Category Archives: Parental Musings

Raising a low tech child

My son is low tech, has been since he was born. He’s not plugged into anything apart from an hour of computer games in the morning on his school holidays – which he uses to play Age of Empires or Minecraft.

Apart from that, he plays with his lego, army dudes, dinosaurs, toys or he reads books. Real books – ones that you lay on your bed, couch or in your beanbag to read. He’s a reader, because we’ve modeled reading to him. It’s not hard, ever since he was born, he’s been read to, and we’ve sat and read with him. In the early days it would be simple picture books, and he would sit cuddled up and watch as I read to him. His dad would sit and read to him, and we would discuss the books.

We didn’t set out to teach him his alphabet or his numbers before school, but when he started primary, he was equipped with a love of learning. His reading was helped by his decision to participate in the MS Readathon when he was aged six. He set his goal for 100 books in a month. He achieved that, by sitting and reading up to six picture books a night, and interspersing that with longer Geronimo Stilton books that took several nights to finish. But he did it, and it was amazing the leap forward that made across his subjects.

His ability to read has helped across all of his subjects. There is a direct link to literacy and learning in the research being published…. He’s the kid who gets excited when the teacher says it’s quiet reading time, and to get out your books. He carries books with him to read when he’s having to wait anywhere – and he’s not attached to a screen to be entertained. He’s following in my footsteps, I’m the person who you see on public transport happily reading a book, and not immersed in the digital world, but actually reading a hard copy book…..

It is possible to raise children who are literate and still able to navigate the future world. He’s having to use an ipad this year as part of the school program this year, and this I hope will not mean the end to hours spent reading his awesome collection of books. I don’t want to see him sucked into the empty vacuum that exists where there is an overwhelming urge to be connected to the net 24/7. Because there is life in the low tech world, and it’s one that values the communities we live in, where little children can help raise funds for charities through reading…..

 

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Low tech child raising in a high tech world

I’m upfront here about my wish to install in my own child a very low tech childhood. Yes I do let him use the computer once a day on school holidays to play computer games for an  hour, or research his favourite television shows – under supervision. But he doesn’t have access to a smart phone, an Ipad or any of the other devices that a lot of other children his age appear to have. (We have a PS2 but that’s rarely used too).

We’re the rare family, who when we go out, we all sit together and talk. No one has a screen at the table, and I don’t babysit my child with a screen. We do have a take away bag filled with drawing paper, pens, textas, crayons, and books to read. So if he does finish early and wants to draw, then we do let him – it gives us that extra few minutes to catch up with him, and finish our meal.

However I look around and see the number of children propped in front of a screen – the parent sits immersed in their digital world and the children each have a screen each. There is no or limited conversation going on. I wonder if they perform this ritual in their own homes and if so how much of the quality face time they give each other. (Or is updating their twitter or facebook posts that important?).

We’ve also read to our child since he was born. Passing to him the greatest opportunity ever – the written word. He thrilled me last year when I walked passed his room and he was sitting on his bed with a book in his hands devouring the pages. This to me was hitting the goldmine.

Call me old fashioned but the book is the ultimate entertainment device. It needs no electricity, no batteries, but it fuels the imagination like nothing else. Transporting you to ancient worlds or far flung universes – it will take you where you want and back again.

I also feel that the jury is still out about what happens when we expose young brains to the high tech devices too early. I want to raise a child who can use his imagination when he’s bored, to pick up a book, play in the sandpit, chase the dog, to transport himself into his imagination. Not be fed worlds to him by a screen. So far my son seems to be enjoying the fact he can entertain himself, and the children who approach our table when we’re out eating, attracted by the child who sits drawing elaborate worlds, who ask if they can draw please, reinforce my belief that we’re on the right track.

Cyborg

So I’m sitting here typing into the computer, and reflecting on a conversation my partner had with his class this week. As he looked around the classroom where all the heads of the students were bent over their computers interfacing with their digital worlds, he asked how many of them thought they were Cyborgs. After some conversation they came around to his interpretation of what a Cyborg is now.

I don’t use social media, so I’m not as connected as most folk. I don’t own a smart phone either. So my own interactions with digital worlds are when I’m sitting down with my child when he needs help establishing a colony in Age of Empires. We grow and build the colony until he’s ready to go off and wage war.

So I don’t consider myself a big C Cyborg – I walk down the street and greet people personally. I live in a small rural town where the majority of folk on the street don’t have their heads down, or ear phones on as they live their digital lives. I live here, now, in the present. Not waiting for the promised lands of the digital environment.

I use the internet but not as a reference tool, as an entertainment tool. (I’m hanging out for the next Star Wars movie but that’s another story). I prefer my interactions to be face to face, but have been known to text and email folk who just need to know that I care and love them. (Usually when they’re going through tough times and don’t want to talk….).

I wonder at the future my child will inhabit if the vast majority of the world is caught in the digital world. How often they will interact one to one, not through the safety of the digital tools, but in person. Will it be better? Or worse. He’s growing up in a world where the internet is the norm, Facebook is everywhere (at least amongst the teens at my school), and Minecraft is what you do with your lunchtime.

Unlike the Cyborgs of the present, I’ll be shutting down the computer soon, and heading out to spend the afternoon gardening in my veggie patch, and watching my child play with the dog. I won’t be waiting for the next Facebook update or any of the other digital “musts” that this age we live in seems to insist we do. Instead it will be me, the earth, and the sky – as I prefer it.

