed a total ban) on electronic exposure were ones I recognised in all of them – even the eight year old.

So I sat down and had the conversation. It was a mistake to tell them I had read an article. They hate it when I read articles. Last time I read an article I took all the sugar I could out of their diet and Middlest still has natural yogurt flashbacks…

Anyhow I got round that blunder and managed to get them to agree to the morning ban. The after school ban unless jobs etc are done. And a bedroom charging- up- leading – to- early- morning- play ban.

Already things have calmed down. Eldest has slept better for the last two nights than ‘for ages’.  And he has started de-cluttering his bedroom ready for the make over he wants to do in there. Middlest admitted that he does not miss being awoken by Crashy Road free gift notifications in the middle of the night (!).  And Youngest has got the loom bands out.

So we will be continuing with the ban. My mornings will be more frantic. I will get pestered more. But I think it is worth it. Especially as they can all now hear me when I call up the stairs. Amazing that eh?

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