Nowadays, the majority of us have become so accustomed to getting what we want when we want it that we’ve lost sight of what it means to wait for something. Patience. Living in the moment with our head up and observing life in real time. Today, there is no more “lay away.” This generation has no idea what that is because now we have INSTANT CREDIT. What I’ve come to realize by taking a step back and observing my own children’s behavior, which is a direct reflection of my parenting style, is that in a day and age where you can shout, “Alexa!” and demand the Trolls soundtrack – poof! as you wish – and silly sounds fill the room; where my 2 year old can summon anything from the Disney vault and Apple TV delivers within 30 seconds of his request, we risk becoming forever immersed in an instant-gratification, artificial world. And that scares me. We are becoming further removed from the use of creative thought where we provide and control our stimulation from real-world input – like other humans, maybe family, friends. In that fake world, there is a lack of engagement.
In my quest for self-discovery, I’ve been reflecting on my own childhood recently, and I have been feeling really fortunate to be in the Y Generation. I remember the most precious moments of my childhood were spent with my Grandma Gniady (GiGi). My Dad worked midnights as a policeman in Chicago, so he would just be coming home from work when I would be getting ready for school in the morning. My mom would get me ready and drop me at Gigi’s house, where I would stay until it was time for her to walk me 2 blocks to school at St. Joseph and St. Anne.
After school, GiGi would pick me up and we would walk home to her house when the real fun would begin. We would play games for hours on end, from cards to dice to tiles. Some of the best years of my life were spent in her kitchen on 38th and Washtenaw. She would tell stories from when she was younger, and I was always so astonished by the level of detail with which she could recall experiences and names from her 80 plus years. My family is from near Back-of-the-Yards, from a neighborhood called Brighton Park in Chicago – and colorful stories from the past about that neighborhood had me on pins and needles each day as a little girl as I waited to visit with GiGi to get another episode.
I always think back to the way people would sit out on their front porches and spend time together, especially during the hot summers. There was a realness to it – living and experiencing the things happening in the neighborhood – kids playing ball in the streets, old ladies with their shopping carts walking to and from the corner store, getting the latest gossip from the retirees who were home all day with nothing better to do but watch the streets.
Nowadays? I agree with what people are saying. Despite living in the most connected age of all time, it seems everyone I talk to is the loneliest they’ve ever been. Everywhere we turn, people are moving around this vast world with their noses down in their phones instead of experiencing the real world. There’s something to be said about looking a person in the eyes. Human connection is the best way to feed your mind, body and soul.
Despite knowing that, I’m ashamed to say I’ve fallen victim to technology and have resorted to lazy parenting tactics over the years. At first it was a function of being in survival mode – trying to manage two toddlers and a newborn was rough, especially after going back to work from parental leave. We would let Katie and Avery have iPads on occasion, and then over time all of a sudden, they each had their own designated iPads. The real eye opener happened when a picture came home from preschool where Katie, my oldest at the time at almost five, answered a question about “What does Mommy do when she’s relaxing?” And her answer was – “look at her phone.” I knew right then and there, we had a real problem going on with technology in our household, and I needed to take it back to the basics.
When my husband and I first made the decision to go cold turkey on devices in the house, we thought for sure it was going to get worse before it got better. But to our shock and delight, it wasn’t that bad of a transition at all. In fact, it’s been a little over a year since we eliminated iPads and phones from the kids’ lives and the improvement we’ve seen has been quite astonishing. The kids play better together. We converse at the dinner table. We wrestle or play games after bath time. We go outside and ride bikes. No more turning on YouTube to let the kids WATCH other kids playing with toys. Creativity flourishes when children are forced to come up with ideas for inventive play. By disconnecting, we are able to tap into how we are truly feeling and experience our emotions, rather than divert our attention to distractions and mindless entertainment. If the school ever requires homework on computers or iPads, we still allow for that.
I’ve really enjoyed watching my children’s improvement; I am proud of what we’ve achieved in reconnecting with each other and the real world by making a conscious effort to disconnect.
I highly recommend and encourage anyone struggling with technology addiction or spending too much time in the artificial world to make some incremental changes to your routine. Lock up your phone for 2 hours a day and see how much of an improvement you can make in the way you feel by disconnecting from technology and reconnecting as a family. I think you will be surprised and like it as much as we did. Good luck!
Mikey, Avery and Katie….iPad free, and still smiling 🙂