Postnatal Depression Awareness

      When I was a new mum, there wasn’t much information about, we just made do. But it’s so important to reach out to new mothers and fathers and say hey are you doing okay? Is there anything I can do? Because as a parentless parent, it’s so hard those first few months trying to do it on your own with no support from family or firends.


Did you know that 74% of mums who were struggling were ashamed to admit they weren’t coping? Lack of information, fears of being judged and stigma is leaving mums uninformed, unsupported and feeling alone.

COPE: Centre of Perinatal Excellence which have officially launched their new website. Their sensitive, informative website (cope.org.au) provides emotional health advice throughout your parenthood journey – from preconception to pregnancy, birth and your first year with a baby.
Visit their website, and follow COPE on Facebook to be informed, inspired and support others through the many (often unspoken) challenges, that parenthood can bring.

How you can get involved:

You can get involved today by ‘liking’ COPE on Facebook to keep connected and part of their growing community and making a difference.

You can donate to COPE here

https://i1.wp.com/cope.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/COPE-Keyring-300x300.jpgCOPE invites you on the journey to raising awareness and being part of the growing momentum to inform parents, reduce the stigma and help to ‘keep motherhood real’. Be part of ‘keeping motherhood real’ by purchasing this limited edition keyring for you or someone you know. http://ow.ly/EjmAx #keepmotherhoodreal

Priced at just $9.95, all funds raised from your purchase will help us to raise awareness, reduce stigma and support women and men to seek help early
COPE: Because no one ever tells you, how hard it can be.

Decluttering

I’m busy downsizing again, with a move coming up, it’s an ideal time to get through the cupboards and the shed and just get rid of the stuff that has not been used in the three years we’ve been here.

I’m a member of Freecycle so I’m busy posting freebies, and hopefully these items will go to families who will use them.

The hardest part is decluttering my child’s bedroom – I sneak in during the school day and see what I can find. I’ve also given away his clothes that he’s grown out of – this time to a dear friend in a different state for her little boy. The clothes are quickly grown out of and often in a really good condition.

It’s also quite a freeing thing to do, reduce the stuff that gets in the way of living the life I want to live. We surround ourselves with so much, that I think the padding gets in the way of connecting with those around us.

So for me December is the month I will reduce, recycle and re gift. Will you join me?

Ageing

My memories of my Mother – who has been gone now for 16 years, are of a hard working, tired woman, who spent her entire life devoted to her family. She was a shy women, with few friends outside of the family, by she was loyal, honest and kind.

We would fight, as I think may be normal for those Mother/Daughter relationships, and argue, and disagree – especially on issues that shook her conservative way of thinking. (Oh how many times have I pictured what she would say if she was still here and found out I married a Catholic!). Anyway, she also came from a time when women wore themselves out, caring for everyone before themselves. Her mother had done it, and her mother before her. They all died from heart attacks, their lives shortened by the poverty and lack of health care that was the England of yesteryear.

So here I am – mid forties, going, am I going down this track? No. For me, the future doesn’t hold a slow wearing down, I’m going to age as disgracefully as I can. So that’s going to be allowing my grey hairs to shine through, their evidence of some hard won battles against Ovarian masses and tumours. I’m never going to get plastic surgery because my face is the road map of my life, I have a lot of laugh lines, but you know, they’re evidence that I often don’t take life too seriously, and that I can still have a laugh with my son and partner. I want to be me, not some caricature of what an older women must look like. I want to enjoy what the future holds, without worrying or panicking about perfection.

Because that’s my lesson, life isn’t perfect, and even though I may want to control it, it’s out of my hands most of the time. I need to accept this perfection and live the life I am living now…..

Cloak of invisibility

I had presumed that the tales of becoming invisible as you age were just that, tales. But I’ve started to experience this strange and mysterious invisibility cloak myself…..and I’m only in my mid forties. So why is this so?

Is it because I’m female, and tend to blend into the background because of it? Or is it because in this age of mobile devices, those fiends who push ahead of me in queues are too busy glued to their screens then to social niceties?

I’m pretty loud – you know the type of person whose laugh can be heard throughout a building floor? So it’s not like I’m shy or retiring, but I’m finding myself exasperated by folks who use their mobile devices as shields, and so think they can get away with ignoring the fact you’re in a queue, and can push ahead. They’re also the very important folk who have to use their electronic devices through a transaction, so that they don’t have to acknowledge that there is a human being serving them.

I just wonder at what sort of relationships these people are building, when they hover their screens, and not actually attend to the folk their out and about with. I see it in Cafes, and Restaurants, two bright young folk enter, sit down, and before the waiting staff have even given them menus, out plops the electronic devices and they’re on their way to electronic nirvana. What’s the point of that? Surely if you’ve gone to the trouble of choosing to go out together, you should at least attempt to communicate with each other?

I’m one of the old school of parenting, my child does not have an electronic device to be glued to when we’re out, instead I carry around a backpack filled with textas, colouring paper, blank paper, everything you can imagine you’d need to draw some pretty amazing pictures. It works, he’s happy to draw or play a game of hangman, while we’re out, and we’re all interacting…especially hangman – the games get quite complicated and we usually end up laughing out loud…..too loudly too at times because we cause the mobile device users to sit up and glare at us….

Anyway, is it because I’ve entered the era for me to be grumpy about poor manners or just frustrated with the fact mobile lives are taking over basic human interactions? Who knows, but next time you’re waiting in a line and you think you see someone out of the corner of your eye, it might be one of us women of a certain age, cloaked in our invisibility, be polite and say hullo – we don’t bite!

JoAnn Chateau

Writer & Progressive

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