Month: August 2017

TECH-FREE TUESDAYS 

Early on in the summer holidays, we decided we were going to enjoy tech-free Tuesdays. Well, rather, I decided and somehow managed to get the kids on board!

Trust me, despite being a bit useless with modern technology, I am by no means against it. Technology benefits our lives in so many ways and enables us to find out information, connect with friends, engage in a global community and has so many other valuable purposes. I use my phone every day and our tv is usually on at some point most days. The kids often use computers for their homework, whether it be searching for the definition of a word or preparing a PowerPoint presentation. We do however save computer games for weekends only and we set a timer so that the boys know when it is time to switch off. 

The idea behind tech-free Tuesdays is that we unplug completely. I felt it was only fair that if the boys were expected to go screen free then I should too. So, Monday evening my phone gets switched off and when I’m tucking the boys into bed I give them a gentle reminder that the next morning there’d be no tv so that they could start dreaming about other things they could do with their time. 

On the first day of our little family experiment we had a light breakfast then went out for a run through a local forest. It got very muddy as Northern Irish summers are notoriously wet, and the ground was slippery and soggy. We had a great laugh trying to stay upright but successfully ran 5k and arrived home caked to the eyeballs in muck! Following much needed showers and lunch we took advantage of some free zoo passes that a friend had given us. We traipsed around the zoo in the drizzle for 3 hours, watching the animals being fed and taking shelter when the rain became heavier. The pace was so leisurely and the interaction I was experiencing with the boys so enjoyable that I was determined to make tech-free Tuesdays continue all summer long. 

That night when putting the children to bed, we enjoyed several stories together and as I switched off the light my middle son whispered “I really enjoyed today, Mum. I think tech-free Tuesdays are a good idea.” 

The 2nd week wasn’t met with such enthusiasm. I’d forgotten to remind the boys the night before and they’d got up before me and switched the telly on and were none too impressed when I switched it off. There was a fair amount of moaning and repetitious cries of “I’m bored”. I yelled, “enough is enough” and sent them off to build Lego or read a book. I felt disheartened after the success of the previous week but gave myself a shake, apologised for my bad attitude and we remedied the shaky start to the day with outdoor games and hanging out with friends.

Yes, it’s had its ups and downs but over the past few weeks we have really enjoyed switching off our various devices. It’s important to me and my husband that the boys learn how to occupy themselves. Sometimes I feel that kids today have a sense of entitlement to be entertained 24/7. Maybe that’s just old-age talking, I dunno, but I certainly feel that as a parent it’s my responsibility to allow my kids space for quietness, creativity, imagination, solitude, boredom even…

Just as adults are bombarded with information at every turning point, so are kids. I wonder sometimes what the long-term affect of this will be. I personally want kids who can find their own interests, kids who will be happy to lie on the grass and watching the changing shapes of the clouds overhead, or design a new species of dinosaur, run up a hill, help prepare dinner for the family…just experience life in its simplicity from time to time. 
It’s been super fun spending time with my boys, doodling at the dining table for hours, unaware of the time, going to the library to pick out new books, cycling to the park, making our own pizzas from scratch and just chatting without a phone beeping, screen flashing or tangled cables stressing me out! 

I’ve also loved eavesdropping on their games together, listening to the dinosaur lover and the Lego lover finding a way to compromise and cooperate and create a brand new hybrid dino-lego game. To me that’s childhood right there. Innocent fun sparked by curious and creative minds. 

As I mentioned, we love technology in our home. We try to moderate our use and there are certain things that are off-limits all year round, such as phones at the dinner table. That’s precious time and we don’t want to be interrupted by e-mails or calls. Most things don’t need our urgent attention and can wait until after tea-time. We also switch our phones off every night and don’t take them into our bedroom. Some spaces are sacred after all!
I’ve been noticing that as the weeks go on, when I get up on a Wednesday I’m not even thinking about checking my blog stats or my social media newsfeed.  I’m content with a coffee and a cuddle. Those other things can wait a few moments longer. 

Tonight, after work I was chatting with my youngest son, my little adventurer, the one who wants to climb mountains and cycle around the world like his hero, Alistair Humphreys. He asked if it was tech-free Tuesday tomorrow. When I said it was, he smiled and asked if I would teach him how to cook properly because apparently adventurers need real good food in their bodies. I smiled back and said of course, because that’s exactly the sort of thing tech-free Tuesdays are all about. Hurray for perseverance! 

BEAUTY

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I cradle my coffee cup in my hands. I enjoy the silence. The kids are at their summer club and I have a few free hours. A fine layer of dust coats the furniture in the living room. I contemplate getting up to get a duster. I could fold up the laundry I tell myself. Or clean the bathroom. Go for a run. Get some shopping. Prepare dinner. Phone a friend. My options are plenty.

Instead I sip my coffee and take a deep breath. The sky outside is blue and clear save for a few wispy clouds high overhead. The yellow ‘For Sale ‘ sign across the street stands out boldly against the red brick house.  There’s no movement at the windows. No car in the drive. The elderly couple that lived there have gone. The lady died last year and the gentleman passed away a few months back. I didn’t know them well. They were quiet, kept themselves to themselves as we say. Their windows always gleamed. Their car was always polished. I’m not quite sure what they made of the noisy family across the street with the fingerprint marked windows and driveway full of weeds! They looked after their home and they seemed to look after one another. I hope they were happy.

They always tended their garden. I sit in my own house and note how beautiful their little patch of front garden looks. It is in full bloom. Bees are busy at work. Flowers spill out through the fence and I admire the beauty this couple created. It is sad when a life ends. As I say, I didn’t know this couple well but I did catch snippets of their life through the daily comings and goings of life. As I enjoy the silence and sunshine beaming through my own front window the fruitfulness of the elderly couple’s garden whispers to my spirit. ‘What legacy will you leave?’…’When you are no longer here what beauty will you leave for others to enjoy and remember?’…’Are you living your life in a way that others can admire?’ My heart is challenged.

I’m glad I decided to not be busy today. That I allowed my body, mind and spirit to halt in the present. That I was able to savour visible beauty, to have time to ponder and be grateful, that I was challenged by the legacy of the little old couple across the road.

I hope that a new family moves in soon. I hope they get to see the beautiful garden. That they note the years of work tending to the various plants and flowers. I hope they get to see the the little patch of glory in full bloom and that they continue to nurture what was begun many years before. Now that would be a pretty thing to behold!