Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Hi-Tech Childhood

I can’t really put myself in any particular mom’s box, because much like in my life in general, I’m not really fitting to any particular box. Surely though, I have my preferences, views and beliefs as for what’s right for children, at least for my children. For the past 3.5 years I tended to prefer everything Waldorf-like, for my children but also for my family and for my own well-being as an adult. As I posted in “Child-Centered ,” I’m not pushing my children to read or calculate too early, I prefer imagination-based games; outdoors time, cooking together, and I really do think television is harmful for everyone who can’t put a limit on it, which pretty much puts all children in the category.
At the same time though, I learned to acknowledge my children’ unique needs and preferences – and by the way, I also think there are no “special need children” or “special children” – all children are special and therefore have special needs. Take my son’s analytical mind for example; he keeps asking about letters and punctuation Hebrew marks in a children books while completely ignoring the magical drawings; he also demonstrates a high interest and understanding in technology, to my dismay. In fact, when he was few months old he already knew how to operate the simple CD player in his room, and a few months later he was helping my mother to activate the TV on the right channel for the DVD. The way from this to my smart-phone was too short. In no-time he learned by himself how to download games or picking a movie. It was then that I realized we may need to consider getting him some device of his own (so I can use my phone when I need it…). Being a mindful-parent means seeing and respecting our children as they are, rather than respecting a method or an idea just because it responds to my own deeper dreams or anxieties.
At first, I was naïve enough to consider a toyish lap-top or smartphone, there are even toyish tablets. But if there is one thing I am proud of the way I raise my children, is that following the amazing Malka Haas’s famous theory and practice, my kids prefer to deal with “real” stuff. They like drawing and writing with “real” paints and pencils, not the childish stuff; they prefer the real piano over the kids’ version on batteries and for a strange reason they often prefer adult music (whatever that means) over children songs. This is not to say their room isn’t filled with toys, children books, music and kids’ craft, but when it comes down to it, they will pick the “real stuff” (with food too, by the way). And so the same goes for the computerized entertainment platform.
After doing some brief research, we found a tablet that was just right. It’s “real” yet designed “for 4-40” (he is almost there, I’m officially out…). It’s also perfect in my husband’s eyes, whose parenting philosophy sums up to: “now you will see it’s fun to be a parent. You won’t see him around much.” For me it raised a bunch of mixed feelings (of course): yay, we found something that is great and safe for him, oy, he will play with a screen all day; yay he will develop skills I didn’t even know exist in the human evolution, oy, I won’t be able to talk to him much anymore.
But the truth is that in the few days we have it, it works perfectly: Not only does it serve as the ultimate incentive (or bribe, you decide), its actually teaching him responsibility, and it pushes me harder in my parenting skills. I now emphasize our quite time, book-in-bed becomes slower and sweeter, caressing in bed early in the morning is valued, looking me in the eyes while I put snow-boots on him is a fun-game; it pushes me to emphasize what’s really important, instead of the mundane power-struggles that seem to always be there with toddlers.  
So now my soon-to-be 4 years old has a tablet. I don’t. 

5 months old...plays with my laptop...

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