From iPod to iPlay

I have to warn you this post will put me squarely in danger of being labelled an old fogey. Despite what you think I am not a hundred years old, please bear with me, I promise not to use the term “whipper-snapper” or “shenanigans” at all.

During this past March Break, I had 2 separate moments that caused me to consider the world around me, specifically the preteens I came across in two different places. I began to reflect on this incredible phenomenon of youngsters growing up too fast and whether or not this is something that I can control in my children (7&4) As I am a fairly observant person, I tend to pay attention to other people arround me when we are out and about. (my hubby calls in nosy)

I took the children to a local Maple Syrup farm with some of our friends and they spent the day learning all about the making of maple syrup, eating pancakes, petting baby lambs and playing in the giant playbarn. As I stood at the only exit to the barn trying to keep track of the multiple children we had brought with us, I was momentarily annoyed by a group of teenaged boys running and jumping throught the levels and obstacles of this big barn. I was worried that one of them would squish one of the little preschoolers toddling around, or worse, knock over my daughter. As I mentally berated them for being too big to play in here and wishing they would leave, I considered the value of at least approaching them and asking them to take it easy. When all of a sudden, it occured to me that these youngsters were just the sort of hooligans teens that I tend to see leaned up against the wall outside the local mall, up to no good, talking on their cell phones and listening to music with foul lyrics on the latest iPod offering. And yet, here they were running and jumping (using their imaginations!) in an innocent game of tag in a childrens play barn. Hm. Interesting.

The second event that sparked my interest was as I sat with my hubby in McDonalds the other day, when I saw a Father with two young girls pass our table with their meals. I would guess the young ladies to be roughly 11-13 years old. The were both furiously texting messages on their cellphones, it struck me that girls so young had cell phones (I know it’s common, but I still find it sad). Later on after our meal we sat and watched our little ones running up and down the restaurant playland and I was surprised shocked to see those same two young ladies come into the play area and take off their shoes in order to run up the inside of the play structure. I had to take a minute to be sure what I had seen; these professional texters dressed like Rihanna, were now careening down the slide in Ronald McDonald land! Huh. Very interesting.

Having had a few days to ponder these things, I have come to the conclusion that children these days are in fact growing up too fast, which is no earth shattering revelation. However, what I think people have failed to realize, is that children don’t necessarily WANT to grow up this fast. Deep down inside, I believe that our kids want to play and have fun; sometimes they have grown up desires that will hurt them in the long run, but it is our job as parents to help them make more appropriate choices. The media tells us that children have the right to make all their own decisions, that they have spending power and therefore must have the wisdom to know how to wield said power. Not only is this selfish of them for trying to sell their product but it is a lie. Similarly, and lottery winner who becomes an instant millionare does not necessarily have the financial wisdom to properly care for and spend their new-found fortune. Children and teenagers need guidance, not to be controlled, but guided into making choices that will be in their best interest. I believe that is why God has given them parents, we don’t give birth to children and them push them out of the nest to fend for themselves. We are supposed to teach them, guide them and even sometimes deny them something that will be less than beneficial to them. It’s how we show them that we love them.

Think about when your child was small, you didn’t let her eat the whole bag of halloween candy right? Why? Because it would have made her stomach hurt. You didn’t let your son ride his bike off the roof into the swimming pool even though he thought it would be fun right? Why? Because as his parent, you had the wisdom to know it was a bad plan even when he couldn’t see the possibility of injury. It’s our job to see those dangers and to protect our children from all manner of harm, even when they think they know what is best for them and what they are capable of handling.

I wonder sometimes why parents feel that they HAVE to give their children all these new “toys” that come out like cell phones, iPods, laptops etc. I know my opinion is unpopular (it often is) and sometimes comes across as judgemental, but the truth is parents all over are caving to the pressure from their kids, the television, movies, AT&T and MTV. My biggest concern isn’t even that parents are buying their children cell phones, my biggest problem is that they don’t see the tremendous disservice they are doing towards their offspring. Children don’t need any more help growing up too fast, it’ll happen whether we encourage it or not, but why accelerate that maturing if we don’t have to?

