Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Birthday wishes and simple dreams

Jack turned nine years old on Monday and while I feel so privileged to share my life with him, to watch him grow and blossom, it seems the years are passing too quickly. There are days when I'm caught up in the day-to-day routine and I forget just how precious this time is; and then there are moments when I take a step back, look at him with fresh eyes and think, 'Who is this big boy?'

I know that there comes a time when mothers and fathers are no longer the centre of their child's world and I accept that -- it's all part of growing up. I take great comfort in the quote by Hodding Carter: "There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One of these is roots, the other, wings." I also know there will come a time when his peers are equally, if not more, of an influence and I'm anticipating that, but I don't have to like it.

Already I see him noticing differences between how many of his friends at school live and play and our choices -- even something as simple as never having had access to any TV channels is creating an "us" versus "them" awareness.

The other day when we were out of town, we stopped for lunch in a restaurant that had sports playing on ceiling-mounted TVs. His eyes kept tracking over to the TV and when I asked him to stop, he said "I'm sorry, mum, but all the kids at school are talking about the sports teams and I don't know what they're talking about."

This lead to a conversation about how it's OK to be different and it's important to live by your own belief system (which may eventually change from ours, I know) and not follow what 'everyone else' is doing, but I worry that for now, being 'different' might become a fairly heavy burden for a sensitive soul to bear.

Or take the 'toys' that kids play with today: I'd say a huge majority of children at the kids' school have some kind of a handheld games system, such as a DS or DSi. Everywhere I go I see kids zoning out over one of these gadgets -- at the arena, on the school bus, in the classroom, even on field trips. Kids aren't talking to each other face-to-face anymore -- they're 'chatting' though a screen.

I worry that young children are losing the ability to use their imagination to pretend play, to create, to wonder and to simply notice the world around them. Childhood is so short -- it seems such as waste to spend it glued to a machine.

Regardless of their popularity, my kids do not, and will not, have one of these gadgets. Lucas and I have talked to the kids about our concerns and expressed how much we value and marvel at their ability for creative play, and they seem to understand, accept and even agree with our decision.

This doesn't mean we are complete Luddites: Lucas' parents know how much Jack loves music and so they gave him a basic iPod for Christmas. Are we hypocrites? Some might say so, but we're simply trying find a balanced co-existence in a tech-obsessed world.

Still, when it came time to give Jack his birthday gifts, we focused on some simple things: a couple of books, a small Lego building set, the promise of some handknit socks (which are still on the needles) and a dream pillow.

I used fabric from some old flannel pyjamas -- the tartan came from Lucas, the stars from me -- and filled the pillow with rice scented with lavender oil. The hand-stitched pocket on the front is filled with dried lavender blossoms.

When I tucked him in to bed last night, I was pleased to see the pillow snugged beside his face. I explained that I made it from our old flannels so that he knew we were always there to comfort him and that I scented it with lavender to help relax and soothe him as he drifted off to sleep. He simply smiled and said, 'thanks, mum.'

I'm sure when his friends ask him what he got for his birthday, he'll talk about the books, the Lego set, the new yo-yo that he got from a friend, but he won't mention his dream pillow. That's OK. While he often gets up in the middle of the night and crawls into our bed because he wants to be with us, last night he slept in his own bed. I'd say the dream pillow worked its magic and that's good enough for me.


Mama Pea said...

A post written from a mother's heart. It brought tears to my eyes. Tears of happiness for your children and the blessing they have received by having you and Lucas as parents. Tears of frustration and sadness for all the children growing up in the world today who will never experience a wondrous childhood and secure, stable foundation as yours are receiving. Keep up the good work, Fiona. It's very hard sometimes but if we fail at raising our children, nothing else really matters.

mtnchild said...

Hi Fiona, It is hard to teach them basic values when there are so many gadgets that are popular with the young ones. I think your kids will understand the basic world much better than their contemporaries when they get to the teen years. But they do need the exposure to these gadgets, not necessarily to own them, but know a bit about them. Yours know how to use their imagination and will rarely be bored with like - they can make their own world.

When my daughter was little (she's 42) there wasn't many gadgets. We had TV and a stereo, but that was it, and it was restricted. I wouldn't want to raise kids in today's world. I think you are doing a fantastic job with your kids.
Many hugs

Erin said...

Happy Birthday, Jack! Your words are so true. Even though we have tv, we limit what we watch and prefer to listen to the radio or music. I did break down last year and got the kids a DS, however they have to share it and it is reserved only for Minnesota car trips (22 hours each way!) and they have respected that so far. I couldn't bring myself to get an in-car dvd player like some people have for trips because then hubby and I are subjected to it! The most popular toys here are definitely Legos and books. Loch is now into chess, so I encourage anything like that. You are doing a good job, mama! I see too the "us & them" stuff and am already afraid with it being such a large city and school how bad it's going to get, funny thing is, on summer weekends where do you think the neighborhood kids are? In our backyard of course, maybe because we are outside WITH our kids roasting marshmallows and camping in the backyard instead of leaving our kids to run wild and not caring where they are. Oh, you struck a chord here! Keep on doing what you are doing, they will thank you for it, I do my parents! said...

Mama Pea -- thank you for your lovely words. Your comment brought tears to MY eyes! It's so hard to go against the current sometimes but it would feel so wrong to give up now.

Yvette -- You're so right about giving them exposure to gadgets & technology. We find this happens "naturally" when they go over to friends' houses and they play Wii or with a DS, and my dad did get Jack an old playstation gaming system that he plays with for set time on the weekend (he gets his choice of 'screen' time, whether it's a movie or some game time.) For now, the kids understand why we don't include these things in our life. I do, however, worry about when they're teenagers, when peer pressure and the need to 'fit in' is that much stronger. Thanks for the support :)

Erin -- I hope I didn't come off sounding like I think this technology is bad, per se -- it's the rampant abuse or misuse of it that I find so troubling. So many parents simply 'plug' their kids into these devices -- it's like a portable babysitter -- and I know you are SO not like that! It's funny what you said about how the neighbourhood kids flock to your place; I often worry that our house will be considered "uncool" or "unfun" because I won't let the kids 'plug in' when they have friends over, and everyone always seems to have fun! Guess I'm doing OK after all... :) Thanks for your comment - it's nice to hear from a kindred spirit!

David said...

I have only a six year old grandson that lives with me to connect me with the younger generation. Even though he has TV and computer time every day, if given the chance he will choose to play outside with his two buddie friends. His imagination is not hampered with technology and prefers memory and board games to them. I am careful to say yes as much as I can with the interactive games and toys. Digital connection through electronics is losing the emotional part of communication. Only 7% of communication is through words. The other 93% is from tonal voice inflection and body language. Our challenge today is not to eliminate the technology from our kids lives but to teach them how to use it to their advantage instead of it controling them. Fiona, you are on the right track.

Have a great Jack raising day.

Anonymous said...

i think the pillow is such a sweet idea! and the lavender rice, how cool!! it is one of the most relaxing scents in my opinion:) i love how you used flannel pj's from both you and your husband. so very cool!

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