Saturday, June 9, 2012

Thank You, Technology!

In a perfect world, I would be raising my boys sans television, computers, and Nintendos. We would eat only vegetables from our gardens, eggs from our chickens, and the rest of our diet would be comprised of locally grown, organic fare. I would sew their clothes myself or frequent only used clothing shops for children. I would not own a car, and I would never stop in an Apple store. We'd be Amish, basically, or something like it.

But let's get real, folks.

As a full-time single mother with no built-in support network (i.e. family help), what I need to be is pragmatic. I have to do what works for me, the sole caregiver, because I am The One (the only one) running this marathon on behalf of my two boys. For example, if it is too much of an imposition to regularly pick up produce at a CSA in another community, if it costs too much, and if said produce will not get eaten by the three members of my family, then I won't buy a share or a half-share -- as much as I would like to. We grow some of our vegetables (and strawberries) in our own garden, and we have a second garden under way. I feel good about that.

I am raising my sons in an environmentally minded way, though I know there is room for much improvement. Coming this summer, for instance: worm composting. But one thing I won't ban outright is technology.

Let me say this: If you need a respite from caregiving, it's raining outside, or you have work to do but the noisy kids are home, turn to technology. Go for it! Let them watch TV, hand them a Nintendo, or say yes to computer time, Wii, Xbox, or Playstation. Make sure you approve of what they are watching or playing. But don't feel guilty about setting them up with a mechanized babysitter. You will make yourself crazy, angry, and resentful if you don't take the time that you need simply because your kids don't have a playdate or babysitter or the weather precludes outside activity. Technology can keep you in check so you can keep running that marathon without burning out because that is Priority #1.

For this reason, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart, Technology. When I was a new, exhausted single mother by choice, you gave my son Curious George. When I suffered from chronic fatigue syndrome for four and a half years, you helped me cope with what I call The Lost Weekends -- those uninterrupted giant blocks of time between the closing of preschool Friday afternoon and the opening of preschool Monday morning (not to mention three-day weekends and, the hardest of all, holiday vacation weeks) when we didn't have any plans and I was too tired to entertain my boys, play with them, or take them anywhere.

I am aware of the dangers of relying on technology too heavily: kids becoming inactive and possibly obese, losing their creativity, and maybe even their intellect, too. These are serious detriments that should not be overlooked. However, if doled out in moderation -- to give an overworked parent a break or to help pass the time during a long stretch of confinement -- technology might be just what a parent needs.

Technology has also turned around a very problematic situation for me at home. That is, my younger son's aggression towards his brother. Part of it could be the maturation that comes from having turned six years of age, but I rather think it has to do more with getting his own Nintendo DSi XL for his birthday. Instead of occupying himself with beating on poor Christopher, Charlie more often sits quietly with an engrossing game. The two of them -- opposites in personality -- have trouble agreeing on which board game or other activity to play together at any given time. And this lack of peaceful consensus can create frustration, the aforementioned aggression, name-calling, and sometimes even tears.

"Technology is the great equalizer," another parent once told me. Indeed, I am finding this to be so. Not all the time. Hey, nothing's perfect. Yet enough of the time for me to notice, pay attention to, and feel like it has made a significant impact for the better on my life and that of my boys.

Now don't misunderstand me. I am not Technology Mom. Not by a long shot. It was only one year ago at this time that I still called myself a Luddite. I was joining Facebook, not because I wanted to but because my older son had won a modeling/acting contract and the agency booker only communicates with her clients via FB. Lo and behold, the Luddite discovered that she liked Facebook! Then came my decision to buy myself an iPad for my milestone birthday in September. I was thinking of starting a blog, and it seemed like the perfect device for such a venture on account if its portability. Well, what do you know? I loved my iPad. So I became interested in an iPhone. I didn't need an iPhone, and I really shouldn't have gotten one, financially speaking. Yet I did anyway. So here I am one year later -- checking Facebook numerous times every day for posts, comments, and messages from my 170 friends, posting often myself, and looking for new Likes on my Mad Mom page; blogging every five days and helping Christopher do his homework on my iPad using Google (hello, China project!); changing the wallpaper on my iPhone; and still watching the news, my shows, and dvds on our TV.

It amazes me that I am now more of a techie than a Luddite. I never would have thought it possible!

However, we still do not own a Wii, Xbox, or Playstation, though a friend gave me a video game for Christmas that requires one. We still do not own an iPod, iPod Touch, Kindle, or Blu-ray player. I am on Twitter but rarely tweet and, though I've been invited, I haven't joined Pinterest. As a family, we are behind the curve technology-wise compared to most everyone in our town, it seems. That suits me just fine as I am not looking to become Technology Mom -- just a mom who utilizes technology when she needs it and offers it in doses to her boys for entertainment.

Both of my boys choose technology class as their favorite or second-favorite special at school. Yet they are still well-rounded individuals athletically, musically, and artistically.

Hmm. Maybe I'll get myself an iPod for my next birthday. . . .

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