Does anyone besides me even remember when we were 11 and 12? We weren’t watching shows filled with sex and drugs, we weren’t texting our friends and spending 6-8 hours a day on the computer. We were having sleepovers with nailpolish, potato chips and freezing each others bras. We were flipping through Tigerbeat magazine, swooning over Kirk Cameron (uh oh, I’ve revealed my age) not counting the bracelets on our arms to see how many dates inappropriate sexual encounters we’d had. Is no one paying attention? Doesn’t anyone see that deep down these kids just want to be young and play like children? We are not helping them by letting them do whatever they want, they won’t thank us for it. Trust me.

I for one, will continue to monitor what my children watch on t.v and in the movie theatre, even if they claim that the entire school has seen the latest vampire movie. I will decide what time my children go to bed based on what I know to be a healthy amount of sleep for children their age, regardless of how many times my son tells me he doesn’t need to go to sleep before I do because he’s not tired. I will determine what music, video game and internet usage my children are exposed to despite the ever increasing number of children under 13 on facebook. I will continue to do innocent fun activities with my children like snowball fights and hide-and-seek, assuming that they will have fun and making sure that they have lots of non-electronic, child-friendly leisure activities to choose from.

Maybe these teeny-boppers are just waiting for someone to invite them to put down the cell phone and go play in the playland with them. Maybe as parents we should put down OUR cell phones and do the same.

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16 responses to this post.

  1. Well call me old fashioned (after all I am rather old) but I totally agree with you. I think children should be children for as long as possible, because we spend an awfully long time being adults with all the associated responsibilities, hang ups etc. But I expect when the time comes with my daughter she will grow up much faster than I did and be so much more worldly wise because all her friends will be that way too.

    Great thought provoking post. I stopped by to thank you for your kind words on my play dates post on MBN. I really appreciate it given the comment made which you referred to with so much kindness.

    I am glad I stopped by, you have a great blog and I am pleased to meet you.

    Reply

  2. ITA

    Love your blog:) You have a new follower:)
    Also feel free to stop by and check out my site for moms.
    ChatterScene.com ( not really a busy site but I love it anyways)

    Reply

  3. You are so right. My daughter is only 1 and I hope i have the strength to say no and follow my heart on what is right for my child and not be lulled into what else is going on around me. Your observation of the texting teen then playing on the slides etc is scarily accurate and such a beautiful reminder that these are indeed children. It’s a shame that we are deemed ‘fuddy duddies’ for feeling this way – i think with enough of us feeling it we will eventually have to have a throwback to sleepovers and ghost stories and reading each others’ diaries. After all…how much further can these kids go? no, wait, don’t answer that. 🙂

    Reply

  4. First of all, you forgot about Parker Stevenson…:-).

    This is a wonderful post – it’s so true that when left to their own devices kids will PLAY! Last summer we had my boyfriend’s then 14 year old with us for a christening; she worn a pretty dress (older than her years though) and after wards, when we were at the house for lunch and the younger kids were playing tag and climbing trees, she JOINED in!! I was so shocked – but she chucked her texting world to it!

    Swati

    Reply

  5. Yes! I’ll join the ranks of the Old Foggies anytime – fuddy duddies – whatever you call it. I miss the days of sleepovers, flannel nightgowns, Teenbeat – (mine was David Cassidy). Whoops! Now you know HOW ancient I am 🙂

    Kristin
    just popped in from MBC

    Reply

    • Posted by Lola on March 25, 2010 at 8:08 pm

      Welcome fellow Fogey! I intend to resurrect some of our favourite sleepover activities for my kids. After all, everything retro is in style now right? Why not innocence??

      Reply

  6. We have fallen in that mode of everyone doing their own thing at the table. Families need more family time! Coming from Comment Club-hope to see you soon!

