There’s a big movement lately for parents to “unplug” from their technologically-filled lives. And while I agree in theory, I also have to ask myself… who the hell does it benefit? At least in my life, technology is what saves my sanity. I’m staying at home, all day every day (with a few random exceptions), with three kids under 5. Most of my friends live out of state, I don’t have a driver’s license (fuck you, Secretary of State, fuck you very much), and the availability of the friend who does live nearby is extremely limited. This is no one’s fault, it simply is. Andrew’s crazy 3rd shift schedule makes playdates very difficult, as well, despite the fact that we intend to get the girls out to some of my mommy group’s activities.
So I use the computer and the phone to stay in touch with the people I love and enjoy talking to. I watch TV and movies. My kids never go hungry because of technology, they are never left squandering in their own filth or anything. But everything I’ve read lately tells me I should “unplug” for their benefit. Um, ok… I spend most of my time each day taking care of Mari, the house, and the food needs of the family. What spare time I have is spent with Andrew, or relaxing away from the children because holysweetbabyjeebus I need a break! It’s not that I don’t interact with my kids, I do. But what the hell am I supposed to discuss with a 4 year old and a 3 year old who has developmental issues? If they want a conversation, I participate. I answer their questions. I make our interactions as instructive as I can so they can learn by doing. What else am I supposed to do?
Am I supposed to devote all my free time to structured learning? I don’t believe in that, anyway. Children are hardwired to learn, all I have to do is provide the opportunity and explanations when applicable. Andrea is extremely bright; she can count to twenty without prompting or assistance, she knows her colors and shapes, has nearly mastered the idea of hours and minutes on a digital clock, and is working on recognizing letters and words. All of this she learned through life, not sitting her down and doing flashcards or some shit. Everything is a learning experience.
The bologna she eats? Is a circle, and pink, and if she rolls it up can be eaten much easier than in a sheet. Shapes, colors, problem solving. If I tell her we need two red bell peppers and one yellow, she can get me exactly what I need. Why? Because she knows what bell peppers are, she knows her colors, and she knows how to count. Not just repeating a string of numbers, but actually counting. She could do this at just under three years old, too. She was counting a dozen yogurt cups on our shopping trips before most kids knew to put 1-2-3 in a sequence. And now she can count backwards, too. Is my time surfing the web really detrimental to her? She knows if she needs me, or wants to talk to me, she’s welcome to come find me. And I’m happy to make time for her, as long as it’s not something important she’s interrupting (like feeding her baby sister… that child can scream the roof off when she’s hungry!) or dangerous to take my attention away from.
I hold them, I cuddle them, I tell them stories and kiss their hurts away. Just because they aren’t strapped down to me every second of the day, am I really a bad mother? I think not. But maybe I’m wrong, who knows. Then again, if I strapped my munchkins down for more than a half hour, I’d be covered in claw marks where they tried frantically to get away! So maybe it’s just self-preservation, eh?