Overwhelmed by Technology

Before I begin my rant observation about being overwhelmed by technology, please allow me to express my love for the iphone camera and for allowing me to take the above photo.  It was shot on a whim from whence I write this story (with a pencil and paper by the way…mostly ‘cos I’m afraid of getting sand into any computerish thing…when will they invent a sand -resistant computer anyway?).  I am sitting on the warm sand at the edge of the Pacific Ocean on a calm and sunny day, listening to the warbling aqua-marine waves and the free-flowing laughter of my children and their friends building a sandcastle.

However, if you think there is not extensive competition to this idyllic scene, then little do you know the upcoming generation.  My family, I include everyone except myself and the cats – and they just might be playing computers on the sly – are completely obsessed with this on-line game entitled Runescape.  I’ve half a mind to rename it Ruinscape, as its fantasy play is attempting to pull my husband and children away from any interaction with the real world whatsoever.

Not to mention the multiple other “game” devices on offer, XBox, PSP, Wii etc….  I hear the 1950’s mother in my voice.  Those hippie kids taking LSD, Xstacy…  Hmmmm… But what’s in a name anyway, right?

On the other hand, there are some educational games called Jumpstart and Reader Rabbit that teach reading and math skills in the most creative ways possible.  Recently, one of my kids told me they were going to write a book, clearly influenced by the fantasy play on Runescape.  I just read an article in last Sunday’s LA Times about a girl who needed to learn the Periodic Table.  She downloaded an app. on her Ipad, thinking she would just peruse through it as a way to help her sleep.  Two hours later, her imagination was exploding with ideas on the fascinating world of the elements.

When I am not busy attempting to understand and come to terms with how much or how little access my kids and their friends should have to this technology, I am listening to messages on my answering machine, my cell-phone voicemail, my e-mail, my Facebook.  Seriously, I can still remember calling someone and if the phone kept ringing, I simply tried calling later.  (I think that last sentence was my Grandma Gus talking through me.)  Did I mention texting and on-line chat or comments on my blog?

Oh yes, my kind, friendly reader… herein lies the supreme irony and paradox of my rant…err, I mean observations.  Whilst the multiple forms of communication numb and overwhelm me, I am passionate about the instant access of a blog post.  I love the comments.  I want more.  Do you agree?  Do you disagree?  Wanna drag me into the 21st Century?  Let me know.  Immediately!  Especially you, Deanna!   I ran into Deanna on the beach and we went into double rant mode.

Then there is the feeling of inadequacy.  My learning curve is antiquated.  Imagine how my mom must feel?  She has to buy a new computer.  Just the thought of that is driving her towards a migraine.  I sympathize. I don’t get the pings, the trackbacks and the widgets.  Ooh!  Nor does my spell-check apparently.  Now, if I deny my children much of this new technology, won’t I be holding back on an intrinsic part of their education?  I swear, my children were born holding a mouse in their hands. Now, just imagine what your grandma would think of your child-rearing habits if she just read that sentence.

I vowed before I ever became a parent that I wouldn’t be one of those mothers who just didn’t “get the next generation”.  However, I have been blind-sided.  I don’t know whether to love it or hate it.  I grapple with how to control it.  I am distinctly aware of how it is trying to control me.  I am wary of embracing it too much.   Yet, if I live a technology free lifestyle, I will lose all access to my children’s way of thinking.  If I keep my kids away from technology they will no longer fit into society (or at least the society we live in).  How much is too much?  How little is too little?

My iphone got the Black Ring Of Death over the weekend.  Our Xbox was diseased with the Red Ring Of Death last year.  My computers, poor babies, have succumbed to random virus’s.  When was I ever naive enough to think that all parenthood involved was keeping one’s children healthy?

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Games, Games and More Games

Summer is coming kids!  There are some amazing camps out there.  Ice-skating, archery, diving, horse-back riding, tennis – which ones shall I sign you up for?

Olivia:  We don’t want to go to any camp.

Me:  (In my head)  Do you know what incredible opportunities are available to you?

Tallulah:  But we want to stay home with you.  We love you.  We want to be with you.

Me: (in my head)  Seriously?  Playing the “I love you” card?

Olivia:  We have worked really hard in school this year.  We want to relax.