    Reply

    • Posted by Lola on March 25, 2010 at 8:07 pm

      Here Here!! One of the best times to build family unity and great relationships with our children is at a sit-down family meal. I won’t give that up for any extra-curricular activity! Welcome to my blog, thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts! What is Comment Club?

      Reply

  7. I had a similar experience with some preteens/teens at a playground. At first I was concerned (ANNOYED) that they were there but then I remembered how much fun it was to be on a playground instead of worrying about what that group thought of me or if I had the right shoes or if my boobs were EVER going to grow (the answer is no). So I smiled at them.

    I monitor what my children watch and do very closely (full-fledged helicopter mama here!) However, as a preteen/teen, I loved my music that had bad words, tied up the phone for HOURS, and watched WAY too much TV. I don’t imagine teenagers today are any worse than I was at least (although my parent probably thought so).

    (Full-disclosure: By the end of high school I was in full-fledged rebellion. But now I’m a happily married, God-loving, over-educated mama. If I can make it, those iPod-listening, cell-phone-texting, hooligans can too 😉 )

    Reply

    • Posted by Lola on March 25, 2010 at 8:06 pm

      I don’t mind being a helicopter Mama, I think it’s one of the biggest responsiblity as their mother. As far as stuff I did when I was young, I definitely made mistakes, but I think kids are making those mistakes a lot earlier than when we were kids. They continue to do studies and show how much younger children are participating in sexual behaviour etc.. Since the average child in North America is involved in some sort of sex act by the age of 13, I will take them playing on the playground any day!!

      Reply

  8. I totally agree with you. My son will be 13 next month and has said a few times that he wants a cell phone. “Everyone else at school has one.” I’ve told him “no” and that I don’t care what “everyone else” has. He’s always with me or my mom. He has no need for a cell phone. I take my kids to the park whenever the weather is nice and they both (my daughter is 10) enjoy the playground and walking down the trails.

    Reply

  9. Absolutely. I had a similar thought recently when I was at a park near my house with my two- and four- year old, and was annoyed by a group of thirteen-or-so year old kids being on the equipment; then I thought – well, where do I expect them to be?? Better here than in a parking lot… it’s a tough age, and there aren’t a lot of “appropriate” options for them – why shouldn’t they race around on the playground equipment? They are kids, after all!!

    Oh, and mmmmmmmmm… Kirk Cameron ;).

    Peryl

    Reply

    • Posted by Lola on March 22, 2010 at 9:17 pm

      I know I was going over all the old teen heart throbs in my head after I wrote that post! Richard Greico, Johnny depp, Corey Haim… *sigh*

      Reply

  10. You are so right. I see this with my son, almost 13. It is like he wants to do the “appropriate (in his eyes)” thing and be so grown up, but he still enjoys all those “kid” things. I think it is very difficult for them to really figure out who they are, a kid or a teen. You brought me right back with your post about Tiger Beat and all that. It is so true. We can only try our best. I think society has in a way taken over and is unfortunately so much more “there”. We, as parents, have to try to be bigger. It is a tough job.

    Reply

  11. Posted by Aara on March 22, 2010 at 10:46 am

    I often observe teens with their cell phones, ipods, etc and it IS sad! Why on earth does a 13 year old need a cell phone!!??? I remember making my brother angry by tying up our home phone for hours chatting with my friends! Also, the other day while talking to one of the young ladies that I work with had the issue of SAYING “BTW” instead of “by the way” Hmmmm….????
    lastly, the BIGGEST disappoinment is watching a family sit around at a table while having a night out for dinner and all four of them are on their cell phones texting! No conversation between any of them! Or even watching a husband and wife have dinner and one or both of them is texting while no conversation exists. Sad sad sad……..

    Reply

    • Posted by Lola on March 22, 2010 at 9:18 pm

      Even sadder is that a lot of families these days don’t even have dinner as a family! “When I was a kid….the whole world was better…!! See?!? that’s why I said people might think I am ancient based on this post! Thanks for stopping by Aara!

      Reply

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