I found myself caught up in comparing again recently.
I didn’t realize I was doing it. I was just feeling kind of bad about things here, I was sick, and I was worried that The Screens were taking over our house, and I started thinking of another homeschool family I know that avoids screens almost completely.
I got jealous.
I forgot momentarily that for a very long time we were the screen-free family. We put our TV in a closet, and my kids spent their days building and drawing and reading and playing and making gigantic messes.
I mean really – the kind of messes that have no end or beginning and you just really feel good if you can clear a path.
I had a child who would raid our recycling bin for boxes and tubes and build gigantic things that I wasn’t allowed to throw away.
I wanted to say, “This is just last night’s garbage,” but I knew that would destroy all of his creativity. I had read that in a book, so instead I just displayed the garbage mound on top of the table as a centerpiece, and he felt proud.
I would try to make eye contact across the table at my husband through the little window in the rotini box, and I would feel assured that my kids were getting a “real childhood.”
So what happened then, to my little garbage collectors – the kids who would play all day with tiny animals and who, when we reintroduced TV were so happy with commercial-free PBS, and I could pat myself on the back that at least they weren’t being “marketed to.”
Instead we moved ahead in our weirdness, but our bubble got bigger, and my kids started to grow up, and now they love technology.
A lot of it is so good. We watch movies together and TV, and we have inside jokes that have become part of the language of our family.
But then there are computers and games, and it feels like too much sometimes.
The kids know more than I do, so before I even know what’s happened, they’ve downloaded or they’ve subscribed and I feel like I am always playing catch up and I hate it. I really do.
It all makes me feel guilty and negligent.
But I also need to remember that they are almost 10 and almost 13, and I work online every day. I literally could not do my job without computers and the internet, and I use apps on my phone to manage it all, and I like talking to you all on Facebook and seeing pictures of your smiling kids on Instagram.
So maybe it’s not so bad?
I just wish kids and screens were an easier thing to grab hold of for me. I would like to come to a place of peace, but instead, I feel like we take a little baby step in the right direction, and then, over a perfectly regular lunch, my kids ask my mom for little handheld Nintendo things for Christmas, and my brain just explodes and leaks right out into my noodles.
You DID NOT, I think to myself.
Where did this come from?
And of course it seems like a good idea to my mom, because the handheld Nintendo things will make them happy.
She doesn’t read the things about how electronics and living an online life can actually make teens horribly sad.
(I don’t want my kids to use computers to cope, or because they aren’t seeing their real, fleshy people friends enough, or just out of boredom.)
But she doesn’t feel the weight of this responsibility. She can just say yes, and buy the little devices – she doesn’t have to make rules like “they charge in mom and dad’s room at night,” or “if someone asks you where you live you say ‘with my parents who are both police officers with huge gun collections and our 17 pitbulls.'”
It’s easy for me to forget that I felt tremendous worry when we lugged the television back out of the closet all those years ago. That I worried that Arthur and Curious George were conspiring to kill my kids’ creativity …
(I kind of miss the toilet paper tube robots, but I’m not as sure I miss the long afternoons wishing I could throw on a movie.)
It’s just so hard to know when you are doing it right, and I really think I need at least a second round of kids who I can raise with some confidence.
But I’ve just got these 2. And they’ve got me. And we’re all just doing the best we can.
So I’m thinking of buying one of these.
Although that worries me too.
When I signed up for this parenting thing, I never considered that I would eventually just become the Screen Police.
So I want to hear your thoughts. How do you manage this in your home? Got any advice for a worried mama?
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