Do you ever wish your kids had a pause button, an on/off switch, or a mute button? No guilt or shame, it does’t mean you are a bad mom; nor does it say anything about how much you love your children. There is an explanation behind it.
We are the first fully technologically immersed generations that see TV, the telephone, computers, and electricity as something normal. We were nannied by TVs. We played with computers and video games. We are the generation that added motors to bikes, skates, scooters, and nearly any tool we can think of.
If we cannot imagine life without electric appliances, the truth of the matter is that our kids may not imagine life without the internet or digital technology.
But what does this really mean to us? It means that our capacity to wait, endure, and tolerate is diminished. That is why we look for things to stop whatever might disturb us, including a crying baby or the traditional “are we there yet?”. We are used to getting "there" faster and getting "that" done easier. However, the generations before us did not let us get away with that so easily. The fact that we had access to a dishwasher didn’t stop us from learning how to do our dishes. Nor did we get away with not learning how to do many other manual labors or chores. We had to sit at the table with everyone else, eat what everyone else ate, watch what everyone else watched; and even share not only one phone line, but also a family computer!
That allowed us to wait, to negotiate, endure, persuade, communicate, and develop more skills that children today don't get a chance to obtain.
Human beings cannot create and innovate unless we are lacking amusement, fulfillment, supplies, etc. Scarcity and lack are our incentives to make things work and happen.
Just imagine and step into your kids’ shoes for a little bit. What is their incentive to learn if they can Google? What is the incentive to learn Math if they can use an app? Why should they create and imagine when they see that everything has been done and said before? Their incentive is someone so loving that will allow them to be bored. Someone so strong that will rather deal with a messy kitchen and a loud backyard than with her kids being diagnosed with ADHD or depression before reaching their teenage years. Someone so brave that she'll say "no" even though it breaks her heart to hear "I hate you" or see them cry. Someone who will be tough enough to let them experience the world first hand now and then, even when that means some scratches and bruises.
Just like we had those previous generations who taught old rhymes, games, and traditions; now is the time for us to share ours.
We can share the stories that no video or photo could capture, so that they'll learn some things do not need to be recorded to be remembered. We can introduce them concepts like "friends" and "groups" that you cannot just add or block. The type that you actually need to create and maintain throughout the years, not just when there’s “activity”. We can remind them of the value of "private" and "unique" by sharing with them secrets and deep conversations.
Then, once we have done all of that, there will come a time when we will need to hold their hands and guide them as they start taking photos, and communicating online. We will need to be there when they are joining and downloading, and setting up profiles. We will need to learn about the digital world and new apps with them, as they learn about them.
In the end, we will not be able to block or shut down the digital world that is developing around them. Just like we weren’t able to pause, mute, or turn them off when we were overwhelmed. But we can be present, keep learning, be patient and loving; not only with our kids, but with ourselves as parents.
You can find more of Ximena's work here.