Me:  (in my head)  What are you talking about?  Your whole life is relaxing.  Ahh, but I remember the children’s dictionary definition of relaxing.  — staring bleary-eyed into the cavernous reaches of a television set all day.  For variety, add the computer, the Wii (who thought of that fantastic name?) or the XBox.   Include brief interludes of rising to interrupt me at exactly the moment I happen to be on the phone to ask for cookies or ice-cream.

Tallulah and Olivia then pull out the ultimate weapon – the cute adorable faces that melt even the toughest of grown-up’s intentions and turn steely resolve into compromised deal-making.

Me:  OK, OK…  here’s the deal.  You have to take at least two types of sports classes and if I need you to come to a Ms. Bits n’ Bobs show for my work, you cannot tell me the entire ride there and back how you would be a far better storyteller than I.

Impassioned negotiations ended with the choosing of Tennis and Ice-skating lessons.  (To be honest, they only really agreed to Tennis.)  I threw in the ice-skating in a totally unfair, underhanded and unpredictable manner – something to do with associating ice-skating with ice-cream – who knows?  Let’s just hope they don’t read this blog anytime soon.

So “Tennis with Lila” began last week and they both loooved it!  They were put into appropriate age groups and played games including “Hobo” and “Tennis Hockey.”  They loved it so much, within a few hours of returning, they begged me to take them to the local tennis courts to practice!?!

Oh, and let me tell you, I’m now patting my own motherly back, thinking — not too humbly — I knew that if I just signed them up they would enjoy it.   Soooo, we proceed to the local store, pick up a load of practice balls on the cheap and the girls are psyched to show me how great they are. If Lila can do it, so can I.

We arrived to the tennis courts and I diligently set up the practice.  I throw some balls for Olivia to hit, while Tallulah runs around the court and picks them up.  Followed by some hitting practice with Tallulah, while Olivia retrieves.  May I brag?  They were great.   In just one lesson Lila and her tennis games have taught my girls tons.  They are hitting nine out of ten balls over the net and some are even landing within the court.  Wimbledon, here we come!

Forty minutes later, I notice a sheen of sweat on both faces.  Congratulations, Mama. I think.  You’ve even given your girls a cardio workout.  Then…

Olivia:  Now you’ve ruined tennis for us, mum.

Tallulah:  Yep, its ruined.

Olivia:  We don’t want to play tennis anymore.

Tallulah:  Nope, no more.

Olivia:  That was not fun.  Picking up balls for Tallulah is boring.

Tallulah:  BOOOORING!

Olivia:  Yep, tennis is Boring.

Tallulah:  BOOOORING!

Olivia:  We need to go home and relax.

Tallulah:  Relax, definitely RELAX.

How had I failed so miserably?  I, who pride myself on entertaining children had messed up horribly.  It’s probably the pride, right.  One of the seven deadly sins.  The kids are verbally flagellating me.  I am flagellating myself.  But why, why did they have so much fun with Lila and how had I managed to mess it all up?  What did Lila know that I didn’t?

I had played exactly by the rulebook that I had been taught as a child.  I had been very straightforward with my practice.  No nonsense.  I stood there, I threw the ball to them, they hit it and we did that again and again and again, over and over, for forty minutes.  Then I made them run around the court and pick up the balls, all in the mid- afternoon sun.

Then it hit me in the gut, like a Nadal 135 MPH serve.   It wasn’t fun.   It wasn’t relaxing.   It wasn’t a game.   I didn’t make it into a game, like Lila did.   How do you play HOBO?   The kids love that game.   There is a princess, a king and a hobo.   That’s a start. And now they’re hitting the ball with me.  It’s funny that the more I learn their rules, the more the kids love the game.

So, I’m going to get the rules of HOBO and I will post them in the Bits n’ Bobs of the week section. Then it strikes me: isn’t this the whole goal of my website!  Aren’t I supposed to live in The Land of Imagination?  This is the idea behind having a bit n’ bob of the week:  To post ideas of games, arts n’ crafts, stories, toys that can jumpstart our imaginations.   Once your imagination is engaged, learning a new game or skill can be fun… even relaxing.

‘ Cos life is a game. And when it’s a game, we can use our imagination to make learning fun.  And when it’s fun, we get more out the great game of life…