We didn’t have a computer when I was a kid (we got our first when I was in high school). No mobiles, internet or ipods. It was the nineties, and we had to amuse ourselves. There was the television. I had my favourite movies (The Princess Bride and Ninja Turtles), and we had to wait a whole day (sometimes an entire week) before I could watch another episode of my favourite TV shows.
I remember playing schools in my bedroom. I would imagine I was the teacher with my little desk and stationery (I think I have passed my love of stationery onto my daughters haha), and create little worksheets for my imaginary class. One of my students was called Jack Knife (what the?).
When I was even younger, four or so, I used to have an imaginary family. Loads of kids Hallie (my favourite), Mennel, Glass and Platey, to name just a few, and a hubby called Lenny. We lived on the imaginary Rocket Street, and I used to look after them with my toy food prepared in my toy microwave. I still have this toy microwave.
I think I have always had a rich imagination.
But my favourite thing to do was play with my Barbies. I loved them. I had quite the collection including Dancing Barbie, Gymnast Barbie, Camping Barbie (and Ken). There were many more.
I had taken over a whole room over at my Nan’s where I had constructed my very own Barbie house out of cardboard boxes, shoe boxes and anything I could get my hands on. I was so in love with my pink Barbie kitchen appliances that my Mum bought me. It had a fridge with all sorts of miniature plastic food. My Nan would make furniture for me.
It was a funny house. One level, sprawling over the entire room, with so many Barbies and Kens residing there.
I don’t actually remember what I played with them, I am pretty sure it was all for display purposes.
I was also a massive fan of music when I was a child (still am). CD’s had just come in. My first CD was Roxette: Look Sharp (still a favourite of mine). My Mum had a massive stereo system, which was actually quite standard in the 90’s, and I remember my baby sister used to love staring at the pretty lights on it. I’d dance around pretending I was a pop star.
I have good memories of my childhood. I was happy, safe, content.
This is the sort of childhood I hope my children are having. With all the technology, constant incoming information, instantaneous access to anything you want, social media (they are too young for that thankfully), binge watching YouTube, and Catchup TV, I have started to question what kind of childhood my kids are experiencing. What effect will this have on them in the future? Will the next generation of adults be even more stressed out and anxious with sleep problems than the current adults?
Two weeks ago my girls (8 and 6) watched a combined total of 15 hours YouTube in a week! Wake up call.
So I have been doing some reflecting (back to my childhood apparently).
When I think of my childhood I think of calm, spaciousness, books, drawing, TV (yes I watched shows everyday), toys, imagination.
When I think of what my kids are experiencing I think of loud, anxiety, rushing, overwhelm, addiction, over-stimulation, impatience, constant incoming information.
As a parent this is not how I wanted things to be. I am not against craft channels on YouTube, gaming, or Catchup TV. I have a problem with the sheer volume of it all, and how easy it is to become addicted, and lose too many hours on it.
I decided to cut back on my technology use. Change starts with me, and I am the example my girls look to. I have had a break from Facebook and other social media, and only just started to tinker in Twitter and Instagram again.
The thing I noticed the most by cutting back was how lovely and spacious my life can feel. It has helped me to tap into my real life world around me and to interact and be there for my kids. It’s been tiring, but positive.
It’s been a couple of weeks of cutting down the YouTube, and everyone is happier, more creative, and less anxious.
Now to keep up this new habit.